Social Media Marketing is a very time consuming task, it makes sense to hire an agency to manage your efforts. According to the Social Media Examiner, 90 percent of businesses use social media marketing to reach consumers. It is estimated that the average American spends 3 hours a day on social networks. Social media marketing, with a solid strategy, has the ability to create awareness of brand and services, drum up prospects, nurture leads and turn customers into advocates. Bringing in an agency to manage and implement strategies on each channel frees up a lot of time and insures, not only productivity, but results. If you are considering adding social media marketing to your marketing strategy, ask yourself and your staff these questions.
1. Are there any regulations in my workplace or sector?
Many industries and sectors have regulations at some level that require compliance. Before you start thinking about social media in more depth, make certain you are aware of the regulations, if any, that exist. Healthcare and the Financial industries are heavily regulated on a Federal level and being found non compliant may result in big time fines and even the loss of licenses. Some franchises have social media guidelines. Do your due diligence and do your research.
2. What am I hoping to Achieve with Social Media Marketing?
Setting goals and a timeline will, not only help shape a future social media marketing strategy, but also determine the channels that best fit your goals. Are you looking to increase web traffic? Gain customer information? Nurture leads? Be clear and realistic on your goals. Keep in mind that social media itself will not create conversions but will create awareness, capture customer information, nurture your leads and keep your audience informed.
3. Do I have a reliable website and tools to capture consumer information and conversions?
Obviously, the point of having social media is the end goal of increasing the bottom line with more leads. As mentioned, it takes more than social media to create conversions. Social media is a driving force behind creating awareness and leading consumers to your website or to pick up the phone and call. As part of your transition to social media marketing, you need to decide what action you want out of your audience. Whether you want people to call, visit your website, or provide information you need to be set up to make the action easy. Landing pages that provide direct access to information or forms are a must. The average customer isn't going to "browse" around to provide you with information. Your website needs to be fast loading, clear, concise, and easy to use. Your audience won't react well to automated phone systems either.
4. How much time does my company have to dedicate to social media management?
This is the part that gets tricky. Many companies see social media as "free" so it's easy to lump social media management into another job category. The problem with this strategy is that social media is not free, time is money. If you look at any good social media campaign you will see that the interaction is constant. It's not enough to be present on social media, you must be active...all the time. There are social media automation tools but most consumers see right through the robotic, systematic scheduled post. Social media marketing is all about the interaction and depending on automation removes the conversational aspect.
5. What resources does my company have to create content?
Translation: what the heck are we going to post? At the very basis, most social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+) need least 1 post per day. Twitter is a whole different monster with a recommended 8-10 tweets per day. That's a lot of content to be produced and/or shared. Having your own original content is essential to success. Sharing content allows your audience to get a sense of your thoughts and beliefs but creating original content proves your worth and value.
As you can tell, social media marketing is much more complex than simply posting. Having a dedicated staff member is great if you have the available budget for a full time employee, but if you are the average business, you might want to consider an agency. Having an agency perform your social media marketing not only saves you a lot of time but it also insures that you have experienced and knowledgeable marketers on your team. Agencies live and breathe social media knowledge and that kind of arsenal is great for your marketing efforts.
If you are going to hire an agency there are some important questions to seek answers to before signing over your reputation. Before you even make the call to set up a meeting do your research! Check out the agency twitter account. Check followers, interaction, consistency and growth. Ask around. Look at other accounts managed by the agency. Look for consistency. Do the accounts seem human and personable? Would you share the content produced? Is the same content being published on other channels?
Questions for the Agency
1. What distinguishes you from other agencies?
You wouldn't just hire anyone to represent your business. Stay true to your hiring process when looking at outside agencies. Every interaction and post on social media is a representation of your brand. Social media posts can go viral very quickly so be very picky. Look for a professional agency that cares about the success of its clients and has a proven track record of that success. Ask agency candidates what sets them apart from their competition and ask for specific track records that reflect your goals. Agencies should have no problem providing client reports that show success.
2. What social media sites would be best for my company?
Most agencies have a niche market, even with social media marketing. This question is usually a perfect way to test the integrity of the agency. As social media has evolved, each social media platform has become a marketing channel of its own. Before the agency comes to the meeting, research should be performed on your company and industry. An agency should be able to say "based on your industry and company reputation, you should be on channel A and B." To go further, the agency should provide specific results from their client base. "Our agency implemented a campaign for the John Doe Company that would be similar to what we would need to do for your company and we saw a 79% increase in followers in 12 months." If the agency doesn't provide specific examples and platforms, it could be a warning flag. Not every social network is right for every business and result oriented agencies would never tell you otherwise because it would lower their success rating. Businesses should choose social media platforms centered on their company personas and goals. Reputable social media marketing agencies will research your target audience and only recommend the social media platforms most likely to reach those audiences. A quality agency will also provide different strategies for each social media platform. One strategy for all channels is a major red flag. Content is always positioned in context to the specific platform. Translation: I shouldn't see the same post on multiple channels.
3. What kind of content will the agency produce and what is the content development process?
A social media strategy is only as good as its content. One of the most important questions that must be asked is how that agency performs research, creates content, and how the editorial calendar is implemented. As we covered with the last question, the agency will be prepped with industry knowledge and company history. Quality agencies will bring a mock strategy to the table with a clear plan for content development. The agency should be able to tell you: what kind of content will be produced, the methods of distribution, and have a good idea of how much and how often it will be published. This question will allow you to get a good idea on cost for your strategy based on paid vs. organic distribution and how often content is being produced. If the agency promises viral posts, run.
4. How are results communicated and measured?
The agency responsible for social media marketing should ALWAYS be monitoring and analyzing social media marketing efforts. Analytics are key to successful marketing strategies for the agency and hold the agency accountable to the company. Every agency providing social media services should have a standard process of reporting that includes A/B Testing, analytics and editorial adjustments. As a company, you should have a very clearly defined standard for communicating updates and progress on a regular basis. Social media marketing success is not a one night stand, it takes a lot of relationship building. The agency should be reporting at a minimum twice monthly on results, progress, content development, new technologies and strategy changes. If an agency doesn’t have a process to report ongoing results, it may be a sign that the agency isn’t as connected with its clients as they represent. The agency should be able to help mold goals, set realistic benchmarks based on your industry and be able to provide reports on engagement, click-through-rate, web traffic, organic reach, paid reach, and conversions regularly and on demand.
5. Does the agency outsource content creation or social media posting?
Make certain you know who will be posting. If the agency outsources social media or content creation be sure you do equal research on who is actually posting or writing on your behalf. Many agencies, will contract niche providers such as blog writers and social media managers. Automation tools are also used frequently so be sure you know what tools are being used and how they will help meet your goals.
Though there are really no "right" answers to the above questions, they will allow you to form a better idea of the performance you can expect from an agency. These questions will provide insights to the experience and personalities of social media marketing agencies. Bottom line is that anyone that comes in to present and ask for your business should be able to provide solid track record, standards of reporting, and shows flexibility. Keep in mind that a good social media marketing strategy constantly changes and evolves with your business, technology and the buying process. Social media marketing is a journey so be sure you've got a good road buddy.
What questions do you think are helpful for finding the right agency partner?