The dark side of good work in social media

So last week I wrote about how I was bummed about the possibility that it was time to part with one of my favorite clients. You will be pleased to know that in an 11th hour brainstorm I came up with a new strategy wrapped around search and their existing UI and we are going to continue the relationship.

But let’s talk about another client.

Clients come in all shapes, sizes, issues and challenges. Especially the start-up ones. Calling yourself a start-up doesn’t really allow you certain rights and privileges.  Nor does it allow for you to not pay your bills. No matter how cool, exciting and promising the product is. This particular client I have, has not paid me for the month of January or February. So I have suspended all work.

But here’s the problem.  Call it the dark side of good work.  Simply put,  your good work will and still resonates long after you have departed. It shows up in search in the form of great websites,  sweet artwork, graphics, compelling, link juicy blog posts, articles, white papers, e-books, comments, mentions, profiles and bookmarks that you created all on behalf of the client.  It shows up in the work done to stem and drive down negative press for the sake of reputation management. It shows up and it shows up high if you know what you were doing. And I know what I am doing.

So the awareness campaign work I’ve done for this client over the last 3 months is now starting to show up all over the search engines. I knew it would and that was part of the strategy.

So you might say so what? Well, let’s say they choose to not pay me and the relationship is over, but they continue to do business. Which I think is what is happening here. I’ve laid the groundwork for them to continue to do business, and yet they can’t pay the people or persons responsible for them to “continue” to do business. Where is the justice in that? There is none.

But lets say they just ran out of cash and can’t pay me. What now? My complaint with that would be, “You shouldn’t have contracted with me in the first place if you knew you wouldn’t be able to pay your bills”. Oh and by the way, there was no reason for me to know they would not be able to pay their bills.

One of the interesting dichotomies in all of this is that we are always fighting the good fight over the value of what we do, the value and importance of social media, the correlation of social media and SEO, and it’s effect on business. You know and I know it works, and yet business owners can blow you out the door at a moments notice with perceptual skepticism; and yet your work lives on.

I wish there was a switch I could turn on and off for this but there is not. Some of you might even say, well go ahead and use social media and search to trash them. I could, but I don’t roll like that. These are tough times, and the things I’ve seen and have had to deal with over the past months, have told me so.  I continue to take the high road but am not sure how much longer I can put up with being the cool little agency who continues to get played by its clients. Might be time to update the resume…


9 Responses to “The dark side of good work in social media”

  1. 1 Alison Heath March 5, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    I haven’t had that happen to me yet, but I can imagine it’s frustrating; especially since that work takes so much time. I’m just entering the market–can you think of any way to prevent this from happening in the future?

    I’ve been considering consulting pricing models lately and I’m working off the assumption that most charge an up front retainer or up front per project fee. At least, the ones I’ve worked with have.

    Has that been your approach?

  2. 2 marc meyer March 5, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    @Alison I got the upfront project money, it’s when we hit the retainer is when we started to have problems.

  3. 3 Annie March 5, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    This is just the same old rip-off risk that consultants have had to deal with for years. It is the age old story of teaching someone to do something so well, or providing them with enough tools, that they think they can take over and don’t need you anymore. As with any work, whether it is social media or something else, they can only get away with it for so long. Eventually, it will come back to haunt them, even if they are reaping the benefits now. In fact, if they continue to treat those with whom they do business the way they treated you, they may have another reputation issue to contend with as those professionals begin trashing the organization’s reputation online.

    I think this is the same problem any ad agency, PR firm or graphic designer comes across when they pitch an idea. You have to balance between telling them enough details to get them excited, but not giving them enough information that they could find someone else to do it or do it themselves.

  4. 4 marc meyer March 5, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    @annie I think you’re right about contending with another reputation issue to deal with…this is going to happen.

  5. 6 Daria Steigman March 8, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    Hi Marc,

    Hang in there. This economy seems to be giving bad actors a license for bad behavior (though not sure why). But it will catch up with them.

    I can’t imagine you are the only partner they’re screwing over right now, and people do notice. The work you’ve done will bring visibility to this company, but it won’t earn them a good reputation.


  6. 7 marc meyer March 9, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    @ Daria, that’s the part that bothers me, I’ve done my job and they get to move on. I hope you’re right.

  7. 8 marc meyer March 9, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    @Donovan 3 words. Already did that.

  1. 1 Anger, Denial, Acceptance in a Digital Agency « Direct Marketing Observations Trackback on March 11, 2010 at 3:50 pm
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Marc Meyer is a Digital and Social Media Strategist at DRMG. This is my personal blog where I share observations, thoughts and opinions that are all my own.


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