How to find the right social media agency for your small business

Smart business owners are continuously looking how they can outsource tasks in their business to experts in those areas. And rightly so, with small business owners having to balance the key areas that impact their business such as stock, staff, sales and revenue there is no better time to look towards a dedicated social media agency to improve your online presence.

Firstly. this article, 1. Isn’t a sales pitch, and 2. Is an honest, first hand recount of the lessons learned from meeting and working with potential clients that haven’t worked out.

It certainly isn’t exhaustive and isn’t your typical article you will see on this topic. It’s here to go to the heart of what it’s like to go through the process of finding a new social media agency and often where the partnership falls down.

15 Questions You Should Ask Your Social Media Agency Before You Hire Them

Find the right partner

It’s like hiring a new member of staff, you wouldn’t just have one phone call and employ someone without doing your due diligence. Even though the relationship is slightly different, you should feel comfortable with who you’re going to be working with.

You need to have a good connection with that particular person that is looking after your social media (they may be the voice of your business) so it’s important that you get to know them and you have a good working connection with them.

When you first communicate with them, observe how they communicate back to see if it suits your personal working style. Do they take too long? Do they use a system to monitor communications (slack, basecamp, asana etc)?

Be Patient

Time running out in hour-glass with nervous figure watchingCompanies not willing to be patient to see results is the biggest reason businesses deviate from a strategy or don’t proceed with a partnership.

If you’re looking for someone to just provide a quick spike in sales, you’ll likely fall into the trap of doing just that for the agency you hire ‘earn them a quick spike in sales’. Look for a long term relationship when you decide on your agency. Social media is in no way playing the short game.

Firstly, it doesn’t give you (or them) enough time to build any momentum and see real results.

Secondly, they won’t put in as much effort knowing there is an end date to the agreement.

Be clear on reporting. Understand what and how often you will get reports on the marketing progress. Make sure these reports don’t just get filed away without properly diving into the numbers and what they mean for your business.

With that in mind, finding your best traction method and the tactics that work take time SO this is going to sound strange from someone that provides these services – I wouldn’t hire an agency in your first year of business. Why? Because if you don’t know what consistently works for your market yet, then it’s likely that an agency won’t either.

Find an expert in that particular area of marketing

Social Media marketing has evolved into a large industry that has quite a few different facets. These include:

  • Overall social media strategy
  • Creating content for social media
  • Community management and monitoring social media
  • Social media advertising
  • Social media data analysis

Social media is often an area that gets ‘plugged in’ when you’re looking for a new social media agency. Many agencies see it as a value add to their offer and that is great IF they have the right people that are experts in that area.

Don’t ask them for too much because it’s ‘easy’

Many businesses (I used to be one of them) think that because an agency is in the digital space, they should be fine to look after your SEO, your website re-build, email marketing, copy writing and anything that involves the interwebs.

Asking your agency to do this puts them in a difficult place. Most of them aren’t actually trying to deceive you, it’s just they would rather not disappoint you. This unfortunately can lead to taking on too much, being overwhelmed and not delivering on results. I’ll be the first to put our hand up and admit that we’ve done this before (and I bet I’m not the last one to do it either!)

So be realistic about what you request from them. If they have the skills (see ‘Find an expert…’ section above) then great, otherwise it’s up to you to find the right person for the job.

15 Questions You Should Ask Your Social Media Agency Before You Hire Them

Be upfront with your budget

We’ve all done the swings and roundabouts questions of ‘How much is this?’, ‘What’s your budget?’, ‘Send me a proposal’, ‘We have limited budget’ etc. etc.

It’s painful and uncomfortable for everyone involved.

Be upfront from the start with what budget you have available. Here are some reasons why:

  • It saves you both wasting time doing the explore stage of the partnership and then realising you’re never going to fit those services in your budget.
  • Most agencies actually WANT to work with you so they will customise their offer to fit as much as they can in the budget you have available – providing you’re upfront from the start.
  • It’s starts the partnership honestly and builds trust and most agencies will thank you for it. Here is a secret, if you want the best service – be the best client. 😉

If you have NO clue what the market rate is for a social media agency, try to think of how you can reverse engineer that amount. Some crucial numbers will help you determine this:

  • Current traffic to your website
  • Total sales
  • Conversion rate %
  • Cost per acquisition/lead
  • Profit margin
  • Total revenue goal

Once you know your numbers you can better determine how much you’re willing to pay to achieve your revenue goal.

It’s a two way street baby

You want to make sure the partnership has the best opportunity to hit the ground running. The best way to do that is to be prepared for what will make your new social media agency’s job as seamless as possible.

So to get the best bang for your buck, it’s important to bring a full suite of information on what your business has to offer and where it’s headed.

Here is a list of things you should be prepared with (or be prepared to be asked about):

  • Prepare a proper brief, including
    • The current state of play
    • What your target audience needs AND what problem you’re solving for them
    • What is the end goal
    • What success looks like for you
  • An offer they can work with
    • This is the most important ingredient in determining success
    • Is what you’re offering suitable for your target market?
    • Get this right and you’re halfway there.
  • A clear definition of who it is you want to target
  • The problem you’re solving for your target audience
  • A clear idea on budget (see Be Upfront With Your Budget section)

15 Questions You Should Ask Your Social Media Agency Before You Hire Them

You might wonder why we DIDN’T want to make this a sales pitch and it’s pretty simple, if we can’t offer what you’re looking for I won’t try to secure you as a client. I can always point you to someone that can, but I’m a big believer in honesty and trust being the key to a successful working partnership. And in this industry, sometimes that characteristics are unfortunately lacking.

What experiences have you had with social media or digital marketing agencies? Tell us in the comments, we’d love to hear more and if we can help.