Practicing what we preach

By Toward,

March 2011


As a creative agency we're used to (and happy) to answer the same kinds of questions like 'how much does a website cost?' or can you help us with our branding?', but lately we're getting asked more and more about social media, both from existing and prospective clients.

Whilst we're comfortable writing social media strategies for clients, we try to make sure that it's both right for a business, and that the business will benefit. We don't think it's the case of jumping on the bandwagon because 'everyone is tweeting' or because 'everyone has a blog'. There needs to be a purpose for using these platforms to publish content, having something relevant to say. The best way we can advise clients and show how social media is used well, is by practising what we preach.

When we launched our new website back in November of last year, we decided to include a blog as part of this. A blog is a big commitment, as many of you will know. It takes time to write posts and get suitable content together. You also need something worthwhile to say, perhaps even something more defined like a content strategy.

For us this presented a challenge. The trouble is, internal projects and self promotion often took a backseat to client work, meetings and running our business, it was inevitable. When we decided to commit to promoting ourselves through our blog and social media we made sure we had a strategy that would be proactive enough but also be achievable.

One of the biggest mistakes that we see companies make is having a blog or news section built into their website, but never updating it. Or having an idle twitter account just collecting dust (and spam followers!). Another mistake, which we've been guilty of ourselves in the past is launching email marketing campaigns, promising monthly updates, which end up petering out over a few months.

When we talk to clients about these problems we often hear 'but I'm too busy to blog and tweet' or 'but the fact we haven't updated our news since 2004 makes us look really busy, because we don't have time'. That's a classic! The fact is that if you're not updating your blog or using the social media tools you've chosen, you just look like you have nothing going on and nothing to say - We think no news is better than old news.

Our blog has now become an integral part of how we share what we do and who we do it for, but the content isn't exclusive to our design work, we also write about studio news or opinions about the industry.

The same is true of social media. We don't tweet for the sake of it, we tweet when we have something to say and share. This might be a link to our latest blog post, studio news, other work that we like or simply observations.

All of this means that when clients ask us about blogs or social media we are able to use ourselves as an example, explaining how we use it and why, and just as importantly, the benefits it yields for Toward.

We've managed to get into a routine of managing our blog and social media content. Time to write blog posts is scheduled in the same way any client work would be. We aim for one a week but if there's nothing new to say one week then so be it. Similarly, if we have a big news week then we'll put more than one post live. We're averaging 4-5 new posts per month.

As for tweets, again, we don't just tweet for the sake of it. We usually tweet 3-4 times a day with information about new work, photographs from the studio or new print work that gets delivered, links to new websites, or links to other design stories and interesting information. We also use twitter to tell people about funny things we see or new doodles! We have also a live twitter stream on our homepage which means there's always something new to read.

We've worked out a simple strategy for tweeting; during our morning scrum (when we update the team on projects), Rob asks us if there's anything new worth tweeting. That's an easy way of getting a good range of suggestions.

Lastly at the end of every month or so we create an email newsletter which links to all the recent news stories we've added to the blog. It's a nice way to summarise what we've been up to and target a different market of people who don't want to check our site regularly.

For us, when clients ask us questions, we want to answer them honestly, in detail and with supporting examples. They come to us for our expertise and opinions, and we've found is that opinions and advice carries more weight if you simply practice what you preach.

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