The business has taken the decision - you're going to invest in engaging a social media agency. Maybe because you don’t have the resources in-house to develop a social media presence. Maybe you need the social media expertise that an external social media agency can bring in order to feel confident of getting business results. Or maybe you've determined that this route is the lowest cost option for testing the waters and seeing how social media can contribute to your business.
Whatever your reasons, you now need to choose which social media agency to engage. So how should you decide?
The following would be my list of recommended decision criteria if someone in my network asked me to help them choose the right social media agency for their business. Hopefully they can help you in making the right choice too; and a disclosure - as the owner of a social media agency, this list is clearly influenced by our experiences of working with clients!
Those of you who’ve had much exposure to internet marketing will no doubt have been approached countless times by SEO agencies, claiming they can get your business to page 1 of key Google search result pages. My first reaction is always to check how the SEO agency's own website ranks on Google. After all, if they can’t get tremendous results for their own website then what prospect is there that they’ll be able to get great results for mine?
The same logic applies to your choice of social media agency.
If you look at our social media presence you’ll see that we are very prominent in our space. We have built significant audiences on social media, generate lots of interaction from an engaged fan base and have people sharing content from our site and recommending us on social media every few minutes, 365 days a year. Talk to us and you’ll also discover that we generate most of our client leads via social media. Without even seeing our client work or testimonials you can tell that we’re an agency that knows how to get results on social media.
Unfortunately there are lots of cowboy outfits in the social media space, just as there are in the SEO world. I am amazed every day when I come across social media agencies that showcase themselves to the world with a terrible social media presence of their own. Worse still, I’m amazed when they approach us on social media to see if we’d like to engage them to help with our social media presence (yes that does happen - and should tell you everything you need to know about the quality of their work!).
Of course it’s true that everyone has to start somewhere - and so there will be some genuinely good agencies who have yet to build a strong social presence of their own. But if an agency has been on social media for more than a few months and doesn’t have a good presence, that should set off alarm bells. Any business that’s just starting out should only be trusted if you can see that the Founders have previously worked in a social media role and so can bring some expertise to your business. Without this track record or previous experience, you’re unfortunately likely to be spending your budget on agencies who may be enthusiastic, but are only at the stage of trying to learn how to get results on social media - which they’ll be doing at your expense.
My second decision factor would be whether the agency has a specialist focus or track record of working with businesses like yours? The challenges of working for a small business are totally different than those of working for a major brand for example. How you attract candidates differs from how you generate client leads on social media; and they in turn are both different from using social media as a customer service tool.
You need to be engaging the services of a social media agency that’s experienced in serving your type of business to achieve the type of results you want to achieve on social media. Otherwise the agency will again be learning how to get results at your expense. Do turn to us for help with attracting candidates or generating client leads, for example, but don't turn to us for help in using social media for customer service.
Similarly you may want to look for an agency that has a track record of working in your particular niche industry - or at least in other industries that face similar challenges. Running targeted social media advertising campaigns to drive online sales is a totally different skill than engaging with potential prospects on social media and generating client leads for your sales team to follow up with. Doing that in the real estate sector isn’t the same as doing it in the accounting industry. Does the agency you’re talking to have some relevant experience they can bring to the table? Be sure to find out.
In any sector I’m wary of businesses that seek to tie customers into long-term contracts. Of course in some industries there are significant up front costs that mean a business has to see some commitment from a client to be able to start working with them. In social media I would challenge that that’s not the case.
It’s reasonable that an agency will need an initial period (say 3-6 months) to get your accounts up and running and to start to show the results they are generating. So a modest up front commitment I can accept as being necessary. But beyond that, a social media agency should be willing to live or die based on the results they are generating. Look for agencies that offer a rolling monthly contract - where you can walk away each month without penalty. A business offering those terms is more likely to have confidence in their ability to deliver - and is reducing your risk in working with them in the first place.
Also check with them what their average client duration is right now. If clients are typically working with the business for years - when they have the option of leaving every month - then that tells you a great deal about the client satisfaction that that agency delivers. If clients are only staying for months then that’s a cause for concern...
I hope the above has been helpful to you in deciding how to pick and choose the right social media agency for your business. Good luck - and great that you’re looking to invest in your social media presence.
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