Today, 90 percent of businesses use social media marketing because of its ability to reach consumers. Social media is the most popular online activity right now and Americans on average spend more than 3 hours a day on social networks, which rivals almost every other pastime including television.
Social media marketing efforts have the ability to increase brand awareness, brand loyalty and impact sales. But, at the same time, many businesses have no strategy in place. For some businesses, that means bringing in an outside agency to optimize current activities, create a new strategy, effectively implement the plan, and then make adjustments based on the available data. Before any brand hires a social media marketing agency, they must ask these five questions to make sure they’re the right fit.
1. What distinguishes you from your competitors?
A Google search for social media agency comes up with more than 230 million results. There are thousands of agencies that claim to be social media experts, but not every single one is right for every brand. Brands need to look for a professional business that cares about the success of its clients and has a track record of that success.
Brands should ask potential agencies what sets them apart from the competition and specifically look for answers that include a solid track record, case studies, and a well-articulated and defined process. These answers show that a company is invested in creating a successful social media reputation and cares about the results of its clients.
2. Do I need to be on every site?
This is a question that will help brands determine the honesty and expertise of an agency. If the agency answers “yes”, it could be a warning flag for the brand. Not every social network is right for every business. Each network has a different set of users. For example, while Facebook users are 60 percent female, almost 80 percent of Pinterest users are women who are more likely to have more education and higher income.
Businesses should strategically choose platforms based on the target audience and goals. A reputable social media marketing agency will look into the target audience for a brand and then pick the social media platforms most likely to reach those audiences instead of simply advising every business to be active on every website.
3. What is your process for content development?
No social media strategy can work without having quality content to post consistently. When a brand is interviewing agencies, one of the most important questions that must be asked is how that agency handles research, content creation, and content calendars. Quality agencies won’t shy away from the content question, but will instead have a strategy in place to find the type of content that target audiences like the most and then spread it either organically or through paid promotion.
Brands should stay away from agencies that go by gut feeling, thinking humor is appropriate for every client or promise to create a viral sensation on social media.
The centerpiece of any social media content strategy should be the inclusion of quality pictures and videos because those types of content regularly outperform text based posts and links. Forty-four percent of Facebook users say they are more likely to interact with brand posts that use images. According to Quintly, videos on Facebook averaged 2,183 interactions in January 2014, just under double the rate of photos, which averaged 1,358 interactions.
Social networks are also, in general, moving toward a more visual based standard with sites like Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Twitter, Pinterest and Snapchat all either focusing on or encouraging the use of images and/or video.
4. What is your process for reporting?
Brands hiring an outside agency for social media marketing should be able to monitor the results of a social media marketing strategy and hold the agency accountable. That is where having a standard process for monitoring and reporting comes into play.
Agencies should have a high standard when it comes to communicating updates, both positive and negative, to the brand on a regular basis. Social media marketing can take time and can have a cumulative effect on consumers. While it’s important to demand responsibility for results, it’s also key for brands to have patience.
Brands and agencies should strive to communicate about results, tactics, content options, new technologies and potential strategy options at least twice a month, if not more. 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 necessary.
5. How do you measure success?
Brands that invest in social media and a social media marketing agency must have a clear goal in mind at the beginning of the process. Brands should demand that any potential agency have a set standard when it comes to watching available metrics such as engagement, click-through-rate, web traffic, organic reach, paid reach, and conversions.
One of the benefits of social media is that strategies can be adjusted in real time based on the data being collected. As brands and agencies learn more about the target audiences and new technological options, goals can evolve as well. While there is no “right” answer for how to define success, having a clearly vocalized goal can create a focus on accountability for the agency partner.
Wrapping it up
Brands should be encouraged to ask above and beyond the five questions listed above, but these five questions should give brands key insights into the backgrounds, expertise and personalities of social media marketing agencies. While it may be tough due to the large amount of agency options available, brands should hire an agency that has a solid track record, has the ability to use big data to its advantage, is willing to be communicative, and keeps its eye on the prize. If a brand can do that, social media marketing can reap benefits and produce solid, trackable results in the form of loyalty, engagement, awareness and sales.
Author Bio: Heather Smith is the director of social media for ZOG Digital, a leading independent digital marketing company based out of Scottsdale.