Should Agency’s Be Responsible for User-Generated Content?

In a recent conversation that I had with two different friends from two very different agencies, a topic about how they are responsible for being the “face” of their client on social networking sites and applications. I can see from a company size standpoint how agencies find the need for them to maintain the online social status for the brand, but I believe that the goal of an agency when engaging customers in a social media strategy would be to reach out and teach their clients how to respond or converse with their customers. Besides, isn’t it all an issue about being about transparency and authenticity?

Yes, I think I probably overuse those two words: transparency and authenticity, but aren’t they part of the cornerstone of social media marketing? In fact, if a client wants to engage in dialogue with their customers, then perhaps it should be in their own words. To me, it would seem quite appropo because there are some things that even an agency of remarkable stature or talent wouldn’t be able to reflect in interacting with customers.

When it comes to user-generated content, I really believe that a client should be in charge of the engagement. Sure, the agency is able to actually set it up for the client, but in the end, it’s the client who is responsible. I’ve heard that for some small clients who aren’t able to staff someone to assist in the community management role relies on agencies to do the work for them. However, I think that if you’re serious about delving into the world of user-generated content, then you should be the one undertaking the role, not your agency. In fact, I believe that the agency is suppose to educate the client and get them in a pretty good shape to help run an effective user-generated campaign themselves. Through this education, agencies can prepare their client on how to adhere to best practices, etiquette and troubleshooting/crisis management should the need arise. Don’t rest on your laurels and expect that if trouble brews for your brand or company that the agency will come to your rescue. People who have an interest in your product, whether they’re stakeholders or customers want to hear from an authentic person. Someone who isn’t labeled as “just some guy working in an agency representing the brand”. No, they want to hear from “John Doe, Marketing Manager” to explain how the campaign is being shaped and what the results are and how does it benefit the entire community.

Is there any point to having an agency shape how user-generated content is managed on behalf of a brand? If an agency creates a spot using a Flip video camera or posts photos on behalf of a client on Flickr, is that user-generated content? What about if the client themselves creates an “amateurish” video and posts it on YouTube? Is that user-generated content? I would say none of it is, but the client should be proactive and engage the customers where they are. To that end, I would say that the role when it comes to agencies is to do strategic planning, tactical execution and setup and that’s it. Any communication that a customer may have should be handled directly with the client. They, after all, are responsible for their brand in every way, shape and form. It’s all about authenticity and transparency, after all, right?

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