Once you make the decision to outsource your social media marketing, you’ll want to strongly vet potential consultants and/or agencies to make sure that they are the right fit.
Consider experience first and foremost when sourcing your social media help.
You should be looking for a team that understands that the social media world is multi-dimensional. In other words, your campaigns will need to be integrated across all of your sales and marketing activities to get the maximum impact. So focusing only on social may show that an agency is limited in their thinking.
Everybody knows that Facebook for example should be a part of a social media strategy, but not everyone understands how it should be a part your overall marketing mix, on finding new leads, building brand awareness, etc.
Sharing and curating content across social media isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ exercise. After all, the various platforms are used by audiences in different ways, and distributing the same content across all your social media platforms does not make strategic sense.
If your agency is not taking time out to deep dive into the detail of who your customers or buyers are, and whether they actually use social media as a way to research a purchase, then I would start to worry about my investment.
“The first question an agency should be asking is – how well do you know your customers?”
Drawing a profile of who your ideal customer is or “buyer persona” is really the only way you can understand what your buyer is looking for and why they would buy your products or services.
Everybody is searching for a solution, the process of creating a buyer persona helps you map out the why, what, when and how. By detailing the customer’s journey, their research behaviour and needs, gives you the insight to then start planning your strategy.
I have drawn together below the 7 top questions I would ask – you may have more to add.
1) So How Serious Do They Take Your Business?
You can tell if an agency is serious about helping your business grow if they are willing to learn about your objectives and customers.
Many agencies talk first and foremost about services and features rather than trying to understand if social is the right fit for your needs. The more questions they ask and the time they spend listening rather than selling is a sign of a good approach to doing business.
You should be looking for how an agency’s process focuses on creating a profile of your customers or buyers. You will also need to ensure that the overall strategy aligns with your business goals and make sure it integrates with the other customer touch points and channels that you use. Are they going beyond Facebook? If not, why not?
2) Do They Have Experience In Your Industry Or With A Similar Business?
The more experience an agency has in your industry, the more likely they are able to rapidly produce the results you are looking for.
The way that we buy has evolved, redefined by the Internet. So whether we are end consumers (B2C) or businesses (B2B) the tools and the methods for our research are blending together, but of course there is a difference in the message and the approach.
So ask your agency from their experience how do they approach different types of industries, how do they look at content marketing, or does your agency try and sell you a “one size fits all approach” through a lack of experience?
3) How Much Strategic Direction Will Your Agency Provide?
For your marketing to be successful it relies in a big way on content creation. Potential customers need validation that you are trustworthy, knowledgeable and an authority in your area of expertise.
It is a world where “content marketing rules”, buyers are more likely to trust other sources of information than your own. And this where social media as a part of inbound marketing is most effective, attracting leads to your website.
So strategy input needs to go beyond just social media, and include all your different customer touch points.
If you are developing a long term relationship an agency needs to be able to modify the strategy until it works, if the results are not going as you had planned, does the agency provide recommendations or help to identify what went wrong? Or are they strangely quiet until the retainer negotiation comes around again?
And remember strategy is more than a one page template of actions looked at once a year. It needs to be bespoke to you as a company, your needs and customers and regularly reviewed.
4) How Much Of Their Work Do They Outsource?
Find out how the agencies you are considering operate.
Do their employees work at their office or do they outsource the work? Who is it that will manage your individual account, because it is important for you to know who is behind the work for your brand and how they are being monitored, what their individual experience and knowledge is.
Putting your brand into the hands of somebody else is a big responsibility. May be you were charmed into taking on an agency because of a good price or a network recommendation – just make sure that there are processes in place or an experienced person at hand in an agency that knows how to deal with a difficult situation if things go wrong.
We all make mistakes – but when it is your brand on the line are you confident of your agency’s ability to cope and make the right choices.
Ask what brands the agency has worked with and is currently working with. Important to check their pedigree, but also to make sure that they are not working with a competitor. And of course there should be current and past examples of their work that you can review.
5) How Will You Measure The Performance Of Your Social Media Efforts?
The agency you hire to manage your social media activities should be able to present and explain to you your key performance indicators.
As a part of any on-boarding exercise with your agency you need to agree what are the key metrics suitable for your needs. And then on a monthly basis, together with your agency evaluate the work done and understand what is or is not working and why.
We all know that it takes time to see a return on your efforts, but with social media you can track most things. You will want to be confident that your agency has the experience and competence to understand that social media marketing is more that just looking to add likes, followers or fans.
It is all about reaching a target customer, and starting to engage them in a digital conversation, that you hope will build from a lead to a prospect to a happy and loyal advocate of your brand. And all of this can be measured with social metrics.
Examples of social metrics could be:
- Social media reach – how many people are you reaching through the campaigns?
- Social media growth – how many new fans and followers are you gaining per month?
- Social media engagement – how many social media interactions did you have i.e. shares, likes, comments, etc.?
- Website traffic – how much of your website traffic was sourced by social media channels?
- Lead generation – are you able to see if new leads can be attributed to social media?
- Brand mentions – how many times is your brand mentioned across social platforms?
- Social sentiment – are you able to measure and monitor the things that are said about your brand?
- Social selling – what number of prospects are you contacting through your social networks?
6) How Will Your Content Be Developed?
Does the agency have the necessary industry experience to understand what will resonate with your target audience, writing content specific for each social platform?
Do you trust your agency to produce your content or will you have to approve all of the content written on your behalf? Will it all have to be planned, or how will you validate that this agency can create content for you?
Content needs to be relevant, informative, entertaining, likeable and shareable by your target audience. Ask to see examples of content created for other clients, and walk through the content creation process.
Another “must do” is to read what the agency’s own content is like, how regularly do they blog, to what degree are they considered a “thought leader” in their field based on content quality and distribution.
If an agency lacks the specific industry experience, has no content strategy, and does not understand where their content fits into the customer journey – this should be a red flag!
7) What Will This Cost?
You will want to know in advance that there are no nasty surprises waiting when you start to question why your costs seem to be going up each month.
You need to agree a strict budget with a prescriptive list of all the actions/activities that you are buying and agree if there are any additional activities what the cost would be.
Do you have an approval process agreed for costs, a regular date for reports and feedback from the agency, so that you do not have to waste time chasing them.
An agency needs to be proactive, with the customer (you) always at the core of everything that they do. If they see something that looks wrong then they must have the time and initiative to help and offer advice.
Things always take longer to do than you think, so it is wise to get the insights from your agency on how much time they allocate to each task – and how much they they use marketing technology tools to automate tasks.
How much budget you allocate depends on a number of variables, firstly the time or “sunk costs” of you doing all this yourself. Does it make sense to keep this in-house, do you have the skill sets or does spending your time on this give a suitable return for your efforts?
In summary below are some thoughts to ponder before you sign on the dotted line.
- Do their values as a business match my own?
- Are my customers on social media? Do I even need these services?
- Do I need to create a strategy first and then discuss how social media fits in?
- Am I excited to work with an agency, some outside help?
- Do they understand what makes your company different?
- How bespoke does their strategy feel or is it a “one-size fits all”?
- Do they take time to answer your questions or seem nervous to go into detail on what, why and how they’re doing?
- Does this agency seem to care about my brand or am I just another customer?
- How will the strategy they have outlined complement the larger picture of what you are trying to achieve?
I hope the above has helped you form a plan, or what your next steps are if you are looking to outsource your social media activities – and of course let us know if we can be any help in how you assess proposals or by taking on a social media role for you.