Last week I spent a few days providing social media training for a company that probably provides social media services for more clients than any other company in the country, if not the world.
Where was I? Well I wasn’t working with a hotshot PR firm, or a branding agency. In fact, you’ve probably never heard of the company. But they currently provide and execute social media strategies for well over a thousand clients. The company currently creates over 2,500 blog posts a week for over 1,200 clients, and adds 30-75 new ones every month. And their renewal rate for those clients is right at 90%.
I was in Atlanta training with the good people at Network Communications, Inc. NCI is the largest national publisher of local printed and online magazines for the real estate market, and my guess is they probably provide social media services for more clients than anyone else in the country, if not the world. They offer social media services to property managers, realtors, architects, interior designers, and contractors, just to name a few of their client areas.
And they’ve gone from 0 to 1,200 social media clients in just a year’s time. All while providing an extremely affordable social media solution for clients. Those clients get a blog (with 2 new posts every week), a Twitter presence, and a Facebook page, for usually $350-395 a month.
Blogging is a big part of what NCI is hanging its hat on as far as driving success via social media for its clients. And that’s why I was in Atlanta last week, to work with 60 or so of the company’s bloggers on how they can better create blog posts that help them reach their client’s objectives.
What struck me in the weeks leading up to the training sessions, and during my time with the team in Atlanta, was that the engagement level on the blogs was often non-existent. Few, if any comments, no retweets, no ‘signs of life’. In fact, I was thinking to myself that many ‘social media people’ would look at these blogs, see little to no engagement, and view them as failures.
But obviously they aren’t failing their clients, who keep jumping on board. So how does NCI create value for its clients via blogging?
“Our goal is to drive leads for clients on the web.” explains Adam Japko, the Senior VP and President of the Home & Design Area for NCI.
Customer leads for clients. This is one of the points I keep stressing to those of you that are trying to get buy-in from your boss for your social media ideas. You have to make the business case for social media. NCI is doing that. They are delivering a tangible return on their client’s investment. As a matter of fact, Adam shared a case study with me from one of their clients that I will be sharing here with you on Thursday. Let’s just say this client saw a pretty huge cost savings from letting NCI guide its social media efforts.
Now everything is not perfect sledding for NCI. What they’ve done in the last year is literally invent a business model. There’s few if any other companies that are providing social media services on such a widescale level. So NCI is having to invent the template here, and that’s created some problems for them over the last year.
One of the company’s biggest challenges was that they grew quicker than they expected. “Our volume of clients came in faster and bigger bunches than anybody would have imagined. We have hired and trained more than 70 people this year as we ramped” explains Japko. I saw that NCI is still dealing with managing the workload for workers, as well as shuffling people around and trying to find the best fit for everyone. There are clearly growing pains at work here, but they ARE growing.
And I don’t see that growth slowing down any time soon, in fact, as they continue to improve their existing business processes, the growth should only accelerate. Thanks again to Adam (who is also a wine buff with a great blog), Rick, Ed, Keith, Melissa, the bloggers, OCMs and all the good people at NCI for having me last week. I hope to make it back again soon, and thanks to my dear friend Charity Hisle, who is also one of NCI’s shining stars, for the picture to this post.
(Disclosure – NCI is a client, but did not pay me to write this post. I wrote it cause I think their business model and how they are breaking new ground in providing a low-cost social media solution to clients is pretty interesting. Plus, I enjoyed meeting all the managers and executives, as well as the bloggers and OCMs such as Amanda, Keenan, Craig, Justin, Natasha, Jo Anne, Deidre, Ashley, Lynda, Kali and the rest of the NCI team.)