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Social media monitoring software and PR agencies – expensive meets expenses

I’ve been trialling some social media monitoring tools over the last few weeks, and I’ve just caught myself falling into techno-love. Or as Gollum kept saying in Lord of the Rings, “the ring, the ring“.
the ring the ring

These tools are shiny and bright, lots of fancy graphs with a thousand ways to cut up data.

But I think they’re overkill and way too expensive

As a small wine retailer all you need is a very good basic service. The expensive tools (those seen in this report are about $250-500 pm) seem perfect for PR agencies, perhaps corporates, but not SME businesses.

Which makes me wonder why they focused on PR, and why PR agencies are so interested in these tools.

PR is great

PR is a great marketing strategy and I’ve worked with some superb PR managers (as corporate colleagues and as contractors). I don’t know why but they seem to be two things:

(1) usually beautiful women
(2) that are very effective

Note I’m not making a correlation vs causation argument, just a, er, historical personal observation.

Anyways 🙂 they have an insight into what is going on in the journalist’s, producer’s and editor’s minds. So they can spin your story in a way that gets authoritative publication. They are truly talented remarkable folk – as some politicians can vouch for!

Here’s my rather world weary view of a PR agency

The agency is driven by billable hours or justification of the retainer. When, as a client, you get an invoice you almost always have a minor heart attack and wonder how the hell you used that much of their service. Until recently you would also get inches of photocopied newspaper clippings as well as a review of the radio and TV coverage.

Along with a report that says you got this much media space, that in advertising terms you would have had to pay $1 million for, but because its editorial not advertising its really worth $10 million. Lucky you, what a bargain, fantastic justification, I think, well then again…

You take the report on face value, and don’t go through the pile of clippings. You’re too busy. So you look at the clippings and go, “ahhh I see why I’m paying so much for that PR agency”. Then you remember your account manager’s big blue eyes and long blond hair, she’s such a nice women … and remember you’ve too much work to do to complain about the bill.

Man I’m such a sucker ;), but enough about me, let’s talk about you.

That Public Domain is Scary

Believe me, I understand how you feel.

Any statement about the company that is placed into the public domain has all sorts of legal and media ramifications. Having that PR agency always seems reassuring. Along with the lawyer.

Settimana Internet

Which starts to get expensive in this world of social media

Before the blogs, facebooks, twitters or Web 2.0 of the world you could hand the public domain over to the experts. There was only so much that the traditional media was willing to write about your company – so the cost was manageable.

But we now find ourselves in a new social media world where everything has changed

Your brand is being bandied about by every man and his dog in the blogoshere and twitterverse. Few of them are journalists, trained in the law of defamation, and the need for facts and balance. Almost all of them are your (potential) customers.

If you don’t enter the fray then the perception of your store will be controlled by others, and perhaps besmirched. If you constantly use the PR agency and lawyers to deal with this new frontier of public domain then you can say goodbye to the rest of your marketing budget.

Time to discard the crutch of expensive professional help and do it yourself

Not that the PR agency wants that. During this social media boom, companies have been unwilling to do it themselves, so PR agencies have naturally filled that vacuum (along with billable hours).

Whereas before they delivered a 10 inch sheaf of newspaper clippings, nowadays they email a report with lots of graphs and tons of mentions.

But you, the client, always wants measurements of performance to see how well an agency has done. Now that the media “ad” space argument seems weak with so much social media and so many internet stories, PR agencies need other measurements to prove their worth.

London Marathon hero on crutches

Man who does not do social media himself

Enter social media monitoring tools

They are the new inches thick reams of newspaper clippings. But instead of paper we have listed mentions. And there are so many of them that the PR agency must be doing something right, right?

Maybe. But boy is that an expensive way to manage this new world.

Don’t get me wrong, if you’re a large company then the software has other uses. Your customer service team can use it to deal with the customers, and marketing can use it to deal with social media marketing campaigns.

Need advice about journalists, a media strategy or having a media crisis – use a PR agency. But that is as far as that agency should go IMHO.

If you’re just a small company then just set up a social monitoring service and DIY.

How to do it? That’s my next post, its about socialmention.com.

What’re your thoughts?

Photos courtesy of: Settimana Internet @ RomaLondon Marathon hero on crutches

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