Hiring and Outsourcing Guide: Social Media Marketing Agencies
Would outsourcing your company’s social media help your business? Or would it be better to keep things in-house? Get the scoop on what to look for when vetting potential social media agency partners.
When it comes to online exposure for a company or brand, few outlets pack as much punch as social media. It’s estimated that more than half of the world’s population—a staggering 3.96 billion people—utilize one or more social media platforms. And social networks are a direct pipeline to current and prospective clients, business partners, and customers. So, while having a website for your company is one of the keystones for any business, having an active social media presence may be even more important.
Which leads directly into the next question—who will manage it all? Social media is no longer a part-time endeavor, especially if you are trying to launch your small business or if you’re trying to grow your brand awareness beyond your existing customer base. And social media requires competency in all areas of content marketing, including video shooting and editing, copywriting, graphic design, photography, and strategy.
The answer for many companies, and possibly yours, is to work directly with a social media marketing agency. Social media marketing agencies do exactly what the name implies—provide comprehensive social media marketing services and management, including everything from content generation to digital ad buys, data analysis, audience growth and engagement, lead generation, and more. Let’s take a deeper look at just what is involved in social media marketing services and how they will likely apply to your organization.
What Are Social Media Marketing Services?
Social media marketing services encompass a wide range of duties and fields as we discussed above. Social media marketing is a subset of duties that usually fall under the umbrella of digital marketing services, but which include and require their own unique skill sets. While digital marketing covers everything from search engine optimization (SEO) to website content development, pay-per-click advertising, email marketing, and CRM, marketing strategy and much more, social media marketing services are specialized and adaptable to the changes in the social media space.
What Does A Social Media Marketing Agency Do?
Social media marketers almost always start with a plan… and they should. With the number of social media outlets and the various content options available, it would be extremely difficult for any company to dive right in without a plan. That includes, of course, setting realistic goals, expectations, and KPIs, which may be different based on the various social media networks and sites or apps your company has identified as important.
At their most basic level, social media marketing services break down into two general categories:
- Content creation, development, and scheduling
- Strategy and analytics
These are obviously simplified umbrella categories, but can be helpful as you begin to explore social media marketing companies and services that fit your business’ needs.
Social media marketing agencies, then, can and should offer all of the major services you need for an effective social media campaign. They should include helping you identify social media networks and sites or apps that your customers and audience gravitate toward, developing a comprehensive content strategy and plan, creation of engaging content in a variety of formats (blogs, podcasts, photos, video, stories, and much more), identifying influencers and competitors in your business space, scheduling content posts, and in-depth data tracking and analysis.
With all of those items (and more) required, it should come as no surprise that many small and midsize businesses work directly with social media marketing agencies. Assembling a team that can handle all of the above duties is not only costly, but it can take quite a while to bring all the necessary skills and experience into your organization. On the other hand, social media marketing agencies already have staff who are experienced in numerous types of marketing campaigns and can get your company up and running in a much shorter amount of time.
When Can You Benefit From Using A Social Media Marketing Agency?
There are any number of times when a company, including yours, can benefit from outsourcing to a social media marketing agency. For example, if you’re just launching your company and want to really hit the ground running with a strong online presence, working with a social media marketing firm can pay huge dividends. They can help you establish policies, schedules, and procedures for your social media presence, while also building out a large amount of content to help you grow your audience and increase exposure.
But social media marketing agencies are not just for startups or new businesses. Even established firms frequently work with social media marketing agencies to help them make the biggest splash possible. Whether you’re planning a sweepstakes, a new product launch, a funding campaign, or simply want to grow your audience, the services offered by a social media marketing firm can be critical to the success of your efforts.
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What Best Practices Do Social Media Marketing Agencies Follow?
Whichever category your organization fits into, there are a number of best practices that you can count on experienced social media marketing companies to utilize and enforce.
First and foremost is setting SMART goals—goals that are specific, measurable, aspirational, relevant, and time-based. As with any other type of marketing, when you begin working on your social media presence, you want to set yourself up for success.
Social media marketing agencies know this better than anyone. They will work with you to learn more about what you want to achieve and who you want to reach. That way, you are always in the know on progress, and you can celebrate not only a successful partnership but overall success for your business as well.
STICK TO THE PLAN
Establishing an editorial calendar is also critical for social media marketing success, and social media agencies can help your company establish one that reflects those goals.
When to post is almost as important as what to post when it comes to social media, and dedicated firms can work with you to analyze your audience, your content, and your goals in order to create the most effective social media calendar possible.
LET’S GET TECHNICAL
Beyond these best practices, social media agencies also help you and your team understand the various image and video sizes, file sizes, media types, and options that are available for you to use. Optimizing content for each outlet is very important to ensuring engagement, and social media agencies are experts in these areas as well.
LOOK WHO’S TALKING
Social media marketing agencies will also be well versed in helping you establish the tone and voice of your brand on the various social media outlets. This is important because your company may have a different subset of its audience that you are trying to reach through different networks, offering some flexibility in tone and allowing your content to match the expectations of the audience.
FOR BETTER AND FOR WORSE
One more critical best practice that social media agencies will follow is one you might not think of right away—monitoring online conversations about your company and handling negative feedback professionally and gracefully. Social media provides you with a direct point of contact with customers or clients, and this is a connection you do not want to neglect. So interacting with customers, both happy and dissatisfied, is a big part of social media management. If you are going to ask the agency to respond for you, it should have an established approach to handling customer interactions through the different social media sites.
Should I Outsource To A Social Media Agency Or Handle In-House?
Now that you have a good foundation for what a social media agency can offer your company, as well as the skills and duties required for effective social media marketing, the next question often asked is, “should we just handle our social media marketing in-house?” Answering that question involves a lot of different factors, and the first is almost always the budget.
In-House Social Media Marketing
Full Access. With an in-house social media team, you will always have contact and insight into what they’re doing, including content, scheduling, paid social advertising, and other activities.
Built-in Knowledge. No one knows more about your business, your market, your audience, and your competitors than the folks on the inside including the business owners. This mitigates the risk of any information you’d pass to an agency being “lost in translation.”
The Time Element. If you’re wanting to get up and running quickly, it’s probably better to outsource to a social media agency that specializes in this work. It’s what they do every day, and you won’t have to worry about sourcing an in-house team with the required skills.
The Money Matters. It’s going to be much cheaper to hire an agency than it would be to take on the salaries of new team members. Even if you simply shifted the roles and duties of current employees, you then have to think about the tasks you’re pulling them off of and how that would affect your business.
Why You Should Hire A Social Media Marketing Agency
There are a number of good reasons to work with an external social media marketing firm, including:
Expertise. You’ll be working with people who know social media performance inside and out, and who should have extensive experience in social media-specific design, content creation, and analytics.
Speed. A dedicated social media firm is in a position to help you get your campaign up and running much more quickly and efficiently than if you were to try to build or add an in-house department for social media marketing.
Results. with a proven track record and clear goals, a social media marketing firm will almost always provide you and your team with the best possible results that maximize your impact and your budget.
Hiring A Social Media Marketing Agency
If you’ve decided to outsource your social media marketing, the next step is understanding the potential costs involved, what to look for when vetting potential partners, and common pitfalls to steer clear of.
How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Social Media Marketing Agency?
Depending on your organization’s needs, the length and scope of a campaign you want to run, and the full scope of content needed, outsourcing your social media marketing project(s) to a dedicated firm can vary from a couple of thousand dollars each month all the way up to $20,000 per month.
Other factors may affect that price, including:
- Whether your chosen social media marketing agency is a full-service firm (including videography, editing, graphic design, photography, blogging, and more), or
- Whether they would require some of those elements to be outsourced to other companies (such as a videographer or video production firm, etc.).
Some Self-Reflection Is A Good Idea Before Seeking A Social Media Manager
If you have decided to hire a social media marketing agency to handle your company’s needs, there are a few helpful tips and questions to ask yourself that can ensure success, including:
Goals. What are you hoping to achieve with your social media presence? This goes further than just “more sales.” Get specific with follower numbers, engagement metrics, leads generated, etc.
Content needs. Are you wanting full coverage across Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and beyond? Or are you focused on just a few of these? Will you want video and stories, or are you just looking for basic posts that drive to your site.
Budget. How much money are you willing to spend to achieve those goals above? Is your budget realistic for the results you’re looking for?
Consulting with your digital marketing team, if you already have one, can help you put this information together in advance as well, since you will likely want your social media to function as an extension of your digital efforts (PPC ads, email marketing, customer service call centers or chat, and so on).
Skills To Look For In Social Media Marketing Agencies
Obviously, you want to work with a company that has a track record of success. Just because a particular agency has had some large corporate clients, it doesn’t mean they’re automatically a perfect fit for your needs. It’s important to get a sense of the agency’s:
- Core services. Do you need graphic design help? What about a strategy and social calendar? Or are you just looking for someone to post to your social media channels so you don’t have to think about it? Do you want specialized engagement techniques? Chat capabilities? Media monitoring? Social listening? Figure out what you need and make sure the agency you’re interviewing is capable.
- Proven results. Whether you’re spending $100 a month or $10,000, you want to be sure you’re getting a strong return on your investment. Be clear about what success looks like and ask your potential new partners how they will ensure they’ll meet those goals. It also doesn’t hurt to “run comps” on their other clients who have businesses similar to yours. What has this agency done for them?
- Responsiveness. The one thing you don’t want is to be in the dark when it comes to outsourcing content with your name on it. Make sure your agency partner is willing to at least have a weekly stand to update you on their production and progress. They also should provide you with a primary point of contact who you can get in touch with as needed and who’s good about getting back to you promptly.
Mistakes To Avoid When Hiring A Social Media Marketing Agency
In contrast to the skills listed above, you can avoid some common mistakes in order to make your work with a social media marketing company go more smoothly. Those mistakes can include:
- Falling for style over substance. Be sure to do your due diligence when interviewing and communicating with social media agencies in order to avoid getting caught up by big client names or flashy presentations.
- Jumping in too quickly. Likewise, take the time to really learn about each of the company’s experience, track record, and processes. Ask for references and make sure to check out reviews on UpCity and other third-party review sites.
- Not communicating clearly. It’s much better to over-communicate than it is to leave something unsaid. Be upfront about your company’s needs, goals, and budget in order to make the relationship more successful.
After signing with an agency, you can expect:
The Right Partner For Your Goals
Hopefully, you now have a strong knowledge of just what is involved in social media management, and specifically in hiring and working with a dedicated social media marketing agency. While we could not cover every possible question or category here, the information presented offers you a clear picture of the options available to your business for social media content creation, management, and analysis. So, whether you already have an established social media presence or are just getting started with growing your business’s online footprint, you can refer to the information here to help you hit the ground running and select the best possible partner for your goals.