Today’s guest post is written by Ken Mueller.

It’s always sad when a relationship ends. But sometimes it has to happen.

Recently I was in a year-long relationship that was doomed from the start. And this past month it ended by mutual agreement.

Now it’s time to learn and share some lessons.

The Backstory

There were three parties in this relationship (and it was a business relationship, so stop thinking what you’re thinking!). Here are the players:

  1. The Client: A coalition of about a dozen businesses involved in a geographic re-branding of a local shopping destination.
  2. Marketing Firm: The company handling the re-branding.
  3. Me: Brought on by the Marketing Firm and The Client to handle the social media aspect, which was the central element in the campaign.

What Went Wrong

Despite bringing me on board to handle the day to day social media management (which is something I hate doing, and of which I’m not a big fan), I had no cooperation or input from most of the partners.

If you have a business and are considering working with any sort of communication agency, you have a responsibility. For some reason many businesses still treat social media as the redheaded step-sister of marketing. It’s that “free” thing our kids do. It’s not seen as important as advertising, or other forms of marketing, when in fact, it might actually be more important!

Four tips for a beautiful client/agency relationship:

  1. Communicate. Communicate with each other, and with your agency throughout the entire process. In this case I felt like I was being handed the keys to the car to drive across the country, patted on the head, and told, “Give us a call when you get there.” No parent would do that. There would be frequent check-ins (and yes, they CAN become TOO frequent!).
  2. You get what you pay for. In this case, The Client wanted the bare minimum; about an hour of work per week. You can’t do much in an hour, but that’s all they wanted.
  3. Don’t do it if you don’t believe in it. Clearly, with only about three exceptions, these businesses didn’t get it. I’ve become more and more convinced over time that if a business doesn’t get it, you should walk away. If you can’t help them understand and “get” what it’s all about, they won’t be able to get on board and give you what you need.
  4. Understand that it’s not magic. This isn’t auto-pilot. You don’t create a Facebook page and BOOM, have a million fans. Give us information. The key to starting a successful social media presence is to start by building a community around your existing customers. Despite repeated requests I was never given access to their email databases. And very rarely were we given talking points about their businesses, despite weekly or bi-weekly emails, as well as frequent meetings (to which very few of them showed up).

The Moral of the Story

Be involved.

If your agency asks for information, provide it. If you have things you want discussed online, tell them. We’re not inside your head. We can’t guess.

This is a collaborative effort. If you hired someone to create a print ad, would you let them create it and submit it to a magazine without your initial input and final approval? How about a TV commercial? Don’t you meet with the writers and producers to make sure they have the correct information? While social media isn’t really a campaign, you should be involved on a day to day basis. If you don’t communicate with your agency and provide them with proper information, they can only do so much.

As I told these business owners in our very first meeting,

“You’ll get out of this only what you put into it.”

Communication, folks. It’s a wonderful thing.

Ken Mueller is the proprietor of Inkling Media, with 30 years of experience in the media industry.