If you’re searching for social media marketing agencies for your business, stop and read this first.
Selecting the best social media marketing agencies is a major challenge for businesses.
There are over 50 million social media marketing companies, agencies, and freelancers across the globe.
Navigating through the top social media solutions to partner with is like finding a needle in a haystack. And unfortunately for many, it is a needle that stings when you choose the wrong partner to manage your social media accounts.
By not carefully evaluating social media marketing companies, you may risk:
- Missed opportunities to increase revenue, leads, and awareness
- Wasting hundreds, thousands, or millions of dollars
- Business failure and going out-of-business
Use this guide to eliminate social media marketing agencies from your list and select the best partner for your business. Below you can click directly to the topic that interests you most.
- Finding a solution to your core problem
- Understanding agency pricing models & avoiding hidden fees
- Evaluating agency talent
- Determining the agency’s experience
- Anticipating your client experience
- Finding a long-term agency partner
- The average contract length of most agencies
- Agency thought leadership in the industry
- The Final Straw – Do They Practice What They Preach?
The Definitive Guide to Evaluating the Best Social Media Marketing Agencies for Your Business
1. Top agencies should provide a clear solution to your problem
The main reason you are seeking a social media marketing agency is because you have a problem.
A very urgent problem.
The problem is that you are not maximizing your social media presence to grow your awareness, website traffic, and revenue.
And the cause is very simple.
You do not have the expertise to grow your social media presence. Or, you do not have the time to manage your social media marketing efforts.
Regardless of what side of the fence your problem falls on, if it is not resolved, you risk business growth and your competitors gaining a significant advantage.
When evaluating social media marketing agencies, make sure they are providing a clear solution to this problem.
It should be very clear how they intend to increase your awareness, website traffic, or website conversions.
How to evaluate solutions provided by social media marketing agencies
- Did the agency make an effort to learn my objectives?
Poor social media marketing agencies will talk about themselves before taking the time to learn about their business. If an agency you speak with does this, politely get off the phone with them.
Providing a social media proposal without assessing your business objectives is like a Doctor prescribing medication to your illness without looking at the symptoms.
They will be taking a shot in the dark at producing legitimate results for your business, and could be hoping to lock you in a contract that you’ll regret.
When calling social media marketing companies, pay close attention to how they conduct the initial call. If the first thing they talk about is their social media marketing service, eliminate them from your list.
Top social media marketing companies will make it a priority to learn your business objectives, pain points, and overall business goals.
- Does the proposal make sense?
After the social media marketing agency has learned your business objectives, the next step in the process is to receive a formal proposal.
When reviewing proposals by social media marketing companies, ask yourself one question.
Which of these social media marketing proposals makes the most sense?
The proposal should clearly communicate how the use of the companies’ services will increase your company’s awareness and traffic to influence sales.
Don’t pay too close attention to the price. Pay close attention to the details.
Many companies use the term “social media marketing” loosely, meaning that the services to be provided are vastly different from one another.
For example, company A may only provide social media content [that is often automated and irrelevant]. Meanwhile company B carefully creates unique content, includes graphic design, and develops a strategy specific to increasing your followers, traffic, and awareness.
If you look at price alone, you may end-up with poor service and no results to justify the pretty penny you’re spending.
Make sure you are comparing apples to apples. And, once you are, then consider the price point.
2. Make sure you understand the pricing models of social media marketing agencies
How much do social media marketing agencies cost?
Most social media marketing agencies charge between $500 – $15,000/month for social media services.
However, sometimes the price isn’t very clear, and hidden fees are charged without your knowledge (or consent).
To avoid being scammed into paying more fees, make sure that you fully understand the pricing models of top social media marketing agencies.
There are three main pricing models to be aware of:
- The Percentage of Ad Spend Pricing Model
- The Fixed-Fee Pricing Model
- The Hybrid Pricing Model
The Percentage of Ad Spend Pricing Model
The “percentage of ad spend” pricing model charges clients based on their total ad spend budget. In this model, the agency charges you a flat percentage of your total ad spend for your campaign.
It is the most common agency pricing model, yet many businesses who hire agencies do not understand it.
The best way to understand this pricing model is by looking at an example.
Let’s say that you have $10,000 that you want to spend on a social media advertising campaign. To maximize your impact, you decide to hire an experienced social media advertising agency to manage your spend.
They agree to advertise your business for $10,000 and tell you that they estimate you will reach 100,000 people and drive over 1,000 hits to your website. It sounds good to you, so you pay them $10,000.
Now here’s the magic question – how much of the $10,000 did the agency charge you to manage your campaign and how much was actually spent in advertising?
What percentage do most social media marketing agencies charge?
The most common appears to be 20-30% of your advertising budget.
This means that if you spent $10,000 in advertising, the agency would charge you $2,000-$3,000 to manage your campaign. If you spent $100,000, you would pay the agency $20,000-$30,000
And unfortunately, it is true that many social media marketing agencies intentionally do not disclose this to their clients.
They may disguise it in their contracts, or use “proprietary software” to extract their management fees from your advertising budget.
The bottom line is that you provide your advertising budget to your social media marketing company, there is a good chance that they may dip their hands in your advertising budget to pay themselves.
Even worse, some of them will purposely not spend your advertising budget at all.
To avoid this, ask the following questions to social media marketing agencies who use this pricing model:
- What are your management fees?
- How does your management fees change based on my advertising spend? Why?
- Are there any other fees associated with this campaign that I should be aware of?
While many agencies use this pricing model, our social media marketing company have found it to be more transparent [and fair] to charge people based off of the actual work to be performed.
Why? Because, there is not always more work involved with a client who spends more in advertising.
Sure, someone who spends $100,000 in advertising may be more demanding than a client spending $1,000 in ads, but we cannot justify charging a fixed percentage of advertising spend.
But at the end of the day, they’re creating the same Facebook ads, and spending the same amount of time optimizing your campaign as any other account.
For those looking for a more transparent, fair pricing structure, we recommend the fixed-fee pricing.
The Fixed Fee Pricing Model
The fixed-fee pricing model charges clients a fixed rate for services to be performed.
Typically, this fee is the same every month and only changes if you want more or less services.
We believe this to be the fairest pricing model, which offers the most transparency and understanding into the services you are paying for.
And, to eliminate all possibilities of “hidden fees”, we recommend that you only pay your agency their fees and not your advertising budget.
You should pay for your Facebook, Instagram, or other social media advertisements directly.
You can grant your agency access to ad accounts in a way that they can perform their work, and you are billed directly from the advertising platforms.
We’ve found this to be the most transparent way to work with our clients. There is no confusion on what you’re paying your social media marketing company, and you can see your actual advertising expenses.
For example, some social media marketing companies may charge $500 – $1,000 to manage your advertising campaign.
Regardless of if you spend $1,000, or $100,000 in advertisements, your agency fees do not change.
However, if your agencies charges you on a percentage-of-ad-spend model, you could pay up to $30,000 (30% of $100,000) in hidden fees.
Social media marketing agencies that adapt a fixed pricing model should be placed at the top of your list.
The Hybrid Pricing Model
Some social media marketing agencies adapt a hybrid pricing model.
This pricing model includes both, fixed and variable, pricing elements.
And sometimes, this can be tricky because agencies may disguise their service as a “fixed management fee”, but charge hidden variable fees.
For example, a social media marketing company may charge $300/month for Facebook ad management, and an additional 10% of any amount that exceeds $1,000/month.
While both, the fixed management fee and the percentage charged appears to be relatively low, it can be very expensive when added together.
Make sure you closely evaluate the total cost of all fees that social media marketing companies charge in order to make the best financial decision for your company.
3. Evaluating Agency Talent at Social Media Marketing Companies
If you evaluate on price alone, you may end-up with less than desirable deliverables and poor results.
This is why you should pay closer attention to the talent at social media marketing companies and their capabilities.
The structure of teams at most social media marketing companies will provide insight into their level of talent.
To evaluate the talent at top social media marketing companies, ask them one question.
Who is doing the work?
Answers will vary, but you will need to steer away from the following red flags:
- The Jack of All Trades
- Agencies that Outsource
The Jack of All Trades
You will know if your agency is using the “Jack of All Trades” structure to service clients if there is only one person working on your account.
This should not be confused with having one primary “account manager” for communication purposes. We are specifically talking about one person who does all of the work related to your campaign.
This person is generally responsible for everything – customer service, strategy, copywriting, graphic design, optimization, and reporting.
They may also be responsible for doing your social media marketing, SEO, email marketing, and other related services.
While this may sound ideal, it actually hints that there may be some weaknesses in their services.
What we’ve learned about digital marketing in our near decade of existence is that it is impossible to do everything, exceptionally well.
Every individual has skills and weaknesses.
And copywriting, graphic design, advertising, and SEO are very distinct skills. Some are visual skills, and some are very technical. And normally, individuals are better at one than the other.
For example, a graphic designer may not be a good writer.
A technical SEO specialist may be terrible analyzing data in advertising campaigns.
When you only have one person who is working on your account, you are exposing your business to significant risk.
Instead, look for agencies who specialize.
Top social media marketing companies hire talent that specialize in specific tasks to deliver the high value to their customers.
For example, they hire advertising specialists to do advertising for their clients. They hire social media specialists to create posts and grow their clients followers. They hire graphic designers to create engaging graphics. And so on.
The Outsourcing Structure
Some agencies will outsource all deliverables to other vendors in attempt to produce favorable outcomes to their clients.
While this may work in some situations, it is also very risky.
Agencies who outsource their social media marketing efforts to other vendors have less control over their product.
If vendor partnerships go sour, your business results are at risk.
And if you have questions about the services that are being provided, agencies who outsource are generally not very helpful.
This is because they have very little experience in providing the service you signed-up for.
To avoid businesses who outsource, ask them upfront – “do you outsource any of the work associated my account?”
Be aware that many social media marketing companies “white label” other services and make it appear that they are the company providing service.
Even if your agency uses a “jack of all trades” structure, it is still very possible that you they are outsourcing to other vendors.
You will want to know if the actual work is performed in-house. So be aware of these hints and do not be fooled by agency jargon they use to disguise their outsourced operations.
The benefits of hiring an agency who performs work in-house
Social media marketing agencies who do everything in-house typically has:
- Better communication
- Quality output
- Greater control
All of which is critically important to the success of your campaign, and ultimately, your business.
4. Digging into the experience of social media marketing companies
While talent is great, experience speaks volumes.
There is nothing better than a talented social media marketing agency with direct or related experience in producing the results you are seeking to gain.
An agency with experience working with businesses like yours are more likely to:
- Understand your target market
- Create effective content
- Use your advertising budget more effectively
- Produce better overall results
To dig deep and figure out if the social media marketing companies you’re evaluating are best for you, ask them the following questions:
- Do you case studies or examples of your work?
- What type of companies does your company primarily work with?
- Do you have experience working with businesses similar to mine?
Their Ideal Client
Ask your agencies what type of clients they prefer to work with. Then, see if your business fits that mold.
You’ll be surprised by the response.
Some will tell you that they prefer to work with Fortune 500 companies, and their prices will reflect what Fortune 500 companies pay for those type of services.
If you’re not a Fortune 500 company, perhaps you will not need those types of services.
Others may tell you that they work with primarily small businesses. Though, if you’re a midsize or large business, your needs may be more than what the agency can provide to you.
Take a look into your business size and choose an agency that complements it.
When possible, it is always best to work with an agency with experience in your industry.
They will automatically understand the complexities and nature of your business, and will be easier to ramp-up then an agency who has no idea about the products and services your business offers.
However, depending on how niche your industry is, it may be unrealistic to find an agency with all of the traits in this blog to service your account.
In these situations, you should focus on working with companies that have experience in the “type of company” your business is.
For example, if you’re in eCommerce, an agency with a ton of experience in social media for eCommerce will likely be a good fit for your business.
Ask social media marketing agencies what industries and type of companies they service to find the best fit for you.
5. The Client Experience of Top Social Media Marketing Companies
The client experience of the social media marketing companies you’re evaluating is of great importance.
Sometimes great companies have terrible client experiences, and you would want avoid that nightmare at all costs.
Looking at client reviews online can be extremely helpful to gain insight into how satisfied agencies clients are.
However, many agencies today do not publish their reviews online at all. Because their client experience is so poor, many agencies default to removing their Facebook reviews, Google reviews, and other common review sites.
If you look for an agency’s reviews on common websites, and do not see any reviews, exercise extreme caution.
They are a social media marketing company, and they know the importance of online reputation. But instead of working towards a strong reputation, they’ve decided to hide it all together.
Or, they fabricate fake reviews on websites you’ve never heard of.
To avoid relying on reviews alone, ask them for client references and testimonials to validate their client experience.
And, you will want to gain an understanding of how the agency interfaces with clients on an ongoing basis.
Find out more about agencies processes for servicing clients. See if there are procedures in place to ensure your satisfaction.
Specifically, you’d want to know if:
- The agency helps with the strategy
- How communication works with the agency
- How account/project management works with the agency
Believe it or not, many social media marketing companies do not create a strategy before servicing your account.
As peculiar as it may sound, some will begin to work on your accounts as soon as they collect payment.
While you may want to start your campaign as soon as possible, rushing can do more harm than good.
Once you start seeing posts that you are unhappy with, and inaccurate information being posted to your social media accounts, you’re guaranteed to be frustrated.
Generally, these situations are avoided with proper planning, research, and strategy development. When interviewing social media marketing companies, ask them how they go about creating a custom strategy for your business.
For example, our social media marketing agency starts with a questionnaire. Once our clients complete the questionnaire, we have an onboarding call to discuss it with them. And then, we begin researching the client’s business and developing a social media strategy to hit their goals.
Communication is everything.
Too many businesses are working with social media marketing agencies who fail to communicate with them.
Many do not even receive reports of the service they are paying for.
Avoid this by asking agencies the following questions:
- How often will we have phone calls?
- How does email communication work?
- How often will we receive reports?
Most of our clients feel most comfortable when they are able schedule calls on a schedule that they prefer, whether that is weekly or monthly.
When it comes to email responsiveness, ask the agencies what their average response times are. For example, we strive to respond to our clients emails the same day or within 24 hours.
And, make sure you’re receiving reports. We routinely send social media reports monthly, with the option to schedule a call at the client’s discretion.
Account & Project Management
How will your account be managed?
Will you be responsible for managing the team assigned to your account?
When you are considering social media marketing companies, find out what will be required from you during the engagement.
What You Don’t Want
Ultimately, you are hiring an agency because they will save you time.
If you have to spend large sums of time to manage your social media accounts, then hiring an agency is counterproductive.
You do not want to caught-up in managing every single element of your social media marketing. Additionally, you do not want to manage several staff members that the agency has on your account.
This can drain your time, and ultimately take you away from your business.
What You Do Want
To prevent spending too much time, make sure that your agency designates an account manager as your primary source of contact.
This way, you do not have to coordinate with 5-10 different people who are working on your campaign.
Your account manager, or Director, should oversee your campaign and make sure that your needs are being met at a high-level.
We’ve talked to over 1,000 small business owners, and most of report that this is their preferred way to work with their agency.
6. Long-term Compatibility of Social Media Marketing Companies
When you consider hiring social media marketing companies, you need to think long-term.
How will the needs of your business change as time progress? What additional needs will you have in the future?
You need to make sure that the company you select is compatible with this.
Specifically, in the event that your business expands and you need more services. Will your agency be to support you?
Here are the things you need to consider:
- What is the capacity of the social media marketing companies you’re evaluating?
- What services are social media marketing companies offering that you may need?
Capacity of Social Media Marketing Companies
If you’re planning for expansion, then the capacity of the social media marketing companies you’re evaluating is important.
If you have a need for more work in the future, you will want to make sure that the agency you are partnered with will be able to support you.
Generally, capacity is a challenge for smaller agencies. If you suddenly need more posts, advertising campaigns, or channels managed, it may stretch smaller companies too thin. This could result poor output and results.
It is possible to “outgrow” your agency. And, continuously rotating marketing partners can be a painful and ineffective process.
Ask social media marketing agencies how much work they can take on at a given time, and what will happen if you need more production in the future.
Services of Social Media Marketing Companies
You should also get a feel for all of the services offered by top social media marketing companies.
As you grow, you may have a need for services to complement your social media marketing campaign.
For example, you may want to start blogging to engage your followers on social media. Or perhaps you want to start email marketing to customers and leads you’ve received from social media advertising.
When you choose social media agencies who cannot support you in these areas, it may complicate your vendor relations in the future.
Instead of managing 1 agency that manages all areas of online marketing, you’ll have to manage 3-5 separate vendors to handle your needs.
Now all of the sudden, you’re a full-time project manager. Or, you’ll need to hire someone just to manage your marketing vendors.
7. Average Contract Lengths of Social Media Marketing Agencies
The length of commitment to a social marketing marketing company is also an important consideration factor when choosing an agency.
Most agencies do not want to waste their time if a client isn’t serious about committing to a long-term strategy.
However, you should know where to draw the line between a reasonable contract and unreasonable contract term.
While the standard contract length used to be 12-24 months for most social media marketing agencies, the average contract length today ranges from 3-6 months.
The basis for contract terms generally boil down to providing agencies with enough time to produce the results you intended to gain from your campaign.
Though, many businesses in the modern age do not have the risk appetite to stomach a 12 month commitment. And you shouldn’t, due to some of the risks we’ve already mentioned in this post.
The last thing you want is to sign a 1-year commitment with a company with hidden fees, lack of transparency, or demonstrating very little results after a fair period of time.
Thought Leadership in the Industry
Want to know what separates great companies from the rest?
The best social media marketing agencies are actively involved in the digital marketing space. They are not only keeping up with the latest trends, but are leading the conversation in those trends.
Now, why should you care?
Because many top social media marketing companies are using outdated strategies.
Outdated strategies produce mediocre results, or none at all.
If you are stuck in between choosing two companies, take a look at their blog. See who’s pushing out content, educating their audience, and being thought leaders in their space.
Thought leadership not only shows that agencies are up-to-date, but it also shows a commitment to helping businesses grow.
Some businesses exist to make money, while others exist to solve problems and help others. Speaking at conferences, hosting webinars, and writing blogs demonstrate a passion towards this.
Google around and find out who’s a bigger thought leader in your space.
The Final Straw – Do They Practice What They Preach?
Do you want to know what’s funny?
Many social media marketing companies have terrible social media presences.
You may be considering agencies that are a living contradiction of everything they are selling to you.
Hiring a social media marketing agency with an ineffective social media presence is like hiring a chef that will not eat their own food. How can you trust it?
If you’re looking for social media marketing, examine how the agencies market themselves.
If their service is truly valuable, they would use it for their own business.
Take a look at their complete online presence. Look at their SEO rankings, subscribe to their email list, read their blog, and really form an opinion of the companies that you are considering.