So. It’s finally reached the point where your brand can no longer manage your social media channels in house. You want to grow your social media engagement or your pages have been neglected for a long time but you don’t have the knowledge or resources to manage them.
Either way, it’s time to look for a social media marketing agency to handle your requirements.
As director of the Contentworks Agency, I’m going to tell you how to search for a social media agency, what to avoid, and what questions you should be asking.
Let’s take a look at the three phases you will go through when you look for a social media agency.
Phase 1: Know What You Want in an Agency
You know when you’re hungry and you go into a supermarket without a shopping list, you end up buying loads of junk that you don’t really want and regretting it later.
It’s the same principle when you shop for a social media agency.
Many brands reach out to agencies without the first idea of what they want to achieve. It’s cool if you don’t know how to manage your social media channels but you should know what you want from your outsourced agency in terms of social media marketing. Here are some of the things you need to address before you start searching.
Your Need. Why do you need a social media agency? This is important because it helps to define the duties that you can’t fulfill internally. Do you need someone to manage your channels? Which channels? Do you want posts every day? Do you need someone to create content or are you more interested in advertising?
Your Manager’s (and Her Manager’s) Buy In. Have you got manager or director approval for a social media agency? If you haven’t, then you’re about to waste everyone’s time, mainly your own. In large organizations, it can take time to gain approval for hiring an agency and you may need to prepare a report defining the business needs. This may then need to go up through the approval channels, including your marketing manager, CMO, CTO, CEO, and shareholders.
Don’t drag your potential social media agency on that long-winded journey with you. Get everything provisionally approved so you know you’re in good shape to start looking.
Your KPIs. What are your Key Performance Indicators (KPIS)? From a social media perspective, these are usually to boost engagement, drive more web traffic, get more signups, connect with influencers or improve customer service.
Knowing your KPIs will help you to communicate your needs and targets to your potential social media agency. It’s very important that the key decision makers in your organization agree on this. Failure to discuss this at an early stage can result in a breakdown in communication with your agency later.
Your Internal Resources. Take stock of where you are right now before you reach out to a social media agency. Do you have an in house designer? Can she cope with more designs for social media? Do you have a content writer? Can he create engaging posts for social media? Do you need to have social media posts signed off by legal or compliance? How will that work if you hire an agency? Knowing the landscape of your internal capabilities will help you to identify the scope of work for your outsourced team.
Your Budget. The budget can be one the most frustrating aspects of searching for a social media agency. Why? Because nobody will say a price!
Your boss won’t tell you an exact budget, most agencies don’t write prices on their sites and there’s you — stuck in the middle.
The amount you spend on an agency will ultimately depend on the amount of work they have to do; how good they are and the amount of resources they have to dedicate to your brand. This could be $500 per month for a few posts per week or $10,000 for a complete strategy, full channel management, content creation, reporting and meeting time.
Understanding your scope of work first will help you to determine a fair and competitive price. Remember, the cheapest isn’t always the best option but then neither is the most expensive!
Phase 2: The Online Search
Before you reach out to any agencies, search online to shortlist some potentials. This can be a tedious process which involves far more than just typing in “social media agency” and contacting the first ones on the search engine page results. Here are some tips.
Search Engine Page Results. If you open Google and type in “social media agency,” you will have a ton of results returned to you. While this can be a good starting point, you need to remember that the social media marketing agencies at the top are paying Google to be there. This may mean that their organic ability to generate SEO-worthy content and social media buzz is not great.
It certainly doesn’t give you any indication as to whether they are good at social media management.
Reviews. The sad reality is that many reviews are faked, especially ones that appear on an agency’s own website. That said, reading the reviews in marketing forums, Yelp, Google, and Facebook may paint a more realistic picture of a social media agency. Try typing in your chosen agency name followed by reviews and see what people are saying.
If nobody is saying anything then ask the question yourself. If you find something alarming, note it down and ask the agency about it later to see how they respond.
Social Media Pages. It goes without saying — but you should definitely check an agency’s own social media accounts. Are they keeping their pages updates? Are they responding to questions? Are their updates well written and well designed? Are they getting a reasonable engagement rate?
Don’t worry if their style isn’t exactly what you want for your brand; this is their brand not yours. A good agency will create a style to suit you.
Forget looking at high fan counts too as these are often faked. Instead look at their engagement rate. Statistically, anything over 1% is considered a good Facebook engagement rate so if your agency has 1000 fans and receives 10 engagements then it is organically doing well.
Netweave, a social media agency in Florida (USA), often gets good engagement with its Facebook posts. With about 2,300 fans, this video post received 89 video views, 9 post likes, and 5 enthusiastic comments.
LinkedIn Revelations. Check out the agency’s management on LinkedIn. What have they been doing and what is their background? Ideally look for an agency whose directors are thought leaders, bloggers, social media experts or even guest speakers. If they are prominent in the social media world then the chances are that they are steering their agency in the right direction.
Phase 3: The Initial Conversation
Once you’ve selected several agencies that you might like to work with, start thinking about your first chat. The initial conversation that you have with a social media agency will tell you a lot about whether they are the right one for you — but only if you ask the right questions.
Here’s what you should be asking:
1. What do you think of our social media channels right now?
This question can be tricky for an agency, especially if your channels are diabolically bad and they don’t wish to appear rude in telling you so.
However, this question is actually designed to see if the agency did their research.
Assuming you provided your proper company name and website on the contact form, that agency should have several days to check out your channels and get a feel for your social media marketing. You can tell if an agency is serious about working with you by their effort to learn about your brand.
One size does not fit all when it comes to social media management. With that in mind, if the agency feels comfortable offering you a service without know anything about your business, a red flag should pop up in your mind.
2. What kind of agency are you?
Many companies offer social media marketing services, but are they a social media marketing agency? Many agencies identify as digital marketing agencies, content marketing companies, or video marketing companies and this is often where their true expertise lies. Of course, this also ties into you knowing what you want from your agency.
- Digital Marketing Agency: The idea of a “comprehensive” marketing company sounds great. The truth is that every digital marketing company has strengths and weaknesses. Often a digital marketing agency has been founded by a web designer or graphic designer who then recruited or outsourced for social media. This may still be great, especially if you do want video, design, content along with social media management.
- Content Marketing Agency: Content marketing agencies put content at the core of their strategy. This can actually be really great for you if you are looking for clever, original content and not simply at throwing advertising dollars around. They often offer social media services to promote the content they create for clients.
- Social Media Marketing Agency: A company which identifies itself as a social media marketing agency should have a high knowledge of social media. They are likely to offer full social media management, advertising, retargeting, and reporting. They may not be so hot on content creation and organic techniques so be sure to check that out.
3. Do you have a case study we can see?
A good social media agency will be able to provide you with an example or case study of a brand they have worked with. This may include their online content, social media channels, social media advertising and ROI (return on investment).
Many agencies sign NDA (nondisclosure) agreements with clients so they won’t be able to reveal everything, however there will be one or two examples they can share with you.
Citrus Content, a content marketing agency in the UK, shows examples of the work it does (including social media management) on behalf of its clients.
4. How will you measure the success of your social media activities?
The company you hire to manage your social media efforts should be able to define the key performance indicators of their efforts. This means that on a monthly basis, they will be able to report on their work. These are some of the ways an agency can monitor their results:
- Social Media Growth: How many organic fans and followers did you gain?
- Social Media Reach: How many people did your campaign reach?
- Social Media Engagement: How much did your social media engagement (likes, comments, etc.) increase?
- Website Traffic: How much did your website traffic increase as a result from social media?
- Lead Generation from Social Media: How many new leads did you generate from social media?
Of course, some of these metrics will depend on you either giving website access to your agency or communicating effectively with them each month.
Try to get a sample of a monthly report to see if the style and data meets the needs and comfort level of your business. If they use reports from a social media analytics tool like Agorapulse, they should be clear to read and provide the data that you require.
5. Have you got any experience of managing social media within our industry?
This is a good question to ask but especially so if your industry is very niche.
My agency, for example, works predominantly with the financial services sector which is fraught with rules, regulations, and specific terminology. If your industry is also specific, then it will really help you to be working with an agency who gets it. The more experience an agency has in your industry, the more likely they are able to produce the results you are looking for.
If they have worked within your industry before, then ask them if they enjoyed it and what challenges they faced. If they do not have experience in your industry, ask them what their understanding is of the industry and how social media marketing works within it. Again, this will show you a bit about the research that agency did before speaking with you.
6. How much strategic direction will you provide?
If your company does not have internal social media marketing experience then you will require strategic direction. It’s important to check that your potential agency can provide this and how much it will cost. Expect to pay for marketing strategy, additional reporting, training or brainstorming days.
7. How frequently will you communicate with us?
When hiring an agency, communication is everything because you need to know what’s going on and what the social media marketing plans are moving forward. Before you commit to a company, find out how often they plan to communicate with you to discuss progress and goals, whether you will receive a monthly report and how often you can have a call.
Find out if they’ll use a social media dashboard like Agorapulse to bounce ideas off you or send you specific posts for approval.
With every agency there will be boundaries so don’t expect to have someone on Skype with you all day long. Decide upon weekly or biweekly and ensure that everyone is agreed.
8. Do you outsource work?
Most agencies will outsource some of their work so that in itself isn’t an issue. The main issue here is to find out who will take responsibility for the work. For example, if a freelance writer creates an article, will the agency be checking it before it is posted on your channels? Will third party contractors have access to your social media accounts? If so then will the company be taking responsibility for that and will they too sign an NDA?
9. Do you love what you do?
This question is a really important one and if you are on a face-to-face video call then you will be able to gauge the reaction of your agency’s personnel. For me, passion and creativity are everything when it comes to content and social media marketing and it really shows in the work that is produced. You want to hire an agency that has great ideas, researches your competitors, proactively comes to you with suggestions and looks to differentiate your brand.
In turn, you need to be passionate about your brand when you are speaking with the agency. There is nothing more off-putting than the prospect of working with people who hate what they do!
10. Which social media management tools do you use?
While this question probably won’t make or break your decision about the agency, it is a good way to gage how they are managing multiple social media accounts. Agencies like Contentworks are able to streamline their workflow using Agorapulse which allows us to assign tasks, schedule updates and approve content.
11. Which social media elements can you handle for us?
This question is to ensure that your agency can match your needs. Some of the elements required may be as follows:
- Will they undertake content creation for blogging and social media updates?
- Will they answer client questions or private messages on your channels?
- Can they find, groom, and activate influencers in your industry?
- Will they handle your advertising and social media spend?
- Are they able to create images and videos for your social media channels?
It’s unlikely that an agency will be strong in all these categories, so decide which you need most and go from there. If they can’t manage one required element, then ask if they work with another agency or partner who can manage this for you.
Once you have completed these three phases, you should feel pretty confident about selecting a social media agency to work with. While selecting a social media agency can be a tiring and serious business, if you pick the right one then working together should be a breeze.
What do you look for in a social media agency? Let us know in the comments!