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Always do your homework

The best social media strategies are born out of a passion for old-fashioned research.

Always do your homework
Always do your homework

The most important ingredient in a social media agency is having the right people working with you. What does it take to work and succeed in this field? Ignore typical job titles. The successful person possesses two essentials: curiosity and insight. They are on an eternal quest for knowledge and have an innate talent for decoding information.

Research is in the DNA of our agency, which is made up of people who possess these inherent attributes and where every good strategy is born.


Research is as fundamental to social media as it has always been to brand comms. When David Ogilvy formed Ogilvy, his business card read 'director of research'. The same applies today. People with a natural curiosity and intuitive sense of discovery will always be in demand. With research, the only limitation is time.


Research informs the insights that set the parameters for planning successful social media comms. It is tempting to believe that creating a Facebook page alone forms a strategy. But by themselves these actions are only tactics and are unlikely to generate earned conversation and deep engagement built on mutual trust. A real strategy is built on a thorough understanding of the 'why' and 'how' of social interaction.


I still believe great content rules. Social media, by its very name, suggests a need for companionship and interaction. The right strategy means developing talking points around which people will gather. It's not just novelty videos and funny pictures that get us sharing, texting, commenting and tweeting.


If you love social media, then chances are you will love working in social media comms. This means always learning new tricks and adapting quickly to change, because platforms are forever evolving. The 42 million UK Facebook users are familiar with its irregular enhancements. Visit Wayback Machine and take a five-year trip down the memory lane of social interfaces on sites like YouTube, LinkedIn and MySpace.

A savvy knowledge of platforms is like knowing the ins and outs of traditional media, but they don't seem to change as rapidly. Social certainly keeps us invigorated and on our toes.

Influencer relations

PR people have a natural inclination towards storytelling, conversation and building relationships. A lot of traditional media skills are easily transferable and very desirable. Just don't be tempted to believe that influence is based on an algorithm of friends, fans and followers. Real judgment and perspective about influence and relevance has a lot more clout.


Even a small dose of creativity and imagination goes a long way. Generating ideas quickly is an essential part of the industry due to its new and fast-paced nature. There are no traditional formulas because the industry is so young, so embrace it. There exists the chance to be at the forefront of innovation, so tap into your creativity.

It's comforting in an age of postgraduate studies in social networking and a generation of digital natives entering the workforce that a lot of the skills known to PR people could already be the right foundation to work with the best in social media.


Do you see a distinction between your personal and professional use of social media?

Of course! In this line of work it's necessary to make a distinction between work and play, whether through networks like LinkedIn and Facebook or juggling two smartphones.

How would you deal with a Twitter account spoofing one of your clients?

Quickly and with the aid of experience. The important thing is not to freak out, abandon social media and call in the heavies to deal with your detractors. There will always be someone with something negative to say.

Michael Darragh is head of digital at Ogilvy London



From PRWeek's Digital thought leader supplement November 2011

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