If you haven't spent time working in digital marketing or social media in the past couple of years, it's going to very difficult for you to tell the difference between agencies that are mediocre, good or even great. If you've decided to put some money into getting support in the social media space, you don't want to be throwing money away. We've put together a couple questions (and things to watch out for) that should help you decide among all the technical jargon.
What does your agency specialise in?
What to look out for: There are a lot of agencies out there, and most will say that they can do anything — social media, SEO, SEM/PPC, Influencer, web design, UX/UI, content creation, etc. — stay away from these! It’s impossible to specialise in everything (as much as they try), and even harder for these agencies to have the right people working on the right things. If you’re looking for help in social media, look for social media experts — don’t for example ask for help from a PR agency, because they just aren’t equipped (and up to date) to properly manage social media.
Who will be working on the account?
What to look out for: You want to make sure that your account is being taken care of. There are cases that agencies will send their best business development people to the pitch meetings, and these people will disappear once the account is won (and you’re left with clueless junior staff). In general, you want to have a account director/manager who will be your key day to day and depending on your project, have experts in creative, management, analytics that help out as needed (whether it’s managed in-house or external). The key here is to make sure that they have a plan for making sure you account is handled as agreed (and they’re not stealing your money!).
What’s the social media strategy going to be?
What to look out for: If they answer right away without learning about your business, run away! The social media agency you work with needs to understand your business problems and needs — where are you struggling? What has been done in the past? Where do you need help? What needs to be addressed first? What is the competition doing? How much money do you have available? These are just some of the basic questions that need to be addressed. Blanket approaches won’t work, and you need to work with people that can help you where you need help the most.
What are the latest social media trends? Who’s doing social media well?
What to look out for: Social media is a changing landscape, and you want to make sure that the people you work with 1) know what’s happening and 2) have an opinion on where things are going to go. By asking this question, you should be able to see whether the agency is able to think independently and help drive your business forward. There should be a clear differentiation here, otherwise you might as well just hire a fresh grad instead. You want to be told what to do, rather than have to tell the agency what to do (they are after all the expert).
What social media platforms should we be on?
What to look out for: Building on the last point, the agency you work with needs to be the expert. Understanding the landscape they should be able to tell you which platforms make the most sense (can help convert) rather than just what’s the most popular (far too many recommend the basics — Facebook, Instagram, Twitter because that’s where everyone is, and not explaining how they can help the business).
What are we going to do with data/analytics?
What to look out for: Agencies should be able to talk about how to use data, and just as importantly when to use data. While there is a huge allure as to what data can do, in many cases companies aren’t able to take advantage of data simple because they don’t have a lot of data to play with (they’re way too small). Look for a social media agency that can use data to inform decisions, but doesn’t blindly follow the numbers (difference between causation and correlation isn’t addressed enough).
Where should we spend our money?
What to look out for: Find a company that can smartly look at a landscape and portion money as needed. You want to stay away from companies that are just looking to maximise their billings, and work with agencies that understand that digital isn’t always necessarily the best way to go (depending on the industry, many can still see a lot of benefit from events or CRM).
Who are your competitors?
What to look out for: Honesty. There are hundreds of competing digital agencies and consultants out there. This is a test to see if they’re honest people and whether they will be easy to work with. You want to work with a team that isn’t afraid to talk about the hard truth, and not just people that are good at kissing your butt.
These are just some of the questions that you should be asking when deciding on a social media agency. There are obviously many other questions you should be asking, but with all things being equal, the answers to these questions should help you put one agency over another.