A Comprehensive Guide to Choosing the Right Social Media Marketing Company2018-12-11T16:44:08+00:00

A Comprehensive Guide to

Choosing the Right Social Media Marketing Company

The Consequences of Choosing the Wrong Social Media Marketing Agency

Some agencies simply aren’t experienced enough to support the best possible outcomes, and some experienced agencies may not have enough knowledge in your niche to work well with your social media profiles. Whatever reason a social marketing agency isn’t the right fit for you, here are some potential consequences of working with them:

Poor return on investment

You may not see the results you expect, which can lead to issues like necessary increases in your marketing budget you weren’t expecting or lackluster sales. In short, without the right partner, you could be wasting your marketing spend.

Risks to your brand reputation

Without the right social media marketing company at your back, you run the risks of hits to your brand’s reputation online. Those hits could even come from errors on the part of your marketing company.

Lack of focus on your business goals

When a marketing agency doesn’t understand your goals or business structure, its personnel may work toward a version of success that doesn’t match yours. In these cases, you may be unhappy with their service, while they don’t understand why you’re not satisfied with what they perceive as a win.

When you partner with the right social media marketing agency for your business, the risk of these issues goes down substantially.
With millions of social marketing agencies to choose from across the globe — all with services, prices and customer service experiences that range widely — choosing the right partner for your social marketing efforts might seem daunting.
That’s why we’re providing this comprehensive 10-step guide to choosing the agency that’s most likely to mesh with your mission, vision, values and goals.

1. Ensure the company works for your business goals, not a random ideal concept.

Benchmarks and best practices are great, and you should definitely demand that your social media marketing company does the work to keep up with those bits of knowledge. After all, you’re paying for more than a service when you hire an agency. You’re investing in a partner that brings social marketing knowledge to your campaigns. That experience helps your agency avoid the types of mistakes and “learning curve” expenses you might encounter when managing your social marketing yourself.

At the same time, you want to ensure your agency is able to move beyond trends and benchmarks to create unique solutions that serve your business needs. Trends are based on the average, and we bet you don’t look at your brand as walking the middle line forever. That’s what might happen (or worse) if you hire a social media marketing firm that always sticks to what works for everyone else and is afraid to take the time to determine what works for you.

How do you find an agency that’s able to walk the line between the wisdom that comes from experience and the flexibility to work for you and try new things? When you’re evaluating a potential provider, consider these questions and factors.

Is the agency already pushing a tactic or agenda?

Agencies may talk about their experience and what has worked for others, but if it sounds like they’ve decided what to do for your account even before seeing all the details, they might not be the right agency for you. A seeming insistence on one “right way” of doing things may also indicate inflexibility, which foreshadows service that doesn’t take your opinions and desires into account.

Agencies that work for your business goals are going to ask a lot of questions to understand your business before making recommendations about social media marketing strategies. Experts who have an idea of what might work best after learning those details will be able to provide logical, detail-based reasons why a strategy may be your best choice.

In short, look for agencies that want to work with you and educate you, rather than take your social media presence and run with it on their own.

Do they understand and speak in the context of appropriate metrics?

Numbers shouldn’t be the only foundation upon which your social media marketing company makes suggestions, but metrics do provide a lot of information and help experts make data-driven recommendations that are more likely to work.

Agencies that seem content to fly on “gut feelings” or past experience aren’t likely to consistently offer goal-oriented social media marketing assistance, and here’s why:

  • Experience is important, but past situations don’t always factor in logically.

  • Numbers tell a more candid story than one person’s perspective.

  • Your business may be similar in some ways to previous clients of the agency, but it is not exactly the same.

Does the mission of the agency clash with yours?

Take time to find out about the core values of a social media marketing agency before you decide to work with them. While agency owners and staff don’t have to have the same background and beliefs you do, a major clash in principles may lead to a poor working relationship.

This may be especially true for organizations that base their business on specific values. For example, if you’re a faith-based company, you should look for a social media marketing agency that at least understands and empathizes with those values, even if it doesn’t share them. The same is true for political, philanthropic and environmental organizations. You might need to rely on a social media marketing agency to craft or evaluate content to align with your brand, and too wide a gap between your values and theirs can make that difficult.

2. Find out where the talent comes from.

Here’s something you might not realize: The social media marketing company you hire might not be the agency doing all of the work.

Many agencies outsource their work to others as a way to scale up and serve more clients, but depending on how outsourcing is handled, you may not benefit from the process.

And even if the agency does all its social media marketing work in-house, it’s still a good idea to ask questions about the talent. The agency itself might come with recommendations and decades of “total” experience, but who exactly will be handling your social advertising or vetting posts for your profiles?

Start with the information the agency publishes about itself. Delve into About Us and Team Bio pages to learn as much as you can about who you’re dealing with, and use that information as a springboard for more pointed questions you can ask during interviews with a prospective agency.

Here are some questions to ask to evaluate the talent at any agency you’re considering.

Who is the point person for your account?

Robert Copeland is credited with the quote, “To get something done, a committee should consist of no more than three people, two of whom are absent.” And there’s some truth to that concept when it comes to communicating and getting things done with your social media marketing account.

You do want an agency with a comprehensive team that works well together because this ensures more ideas and expertise. But you don’t want to have to communicate with 10 different people or lack confidence in knowledge about who actually is responsible for answering your questions or delivering content or services. Ask whether the agency has account managers who are good administrators and stellar communicators and have advanced knowledge of marketing on social media platforms.

Who are the people behind the scenes?

It’s safe to say your account manager isn’t going to handle every detail related to your social media marketing, and you wouldn’t want that. A lot of hats must be worn for successful social marketing to work. Tasks might include creative and editorial components, technical requirements and ad-related specifics such as bidding or budget management. If someone says they’re the expert on all of those things, you might need to wonder if they’re the expert on any.

Instead, look for agencies that support you with an organized team of talent, and don’t be afraid to ask about each person’s credentials or what makes them the right person for the job.

Does the agency outsource, and what are the parameters?

Unfettered outsourcing is something you probably want to avoid when choosing a social media marketing firm. If the company is simply going to pass on all the work to others, it’s just a middleman unnecessarily inflating your marketing spend.

However, some social media marketing agencies do outsource certain components, and this can be a legitimate practice that actually benefits you by driving down costs or ensuring faster, more scalable service. Ask your agency about outsourcing and how the company uses it to decide if you’re comfortable with the process.

Here are some factors to consider.

  • Ensure you’re okay with the components the agency outsources. Content creation, such as writing Twitter posts or even text for ads, might be outsourced to freelancers, but would you be comfortable with a third party in control of your ad bidding and budget?

  • Find out about the experience and capability of the people doing the job. While agencies may not be able to share specifics about their partners for contract reasons, they can assure you they deal with the best people for the job. If freelancers are writing content for your campaigns, ask the agency to ensure the writers are experts in or familiar with your niche.

  • Make sure your agency holds the burden for quality. Make it clear that if outsourcing is used, you still hold the agency responsible for meeting service requirements and ensuring all work is of a suitable quality.

What processes are automated, and how does that work?

In some cases, the talent may not be a person at all. Marketing agencies can leverage a lot of cutting-edge technology to get advertising jobs done, especially when it comes to pay-per-click ad campaigns or ad biddings. Even scheduling and posting content is often somewhat automated, and there’s nothing wrong with any of these measures — as long as your social media marketing agency knows how to use automation to your advantage.

Ask about what types of processes are computer-based, what checks and balances are in place and how the agency decides when automation is the right option for a task.

3. Look for signs the agency is a leader in the space.

If you want the best for your company, you want a social media marketing company that’s paving the way in the industry — not a company that’s content to follow the easy trail blazed by others.

This is especially true if you consider yourself a thought leader or trailblazer in your own space. You want a company that already knows how that feels and can align social media marketing to support those goals.

So, how do you determine if your agency fits the bill? For this consideration, you’ll need to look more at what the agency does than what it says about itself and its services. Here are some signs that an agency might be a thought leader in the social media marketing space.

  • It’s worked on some groundbreaking or innovative social media campaigns. Ask for a list of companies or campaigns the agency has worked with and look at the samples or past social media ads and content. Do they look the same as everyone else’s, or are there unique elements and evidence of trend-setting tactics?

  • It publishes blog posts that get a lot of traffic and aren’t just a rehash of what everyone else is saying. Look at the agency’s content on social media marketing. Have you read all those tips and tricks before, or is there something surprising or new?

  • Representatives from the agency can always be found at industry events. You know who attends conferences and workshops? People who are either at the head of the pack or moving there fast. Extra points if your agency sets up an exhibition booth regularly or someone from the staff speaks at events.

  • The agency has published long-form content about social media marketing. That might include case studies, white papers or e-books on the topic. Thought leaders have thoughts about their niche and want to share those thoughts with others.

  • The agency is often quoted or referenced by others within the industry. If you see the agency’s name in other blogs or links to their content frequently, chances are they’re a leader in the space.

Remember that there’s a difference between being a thought leader and being the biggest company on the block, though. And depending on your business needs, you may want to work with an agency that is poised to become a thought leader but is still small enough to give you personal attention and custom service.

4. Evaluate the relevant experience of the agency.

Next, you’ll want to evaluate the expertise of the agency specifically in regards to your industry. While experience in social media marketing is obviously the first thing you should ensure, it’s important to remember that not all experience is equal. An agency adept at serving one type of company may not be able to provide the same quality service to you.

Let’s consider an example to understand how social media marketing may differ in various niches. If you’re a senior living community, you have very different social marketing needs than a brand that sells books to college students. An agency with award-winning campaigns for college students that has no experience marketing to older adults may not be the best choice for your brand.

This holds true at all levels of the evaluation process. You should ask if the individuals working on your account have the relevant experience and whether any outsourced teams or freelancers do as well.

You’re not looking for people who have provided social media marketing services for companies exactly like yours. You’re seeking professionals who have experience and understanding of the demographics, products and marketing challenges associated with your niche.

This becomes especially important when your brand has a very specific or sensitive message or when your company is in a highly regulated industry. For example, if you’re in healthcare, finance or government niches, you might need to be more careful about how you place ads or create social media content. Your marketing agency must understand those limitations and be able to help you remain in compliance.

Here are some questions you can ask to help evaluate whether a potential agency has the right experience to meet your needs.

  • Does the agency regularly provide social media marketing services for companies in your niche?

  • What regulations, compliance concerns or industry-specific limitations or needs has the agency come across, and how did it approach them?

  • Does the agency have samples of successful campaigns or ads it’s been involved in within your industry?

  • Does the agency have experience working with target audiences that are similar in nature to yours? For example, if you target young parents, has the agency run social media marketing for a brand that targets parents or young couples?

  • What does the agency think will be the biggest challenge working within your niche, and what solutions does it suggest?

You don’t have to stick with these questions or even ask all of them. Simply engage a potential agency in a discussion of your business, target audience and niche and you should be able to see if they have enough knowledge and experience to work with you.

5. Ask for a list of social platforms the agency will work with.

Once you determine an agency has the chops to provide niche-specific service, find out if it works with all the social platforms your brand wants to connect with. Some agencies may only work with the big contenders, such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. But companies targeting younger audiences may want to delve into Snapchat, and many brands could benefit from a presence on Pinterest.

It’s obviously not necessary for your social media marketing company to manage all your social profiles or have a hand in everything your brand does online. But you should understand exactly what platforms your agency will work with before you make a decision. If you want to make Instagram a big part of your advertising spend but the agency doesn’t work with that platform, it’s probably not the right choice for you.

While you’re asking for a list of platforms the agency supports, ask about other technology they work with, including:

  • Social ad bidding and automation

  • Publishing platforms for social posts

  • Integrations to include social in a comprehensive marketing plan

6. Determine what services the agency actually offers.

Just because an agency provides services relevant to a social platform doesn’t mean it provides the service you’re looking for. Before signing with an agency, ensure you understand what services it offers.

Any marketing agency worth working with is going to have documentation of its services, either online or via brochures or downloads. You can start with those materials, making notes and jotting questions down as you peruse them. Use those notes to get more clarification when you speak with the agency. Here are some service offer details you may want to clarify.

Social media content

  • Will the company help with organic social media marketing efforts?

  • Does the agency provide content for your social profiles?

  • How interactive is the agency on your social media pages? Does it just post content, or does it share content and respond to comments (and is this something you want)?

  • Will the agency share content directly to social profiles or use a scheduler/publisher such as Hootsuite? If so, does that tactic limit what social platforms the agency can work with?

  • Will the agency help you create a social media content marketing plan and editorial calendar?

Social integrations

  • Does the agency help with integrating social into other marketing efforts?

  • Can the agency assist with comprehensive campaigns, such as content marketing that involves pairing social media with blog posts?

Social media advertising

  • What platforms does the agency work with?

  • Will it create ad copy?

  • Does it create images or videos to go with ads?

  • Will it manage the placement of ads?

  • How does it manage ad placement — does someone manage your account regularly, or are there automated processes?

  • Does the social media agency require login information for any of your accounts to manage or place ads?

Social profile setup

  • Does the agency set up new profiles?

  • Will it be responsible for creating content for those profiles?

Analysis and reporting

  • Does the social media marketing agency have access to or use its own analysis and reporting tools?

  • What metrics does the social media company use, and how will it report them to you?

  • Will the company simply turn over reports, or will it make decisions based on an analysis of the data or explain the implications of data to you?

This is not a comprehensive list of questions. You may have additional concerns about service offerings as you talk to a potential social media marketing agency.

It’s also important not to limit your questions to what you need right now. Think about your future business goals and where you see your company in the next year or even five. If you’re looking for a social media marketing company that can support your business’s growth, ask questions about services you might need in the future. If the company doesn’t offer them now, ask about its own plans for growth so you can gauge if you’re on a similar path and whether it would make a good partner now and in the future.

7. Make sure you understand all the pricing and fee schedules.

The cost of social media marketing services ranges widely. There’s a reason that’s in italics: Some agencies charge $500 a month, while others charge as much as $15,000 a month or higher.

The disparity doesn’t always come down to quality or even the services performed, though those factors obviously play an important role in pricing. But some agencies simply charge more than others. With pricing literally all over the place, how do you make a cost-conscious decision about which social media marketing agency to choose?

The answer is not “just go with the company with the cheapest price.” You do get what you pay for, after all. The trick is learning how to tell what that is.

Depending on what type of services the agency offers, it might use one of several common pricing models. Here’s a look at three of the most used.

Percentage Models

Some social media marketing agencies charge a percentage of your total ad spend. This is actually akin to traditional advertising agency models, which would do the same thing. So, if an agency charges 30 percent of ad spend and you have a budget of $10,000 for social media ads for the quarter, the agency charges you $3,000. That means $7,000 of your spend actually goes to buying ads.

This sounds fine when it’s spelled out like that, and it might work for you if all you’re paying the company for is to manage your advertising on social media. However, if you’re working with an agency that provides more than these services, things can get murky quickly. Some agencies don’t publish the percent they charge for advertising, and they may take money out of your ad budget without you realizing it.

Before opting to work with this type of model, make sure you get the percent in writing and ask for an accounting of marketing spend and fees on a monthly basis. You can also eliminate issues with hidden fees or inappropriately managed budgets by paying for your ad pricing directly and only paying your social media company management fees.

Fixed-Fee Models

Fixed-fee models involve charging you a specific amount for monthly service. Typically, you and the agency come to an agreement about what the fee will be and what services it covers. Make sure you get this in detail in writing in case there are discrepancies in the future. The monthly fee can then be renegotiated if you want to add or take away services, depending on what type of contract you signed.

This model works well because there are never any surprises in your marketing budget, and both you and the agency are on the same page about what each is receiving out of the deal. This model also requires the least amount of accounting management on your part; as long as you’re satisfied that you’re receiving all the services you pay for, you simply pay a single invoice.

Variable-Fee Models

If your service requirement is going to swing widely from month to month, you might not want to commit to a flat rate that’s the same every month. In this case, a variable-fee or a la carte structure might be better. With this option, the social media marketing agency charges you individually for services performed based on a specific fee schedule you agree to.

For example, you might be charged specifically for the design and content for an ad and then pay another fee for management of the ad at an hourly rate. This type of pricing model can obviously become complex and confusing, and you’ll have to work closely with your agency to ensure your budget is maintained. This is really only a model you want to consider if your needs are going to be unique every month or if you want very specific services here and there through the year.

Hybrid Models

In some cases, agencies may work out a hybrid model that benefits you both. Perhaps you only want to place a small number of social media ads most months but will far exceed the normal around certain holidays. The agency may charge you a fixed rate for every month and then a percentage of marketing spend on amounts exceeding a certain cap. For example, maybe the agency will agree to manage up to $2,000 of ad spend for $300 a month and then charge you 10 percent on amounts above that.

Ultimately, the goal is to choose an agency you can trust and work out a pricing model that protects your budget while ensuring you get the social media marketing services you need.

8. Find out if the social media agency also handles other online marketing.

Online marketing doesn’t begin and end with social, which is only one type of channel. And while you can run online marketing efforts via silos by channel, working with different vendors for each, you may not want to. There are benefits to an integrated approach that lets you create comprehensive marketing plans to drive messages across multiple channels that support each other.

If you’re looking at holistic marketing concepts, you might want an agency that provides services other than social media marketing and advertising. Some questions to ask a potential agency in this case include:

  • Does it offer search engine optimization, lead generation, content marketing, link building or other digital marketing services?

  • What types of hybrid marketing packages does the agency offer — can you purchase a package that combines social, SEO and content marketing, for example?

  • How does the agency intend to integrate social marketing and advertising into your overall marketing plan?

  • How does moving to a more comprehensive service impact your cost? Can you save money by bundling services with a single agency?

If you decide to hire an agency to provide more than social media marketing services, remember to evaluate its other offerings based on the considerations in this guide.

9. Make sure you understand the details of working with the social media agency.

If an agency meets all your criteria after a thorough evaluation of Factors 1 through 8, take some time to iron out service details before you sign a contract. Here are just some of the things you might want to agree on before you commit to an agency.

  • How often will you receive reports, and what will those reports include? You might want to ask for reports about how your ad money is being used, how ads are performing and what type of interactions social media profiles are getting. When possible, ask that reports are tied to business goals; it’s not enough for ads to be seen. Are they being clicked on, and are those clicks turning into conversions?

  • How will you communicate with the agency? Do you have to call someone every time you have a question, or is there a preferred email address? Does the agency operate on platforms such as Skype or Slack, where you can get real-time answers?

  • What type of turnaround time should you expect on the return of phone calls and emails and various service requests?

  • What should you do if you aren’t happy with the service? What service levels is the company agreeing to?

Ensuring everyone understands the answers to these types of questions can reduce frustrations and miscommunications in the future.

10. Ask about calibration or trial periods before signing a contract.

Finally, ask about trial periods before signing up with a social media marketing company. Names for these offers might include calibration period or introductory period. It’s a set amount of time when the agency is providing full service and you’re paying for it, but you’re able to quit using the agency before the end of the trial period without any of the negative consequences that might otherwise be incurred by a breach of contract.

If you go through all the research to ensure an agency is right for you, why do you even need this step? The truth is, until you work with a company, you can’t be 100 percent certain that they’ll be an ideal fit for your organization.

A trial period actually takes the pressure off both sides and provides you with room to test the waters and make mistakes. If the agency isn’t the right choice, you can go your separate ways. However, it may be more likely that you’ll want to continue working with the agency but might need to make alterations to the original agreement. Perhaps you won’t need as much ad work as you thought — or maybe you need more. Either way, if the agency offers a calibration period, there’s time to work all those details out before a permanent agreement is signed.

Take Steps to Find the Right Social Media Marketing Agency Today

By considering each of the steps in this comprehensive guide to choosing the best social media marketing company for your business, you can narrow your options down to real contenders. But even this guide doesn’t touch on every possible factor or question that might come up when evaluating agencies. Ensure that you make the process your own and ask questions that help you feel comfortable about your decision to work with (or not work with) any social media marketing agency you consider.
Yes, it takes time to properly evaluate a new marketing agency. But with your business and brand on the line, you can’t afford not to.
And if you’re not sure where to start in your search, might we suggest Lead to Conversion? Our experts provide a range of digital marketing services, including social SEO and advertising. We also offer hybrid marketing packages that help you succeed at digital marketing while protecting your bottom line.
For more information about our services or to get a free quote, simply complete our easy online form today. Our digital marketing experts are happy to answer any questions you might have about our service, including those listed in this guide.

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