Inside job

Why don’t agencies apply the underlying principles of social media to the way they manage their teams, asks Fadl Al Tarzi


As I started to reflect on ideas for this essay, I thought of a recent team survey we conducted at SocialEyez. One particular figure stood out. One hundred per cent of our team responded ‘yes’ to the following question: ‘Do you feel proud to work at SocialEyez?’

Not only did it give me immense pride, I felt an even stronger urge to make sure it’s a result we can achieve year after year. My wife always says: “If you’re good on the inside, it will show on the outside.” And that’s why I believe it’s so important for agencies to recognise the importance of their core, their driver, their backbone: the team.

While writing this essay, I was also flipping through a bunch of other sites, as we all do. I came across the likes of Forbes’ top social media trends for 2016, Mashable’s five huge trends you can’t afford to miss, and other similar articles basically saying if you don’t ‘quickly’ adapt to a bunch of trends your marketing will fail miserably and eventually your organisation will completely collapse.

What I found much less about is the need to apply what social media has taught us to the way we manage our own teams.

Below I attempt to look at some of the key principles we’ve learned as a result of analysing social media trends and how they may be applied to the way we manage teams. If we’ve already proven (I sure hope we have) how much of a positive impact social media can have on an organisation’s performance, and we know employee engagement is the single largest driver of business performance. So imagine the power of combining the two?


Social media is making it increasingly difficult to hide information and increasingly easy to expose what needs to be exposed – be it poor customer service or corrupt politicians. We advocate transparency to our clients, but how transparent are we internally? Celebrate your best performers online, share business performance figures with those that are expected to impact them, collectively discuss challenges, share future plans without worrying too much about them leaking, share failures openly and allow everyone to learn from them.


As agencies we advocate the importance of engagement on social media. Talk to your fans/ followers – try to engage and build a relationship with them. We advocate rapid responses and a personalised human approach with each fan. We value influencers’ mentions and make sure to keep them happy. Do we apply these same principles internally using the same structured systematic approach? But which do we find more acceptable as agencies: replying late to an angry fan or to an angry team member? Do we truly customise the way we reply to each work colleague based on who they are and what we know about them?


We often advertise simply to increase awareness and other times to evoke a particular user action. How much do we advertise internally? Does every employee have enough in-depth knowledge of their agency’s products, offerings, clients, awards won, or clients success stories? What if employees could become company advocates? How powerful would their message be? Could employee advocacy, especially on social media, be the single largest untapped opportunity marketers have at their disposal?


Fact: on digital media, KFC is now competing with Samsung and Lexus with MBC. These brands are competing for user attention but with over 350 million photo uploads per day on Facebook and 3.5 billion Instagram likes per day how much attention will that HR memo receive? How many of us are producing infographics and video content for our team or sending key internal messages in 140 characters to maximise reach?


At SocialEyez we’ve created annual digital strategies and are moving towards complementing these with what we call quarterly activation plans; essentially abridged versions of our annual strategies. The need to rapidly evolve the way we communicate, the nature of our content, and the platforms we communicate on is undebatable. What about our own management styles, HR policies, and incentive schemes? How many agencies are still operating on the same structure created years ago and expecting it to succeed with our millennials? This quote from Bruce Tulgan, author of It’s Okay to Manage Your Boss, rings very true: “They will be the most high maintenance workforce in the history of the world, but they may also be the most high performing.”


In many ways that’s what social media is all about, isn’t it? Dare I ask if we would go to the same lengths to listen and respond to customers if tweets weren’t visible to the public? Whether it’s spreading positive or negative experiences, marketers know the impact word of mouth has. Nielsen recently reported 92 per cent of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising. On that same basis employee experiences, satisfaction, pride, and engagement levels have a direct impact on their word of mouth and thus on the agency’s ability to attract and retain top talent.


We invest in research and technology to analyse our audience with the hope that if we better understand them we can engage with them more effectively. Do organisations invest in understanding their employees the same way? Understanding what drives them or what their personal interests are in order to further engage with them? How many of agencies invest in understanding who their employees are? What drives them? What their personal interests and habits are? Then further invest in seeing how this insight can help drive engagement as well as performance.

But who can deliver all this rapid change and development we need? Have we, as agencies, applied the underlying principles of social media to the way we manage our teams?

If consumers have changed the way they consume information, their purchasing habits, the way they want to deal with brands and the way they want to communicate, then certainly these same consumers – most of which are also employees somewhere – have also changed the way they want to work and the way they want to be treated at work. If we, as agencies, could apply the underlying principles of social media to the way we manage our teams then surely we would be golden both on the inside and outside.

Fadl Al Tarzi is chief executive of SocialEyez