Whether it’s your first relationship with an external social media agency, or you’re moving on to pastures new, there are a number of key questions to ask.
These questions will help you to work out whether:
- You’re going to get on well and have a lasting, professional relationship
- They know what they’re talking about and really understand your business and how to achieve your goals
- They’re the right partner for you - do they have the industry specialism you might need or in-house expertise?
Of course, in that first meeting, we can often be side-tracked by budget - equally important, but not the ‘be all and end all’ - small talk and other side projects that we end up discussing. It’s easy to do!
However, you should be spending that first meeting to really understand the organisation you’re asking to promote your business - that’s a really important job and you need to know you’re talking to the right company to make a success of it. That is, a company that wants to make you successful, and isn’t:
- Distracted by ‘bigger fish to fry’ - Even for agencies, social media management is time-consuming and its a project that is rarely priced high enough to make considerable ROI. If you sense they’re pushing for larger-scale work or don’t seem too enthused to take on your social media management, walk away (politely).
- Inept - Let’s face it, not every agency has ‘moved with the times’ - you need a company that knows what they’re doing and your own lack of expertise may mean this is difficult to decipher (initially).
That’s why the following questions should be asked up-front and you should pay close attention to the answers, as they may help you avoid a costly partnership that was always set to fail…
1. Who will be my account manager?
This may seem obvious, but often the actual account manager will not be present at that initial meeting, particularly at an SME and definitely if they’re a junior member of staff. You are more likely to have a meeting with a business development manager or the director, who won’t have the day-to-day responsibility. Meet the person likely to be running your accounts and ask them:
- What’s your experience?
- If you’re not in, who can manage my account on your behalf?
- What process do you have for curating and sharing content?
- Have you worked on an account in my industry before? Can you tell me more about that?
- Have you managed a campaign like the one we’re planning before? How did it go?
2. Do you offer support for social strategy?
You need an agency that will not only “do the do” but who will work with you to produce a cohesive structure to your social media strategy. At Thrive we have a four-stage process, but not all organisations do. To decipher what your agency’s approach to social strategy is, as the following questions:
- How often do you spend on my account per day, per week, per month?
- How many messages will be posted? Which platforms? What time?
If they seem hesitant to share these details or are ‘flying by the seat of their pants’ with their responses, make a mental note that this agency probably isn’t the one.
3. Who provides content and what content will be shared?
Even the greatest agencies need some input from their clients, they may need brand guidelines, PR articles, team photos etc., sent on a regular or ad-hoc basis. They may also require you to support them with writing particular updates with information that only you’d know, especially if you’re a specialist business.
You should ask:
- What types of content and input will you need from me?
- How often will you need my input or communication from me per week, per month?
- Is there anything that my business should be doing to make the content generation process easier or more efficient.
Agencies will often suggest blogs, PR, photos are all key elements of your social media content mix - indeed, they are - but:
- Do they have ways of supporting you to produce these things?
- Are they willing to help make this easier for you?
- Or does it feel they are trying to burden you and pressure you into other, additional, marketing activity?
4. Can you support me with image and/or video creation?
One of the growing factors to consider in any social media activity is that you need more than just text updates in 2019. Ask your agency if they have the design expertise in-house or through an external partner, to produce on-brand, high-quality designs for your social messaging. Ask:
- Do you also offer design and image/video support?
- Can I see some of your designs for other social media clients’ accounts?
- What tools do you use to produce images/video and edit photography/video?
Although an agency is within its right to refuse to identify a client, they should be able to talk at length about their design skills and even show you some publicly-available clients’ design work, or at least give you an overview of the tool/s they use as proof they can support your photography/video requests.
5. Will my clients know I’ve hired an agency?
This is a two-part question that is crucial to cover because it should reveal the agency’s competency to deliver on-brand content on your behalf, as well as ensuring they are able to deliver social media management professionally. Questions to ask include:
- How will you ensure my brand is carried across social media?
- How would you tailor my messaging from a competitor’s in the same industry?
- What platform do you use to schedule, and engage with, for each social media account, i.e. Twitter and Facebook?
They should ask about your Brand/Communication Guidelines documentation or ask some questions to ensure they are comfortable with what your brand portrays and how it should be translated to the public.
6. Do you respond to engagements?
This is a follow-up question from the previous. It’s imperative to set up an agreement on how comments and direct messages will be acted upon between you both. This is possibly the hugest issue of 2019 as direct messaging, chatbots and Instagram Stories all drive home the importance of responsive messaging and ‘active’ engagement with consumers on social. Ask:
- Who responds to engagements on each platform?
- How will you respond to engagements? Is there a uniform style for responding to, and managing, engagement?
- What protocol would you recommend for questions and engagements you need my help to answer?
- Are you able to maintain a responsive presence for my account?
- How will you encourage engagements on my posts?
There are many factors to consider here, but particularly:
- Is the agency proactively going to engage with users and try various tactics to increase engagement?
- Have they heard of auto-responders (relatively new, circa 2017) which allows your Facebook and Instagram accounts to ‘auto-reply’ (I.e. “Thanks for getting in touch, we aim to respond within 48 hours. If your query is urgent, please call 01325… Thanks!”
- Fundamentally, do they understand the importance of engagements and responsiveness?
7. How do you measure success and feedback on the performance of my accounts?
You need to hear how they intend on feeding back on the results of their efforts. Of course, not every month is going to necessarily perform as well as the previous because of external factors, but this reporting/analysis should exist to maintain open lines of communication. Ask:
Do you offer reports on our social media efforts? How are they delivered and what do they include? Do you have a nameless template we can read to understand what we will receive?
- How do you deliver feedback and analysis each month?
- Is there an opportunity to have a regular catch up and review sessions?
Ideally, we like to meet with clients at least once a month and maintain regular email communication with those that prefer. We also send a comprehensive PDF report each month outlining key metrics, best performing accounts and personalised performance summaries, amongst other details. What will your agency offer as part of the standard price?