Why Agencies of the Future Must Have Distribution Platforms
By: Kristina Libby, S.W.C.
February 22, 2019
Agencies of the future are not just service agencies. They don’t merely represent and provide counsel for brands. Instead, agencies of the future must also have distribution platforms.
Distribution platforms provide data and qualified links, increase creativity, improve testing capacity and short-cut outreach efforts. This improves the overall caliber of agency services.
A variety of agencies are currently testing distribution platforms models. These models include the construction of publishing platforms, the acquisition of community platforms and collaborations with influencers. If an agency is not actively constructing, acquiring or collaborating on distribution platform strategies, then its future may be short-lived.
Construct Your Own Platform—Use Data to Drive Client Returns
Creating owned publishing platforms is one model to consider. This sidesteps the need to attract the attention of a niche content site, or pay advertising dollars to be featured on a site. This cost savings also comes with the benefit of rich data insights. By being both a content publisher and a client content creator, agencies can better predict what type of campaigns will attract the intended audience.
“You have to make great content for your audience. We aren’t an agency; in our mind, we work for our audience, not just our client,” says Matt Levin, CEO of Donut Media, which specializes in marketing and content creation for the auto industry. “If we aren’t serving our audience, we aren’t serving our client.”
Both sides of Donut Media’s business sustain the other. “We start with our own data; we do a lot of research with blogs, posts, Reddit articles, etc.,” Levin says. “What’s the social conversation that’s happening? What are the patterns and how are we matching them? We use all that information to help make our whole team creative.”
That creativity then helps Donut Media, and other agencies who embrace similar models, be more competitive in a saturated industry and deliver breakthrough content. They know the social conversation because they are contributing to it. This tactic is best employed by agencies with clustered industry audiences where a specific publishing platform can also feed the demands of a client list.
Acquire Successful Community Platforms
Another model involves the acquisition of already successful and relevant community platforms. Like all distribution platforms, they help agencies reduce the effort of finding or attracting traditional publications to post about their content while also providing data from a consistent audience base. It provides a bigger audience and more potential avenues for posting client content than a single publishing platform. Plus, there is less risk in scaling the platform, as the audience has already been proven.
“We see the future consumer getting all of their news and information via the social media platforms they prefer without ever clicking to visit a website or using a search engine,” says Joe Youngblood, founder of Explore Media, which has acquired I F#ing Love History and Fails.tv to better meet its growing client list. “The future value of digital marketing will be creating relevant conversations that help consumers make purchase decisions by publishing and distributing targeted content on these platforms.”
These platforms allow Youngblood to better understand his client’s target audiences and to seed content in communities that are aligned with the subject matter. Other agencies who follow a similar model enjoy the benefit of the rich data analytics and testing ground, without the need to fully develop a new platform. When an agency looks to acquire community platforms, they should consider their current and future clients and target platforms that need minimum daily content input, have an active community and are amenable to some business-generated content.
Collaborate With Distribution Platforms—Hire Micro-Agencies
Partnering with influencers or micro-agencies represents a third model. Micro-agency is a rising buzz term in influencer marketing as influencers reframe their current role. As content creators, producers and distributors, they represent the entirety of the client-to-customer journey and may begin to act, and charge, more like a traditional agency.
“I think the term influencer is what screws people up—they won’t make as much money, they’ll do this business wrong. It’s not about the views and followers. They are undercutting themselves against a cheap alternative,” says Ben Uyeda, the entrepreneur behind HomeMade Modern. “What works well is when they market themselves as content producers—that’s where brands spend more money and there isn’t a cheap alternative.”
His approach is the fulcrum of the current agency model. As clients find cheaper and more effective solutions in micro-agencies, influencers are proving you don’t need more people and more money to get the same results. By streamlining the process, influencers, as micro-agencies, are able to charge less, produce more and efficiently position their content to their audience. This is a model that all agencies can use to test a distribution platform’s potential and fit for their current client list.
Platforms Are the Future
By considering a platform distribution strategy, an agency will have a strategic advantage that will help to save money, reduce time, improve insights, reduce complexity and better allow agencies to perform. The various models of construction, acquisition and collaboration represent a first step in figuring out how to best experiment with this new hybrid.
Kristina Libby is a professor at the University of Florida, the CEO of S.W.C., a digital marketing and communications consulting firm, and the co-founder of SoCu, an influencer marketing platform in Dallas, Texas. She recently published her first book “You Don’t Need Social Media Unless You Are Doing It Right,” and has written for and appeared in publications like Cosmopolitan, Entrepreneur, More, Forbes, the Los Angeles Times and others. She also has a forthcoming podcast on side hustles, called The Creative Class.
Connect with Kristina: @KristinaLibby