10 reasons Social Media RFP's aren't there yet

I have great respect for the RFP (Request For Proposal) process.
At the early stage of the procurement process, it brings structure to decision making.  It allows risks and benefits to be clearly identified upfront.  It invites potential suppliers and service partners to discuss capabilities, points of view, activities and often bid.
Having spent many years at ad agencies, I’ve written more RFP’s than I can count.  To be able to write and respond well to an RFP is a valuable skill.  Now I receive Social Media RFP’s.  At first, I thought it was a coming of age for social media. I think we have a ways to go.
Since social media is a conversation, not a monologue, maybe we should scrap RFP’s for the time being.  Those looking for help would be better off just talking to potential partners.  After all, the people you engage are going to be talking not only to you, but your customers.
Here are 10 reasons Social Media RFP’s aren’t quite there yet.

  1. NO EQUIVALENT COSTS: As a means to bring structure, an RFP should be given with an understanding of what services costs. This doesn’t seem to have occurred yet.
  2. TOO MANY SOLICITATIONS: If someone has done their homework, they should be able to narrow their search down to about a half dozen options at most.  When someone sends out an RPF to a greater number than that, it usually means the company doesn’t know what they want.
  3. TOO LITTLE CONSENSUS:  To get a good response back, you have to ask good questions upfront; ones that reflect consensus among people in the organization, not the individual needs of many.
  4. NOT ENOUGH MARKETING INTEGRATION: You don’t need a social media strategy, you need a business strategy because the role of social media is to amplify it.  An RFP should be given out with mention of other programs in the marketing mix for integration.
  5. UNCLEAR BUSINESS EXPECTATIONS:  Social media should be expected to produce business results (e.g. increase sales, shorten sales cycle, generate leads, lowers internal costs, decrease customer complaints).  Otherwise, why else would you do it?  The liklihood of success is much greater if they are specificied.
  6. UNREALISTIC TIMELINES:  After explaining business goals, the timeframes for these results should be identified or a point of view on how to gage progress should be requested.
  7. LITTLE MENTION OF MEASUREMENTS:  If you don’t place a priority on measurements, you shouldn’t be surprised if you don’t get the results you want.
  8. NOT MUCH THOUGHT ABOUT CONSUMER RESPONSE:  The best thing that can happen with your social media effort is consumers engage with your company or brand.  The worst thing that can happen is you don’t respond when they do and let potential customers pass.
  9. OVERLOOKING CUSTOMER TARGETTING: “Open source” social search tools can find people who share an interest in what you have to offer down to the town where they live and how frequently they post, particularly on Facebook and Twitter.  If I were looking for a social media company, I’d be asking what social search tools are being used before I’d ask what social networks.
  10. NOT CONSIDERING TIME ALLOCATIONS WITH COSTS:  The resource (or commodity if you’re in procurement) for social media is people’s time.  So the cost variables are how much is required and how would it be allocated?  My own point of view is, for every hour, spend 20 minute targeting the people you want to attract; 20 minutes publishing content and 20 minutes responding when they engage.  After that, the only other question is how many hours are required by week, month and for the year.

But, like I said at outset, the answers are available in a conversation.  You don’t need an RFP.  Is your business ready to have one?


  1. Alastair

    Typo(RPF)in the first line!! Had to point it out; feel free to delete this comment. 🙂

    1. Rob Petersen

      Thanks Alastair. Grad to know you got my back. Some things spellcheck doesn’t catch. Hopefully, some day I can return the favor. Rob

  2. Lorenzo

    Nice and thoughtful post Rob!!
    Here in Italy I am facing similar problems and IMHO we can solve them only going “back to basics” that is trying to stick to the company vision and values while submitting ideas for the social media plan, though it is very difficult in the offer phase if you have not known the customer before.

    1. Rob Petersen

      Lorenzo, Thanks for this over in Italy. I agree with your “back to basics” approach and understand the pressure for ideas in the early stages of a relationship. But, even for a new relationship, if the basic questions: 1) Who do we want to attract? 2) What action do we want them to take and 3) How will we measure success, aren’t asked and answered; it wlll never do an idea justice or prove if it worked. Thanks for your feedback. All the best. Rob

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