There's a standing rule about hosting a dinner party: never cook up a new dish for the occasion. It's best to try it out for yourself first or with close family members before seeing if the concoction will be a hit with others. The same rule should apply with social media initiatives, but I've witnessed several instances where an agency's first usage of a platform was on behalf of a client. While it may not end up a disaster, it's risky to not test out the approach with the one client that's always available. By treating "agency as client," you can become your own test case, identify key information and then when it's time to launch the site, know that you're leveraging the opportunity to its maximum potential return on investment.
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Agencies need only to look within the walls of their own offices to find a viable beta environment. For example, my firm Red Door Interactive will be moving into new headquarters this fall. To engage employees around the impending change and to drive them to use Pinterest to better understand its functionality and opportunities for clients, employees were asked to pin design suggestions onto our "San Diego Office Inspiration" board.