Social Media Lessons For Brands & Their Agencies From Football


Social media use is a contact sport, not a spectator sport. The Networked Nonprofit by Beth Kanter, Allison Fine

49775_49ers_raiders_football It's so easy to buy your bag of peanuts and sit in the bleachers as you watch your agency kick the ball into flight. Oh sure, you might have been in the Xs & Os meeting helping to create the strategy. You feel that you are an integral part of the play.  And you very well may be.

However, huddled with your branded blanket, watching the game you're not on the field. Unlike an advertisement, press release or CEO speech where your customers accept that someone else has crafted the words, your fans assume that it is You the Brand People who are playing on the field.

Not only have you shifted reality for your raving fans but you've relinquished control of the ball/ brand to your agency. Remember: who ever controls the play (or the conversation) controls the relationship.

Even the best intentioned interactive, ad, PR agencies or consultants can easily fall into the illusion that doing less for a client is actually doing more.

Client cheers!

We don't have time.

The agency can write better than our CEO.

Who will know or care if a tweet comes from the agency or the brand people?Patriots junior cheerleaders

Doing more is built into the DNA of the billable hour agency model.

Agency cheers!

The more we do the more you'll love us.

The stronger the relation.

The more we'll get paid.

When it comes to an agency or consultant social media service (versus social media services) there is a new model emerging. It's one built on positioning the agency or consultant as a "sherpa" who guides and advises. That is far more critical than writing a tweet or a Facebook status up date. It's also far more difficult.

Instead of the client sitting in the stands encouragng the agency to make that social media touchdown, the agency becomes the cheer leader and the coach. The brand people make the plays and interact with their fans.

Role & Responsibilities of the New Social Media Agency/Consultant

High Level Perspective - The role of the social media agency/consultant becomes much more complex as a social media sherpa. A trusted partnership must exist which crosses every area/department that touches the customer .. from marketing communications, consumer insights and PR to customer care, HR and beyond. I call this aligning the social enterprise.

Creating Strategy- Development of integrated plan. Helping to develop guidelines. Leading conversations about social media ethics, transparency, authenticity as it relates to the company culture and brand values/promise.

Monitoring the Conversations On The Social Web - Utilizing tools to create reports that track what the discussions about the brand, industry, people etc.   

Tracking Changes in Tools & New Tools - Social media is moving faster than the average speed of a football thrown in an NFL game (40-60 MPH). It's a challenge to keep up (How many times in the past month has Facebook changed it's rules? Or LinkedIn it's functionality?) with the continuous developments in social media. Providing analysis of which are beneficial and which are shiny new toys.

Creative - Development/building out of branded social media platforms e.g., Facebook, games, ads.

Update: Forgot one of the most important roles ... 

Education: Helping your clients understand not only the culture of social media and the big picture but the tactical execution e.g., how to write tweets, posts,etc., social media etiquette and ethics, participating versus messaging, etc.

There are many ways an agency or consultant can be of social media service to a client beyond kicking the social media ball on the field.


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I currenlty using the "sherpa" model in my professional capacity and it is really working well.

Posted by: Andi on Nov 11, 2010 3:58:28 PM

@Andi - thanks for your comment .. nice to have concepts validated. By the way, people check out Andi's blog such wonderful travel posts (link above in her comment).

Posted by: Toby on Nov 11, 2010 5:07:10 PM

I like the idea of being an adviser and guide as you put it. That is what I try to do but not on the same level. It is something to consider though. Thanks

Posted by: Ashlie on Nov 13, 2010 4:43:34 AM

I love this football analogy because many organizations need to realize that social media marketing requires more than your marketing team to engage in. Rather social media marketing done well requires engagement and participation from across your entire company. Happy marketing.

Posted by: Heidi Cohen on Nov 13, 2010 10:15:01 AM

Ah, my favorite line in the book! Love how you played out the metaphor .. no pun intended ..

Posted by: Beth Kanter on Nov 13, 2010 2:13:29 PM

Liked the way the comparison was made.Yet to use the Sherpa model.

Posted by: pi social media on Nov 16, 2010 7:32:09 AM

Transcendent engagement is the key.

Heidi hits it on the head with her comment. Every football player on the field has to do their job or the team cannot drive the ball and they cannot score.

A couple big plays may occur if only a few players are doing their jobs BUT the team usually loses or turns the ball over when some players are slacking.

If every employee swamps their personal networks with well co9mposed posts, updates and interaction the company will score.

More hits, better conversion rate. My question is, can there be a system that automates this process so you can post once and see it multiple spots? Better yet could there be an app that does that?


Posted by: Grant on Nov 17, 2010 4:43:42 PM

@Ashlie - taking this concept to the next level positions you as a true partener
@Heidi & Grant - yes! thanks for the reminder that it is a team effort on the field and off
@Beth - your book is one of the best for nonprofits and profits!

Posted by: Toby on Nov 18, 2010 3:49:54 PM

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