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Immediate Future on being 'serious about social' and why hiring on values has been the key to its success

Immediate Future chief executive Katy Howell explains why employing experts in social media as opposed to “ninjas, rock stars or gurus” allows her agency to keep pace with the fast-evolving world of social.

Back in 2004, Immediate Future (IF) set out to become an agency that focused solely on social at a time when “it was all about blogs and MySpace and Twitter was just a little twinkle in everyone’s eye", according to chief executive Katy Howell.

“Even today, the industry is still young, and the landscape is constantly shifting," says Howell. "But that doesn’t mean you can grab the latest craze or jump on the next social bandwagon. It’s too easy to talk jargon and make sweeping ‘unfounded’ statements in a bid to impress peers and clients. It is often how so many companies invest in programmes that fail to deliver. We hate snake oil. It doesn’t work.

"At IF, we are marketers first. We focus on our profession and concentrate only on social. That allows us to develop expertise in analytics. We have a deeper understanding of audience behaviours and an instinct for creativity from format to ideas. After all, all we do is social. Being marketers, we understand the value of traditional marketing models. We believe that the fundamentals are the same: our audiences come first; our planning is based on solid data insight; and our purpose is to deliver results – a return on investment."

Howell believes that, building on these foundations, social marketing is a hybrid practice. She says: "It requires a talent for communications, writing, data analysis, creativity (often at a terrific pace) and good, very good planning. And that is what we cultivate at IF. Our staff strive for expertise.”

A year ago, the agency realised that typical digital and social capabilities were no longer the basis for growth and innovation.

"Our industry had matured and ‘just doing good work’ was not enough," says Howell. "Faced with a need for greater marketing sophistication and innovation, the only way to stay ahead was to work with people who could grow and learn fast with us.”

Taking this into consideration, IF decided to change its hiring system and hire on values. Managing director Colin Jacobs explains why people are the key to IF’s success:

“We’ve now got passionate people that live the values of the agency. That transcends through the work that we do, the application of campaigns, and our clients feel it as well.”

Based in Kingston upon Thames, Immediate Future has 14 years’ experience as an independent social media consultancy, working with clients including Fujitsu, Lastminute.com, Brita, Princess Cruises, Google and Marston’s Inns.

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