What to ask a social media agency/consultant?

Photo by  Nathan Dumlao  on  Unsplash

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

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.

Social Media Metrics - where do you even begin?

Photo by  Dmitry Ratushny  on  Unsplash

Depending on where you are in your business, and what you're trying to do, you need to be measuring different things. Open up your dashboard or insights page and you're going to face a plethora of information - where do you begin?

Social media data doesn't need to be difficult, but first, you need to know what you're trying to do (otherwise, what does an increase in follower numbers mean for your business? It doesn't necessarily lead to more sales). As a brand, you need to be careful about measuring the right things, as an agency you need to be honest and help your clients and guide them to things that actually help their business and not just vanity metrics (in most cases impressions are meaningless without further data points).

Don't get sucked in measuring the wrong things, and don't blindly try out tactics on social media if you aren't measuring and recording data. Work with your data and get more meaningful results.

If you're a small company and growing you need to measure different thing - I wrote about this in detail on Medium and you can read it here.

Appropriate Goal Setting Can Make The Difference


Goal setting is hard, it's even harder when it's for digital marketing.

Fancy vanity metrics such as follower numbers or reach are great when you're talking to people who don't know what they're talking about (your manager? your MD? Great when you're looking to get a raise or promotion). But for the people in the industry, they're just the beginning to understanding what social can really output for the company.

Instead of followers, what's vastly more important is the conversion (for sales) or even the shares (for engagement). Vanity metrics can be faked through a variety of ways - bots, ads, etc. but you need a product that people genuinely need to actually get sales (or even get them to share it with their friends).

If you're still only tracking the basic metrics, and you're a seasoned digital/social media marketer, it's likely because 1) you don't know better or 2) you know your product/content isn't very good.

Time to make some changes, and go after some goals that actually matter. You've heard it plenty, but data truly is the key to success in the digital age.

Wrote more about this topic (and tips on how to do this) on Medium, check it out here.

Wednesday Updates

Some things we've been thinking about this week.


The (rising) domination of podcasts - looking back it almost seems inevitable. What's really interesting is looking at how the medium and the approach has changed in the last couple of years. I'm looking forward to more production (again Gimlet does a really good job). Whether this will one day all be replaced by visual content is yet to be seen (driver-less cars?). Exciting times.

What do employees want? - This is an interesting way to look at the issue - I don't think it's something anyone is going to solve anytime soon (largely because it's constantly evolving). What's more interesting is how companies can embed these areas they've identified and infused it into the company culture. Easier said than done.

YouTube - not the glamorous life it appears to be - a lot of people are becoming incredibly famous by creating content (and a lot of it isn't good content) and it's easy to get sucked into the world and think that you can do the same (and better). However, it's not all that it's cracked up to be. What's missing is that need to create art - it's something that calls out to people (if you're doing it for money, turn away now as it's not as lucrative as you think). The message that you can create is more important than the riches you might one day fall into - this message gets lost far too often.


Wednesday Updates

Things we're thinking about this week.


Predictions - I'm awfully good at them - Yes, this is bragging time, but a couple of the predictions that I've made in the past are finally making the headlines around. There is going to be a war for original content, learn to tell a story, get there first and you're going to get paid. Esports is going to be huge and will only get bigger when people figure out how to make it watchable and enjoyable. If only people would listen to me more.

The problem with algorithms. Companies (Huawei in this case) are going to try to find a shortcut and beat them. More often than not, it's the cheap little tricks that will make you stand out initially. But in the long run, it's going to hurt you instead.

Don’t get bogged down by silly, meaningless numbers.

Photo by  rawpixel.com  on  Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

It happens to all of us, and it’s getting a little out of hand.

Follower count, reach, website hits — they’re important to know, but they don’t tell you the whole picture.

I often speak with clients that only care about one thing — followers on their Instagram. Yet when I ask them why it’s important, they can’t answer. It’s the same thing over and over — it’s the only thing they know and therefore the only thing they care about.

In most cases, people need to step back and have a think about why they’re doing what they’re doing. Does having more Instagram followers help the business? Maybe, but not always.


A woodsman was once asked, “What would you do if you had just five minutes to chop down a tree?” He answered, “I would spend the first two and a half minutes sharpening my axe.” Let us take a few minutes to sharpen our perspective.


I worked with a men’s fashion brand with 120k+ followers on Instagram but they couldn’t figure out a way to convert. One quick look and it became pretty apparent. Sure they had a lot of fans, but the 80% of them were female — definitely not their target audience. They were getting more and more fans because that was their only goal, they didn’t spend time thinking about how it would help their business. Turns out, they used a lot of male models on their feed — great content, but they were attracting young girls who wanted to look at pretty boys.

The same thing happens when you look at digital ad buying — people tend to get a lot of traffic but find it difficult to convert. Their immediate reaction is that the platform isn’t working. However, the problem could be the messaging, the website (not matching/relevant to the ads) or even the product itself.

Lazy work = poor results