Do you need social media management? In a word, yes. Do you have the time, budget and resources to manage multiple social media channels, watch your analytics, adjust your strategy with data-driven insights and go viral? If not, you need to start looking at social media management pricing and shop around for a good agency.
We’ve talked about the cost of outsourcing social media marketing, but here are the questions you should ask your agency to ensure the cost is worth it.
1. How many networks do you include in your social media management packages?
Not all monthly social media packages are created equal. A base level contract from one agency may cover more or less than that of another. At The Content Factory, for example, we cover three social media networks (usually Twitter, Facebook and a third channel that makes sense for your business, whether that’s LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram or Google My Business) in our basic social media management contract, which starts at $4,000.
It’s important to ensure that you know not only how much the services cost, but how much they cover. If you’ve determined you need an active presence on every possible social channel, from SnapChat to Reddit, take a close look at whether those are covered in the proposal before you sign the dotted line — and ask how much the agency charges for additional channels.
Don’t go into a social media management agreement thinking you’ll get a wide spread of channel coverage, only to find out later that you’re only really paying for one network. A good agency will explain all the details for you to ensure every party is on the same page.
2. Will you share content, monitor social interactions, or both?
Some agencies will split hairs over what “social media management” entails. Some will schedule posts for you and some will monitor interactions and engagement, but a successful social media manager will do both. Remember that social media requires conversations, and social algorithms reward those interactions.
Talk to your agency about your content strategy, brand style guides, communication guidelines and other rules you want them to follow to keep your brand consistent. You don’t want to end up on next year’s list of worst social media management fails. Work with your social media managers to create Twitter lists of industry influencers, reporters and competitors to find the perfect conversations to jump into.
3. How often will you post on each social channel?
This is where the rubber meets the road — a contract might cover every social network on which you want to maintain an active presence, but how active is that presence, exactly? Posting only a few times per week to Twitter isn’t likely to get you much in the way of engagement or conversions.
Read up on how frequently you should post on social media, and remember it varies by channel. Ideally you should share content on Twitter several times per day (CoSchedule recommends 15 tweets), while sharing more than twice per day on Facebook can exhaust your followers and backfire spectacularly.
Look for those numbers in your agency’s proposal. If they’re not there, ask for them. If the company handling your social media management is only offering a single tweet per day, take your money elsewhere.
"If the company handling your social media management is only offering a single tweet per day, take your money elsewhere. #SMM" - The Content Factory
4. Do you provide customer service on social media?
If you’re not answering customers’ questions and addressing their feedback on social media, you’re doing it wrong. 63% of customers expect brands to provide customer service on social. If you take too long to respond, you might lose those customers — but if you provide high quality service, you can turn a customer with complaints into a brand evangelist. Everyone loves a redemption arc!
Bad customer interactions on social can land you in PR hell, as United Airlines learned the hard way (or perhaps they didn’t learn, since there were so many repeat offenses). However, a savvy social media management team can turn a customer request into marketing glory, as Wendy’s did for Carter Wilkerson (proud owner of a year’s worth of free nuggs).
— Wendy's (@Wendys) May 9, 2017
If an agency doesn’t offer customer service as part of their social media management management package, keep shopping around.
5. Do you offer social listening as a service?
What is social listening?
It’s the process of monitoring mentions of your brand, competitors, industry and industry-related conversations to gauge public sentiment and carve out a niche for your business. Social listening combines social media management with digital PR to help you gain a competitive edge and adjust your communications strategy to break through to your audience.
Using social listening, your social media manager can easily find brand mentions, monitor hashtags and highlight reviews from your audience and industry thought leaders. They can then engage with them on social, leveraging user-generated content to build trust with potential buyers.
Ask your agency whether and how they use social monitoring tools to inform their social media management process. If they do, that’s a powerful value add!
6. Do you handle social media crisis communications, and do you have experience with digital PR?
While we’re talkin’ public relations, you should also ask your social media management agency if, and how, they handle drama. We’ve published advice about how to prevent a social media crisis, and social listening is a big part of it. However, you should also have a plan to deal with crisis communications if and when things do go wrong, because tweeting a fauxpology or “¯_(ツ)_/¯” certainly won’t cut it.
"You should have a plan to deal with crisis comms if and when things go wrong in #SMM. Tweeting a fauxpology or “¯\_(ツ)_/¯” won’t cut it." - The Content Factory
Ask your social media managers about their digital PR experience and how they’ve handled social media crises in the past. They can’t bail you out in a United Airlines-type catastrophe, but they can at least soften the landing. (Get it? Landing? Eh? Tough crowd.)
7. Will you participate in industry Twitter chats — or run them?
At TCF, we’re pretty passionate about Twitter chats to boost follower counts and thought leadership cred while sending engagement through the roof. For example, a Twitter chat we managed for one of our clients over three years landed on 145,705,959 timelines, reaching 10,222,864 people. That’s more than the entire population of New Jersey.
However, not all agencies offer to host or participate in Twitter chats. They take a lot of planning and bandwidth to pull off if you haven’t had enough experience to create a reliable workflow. Try to find a social media management company with that experience, because it pays dividends in social growth and engagement.
8. What do your social media advertising rates include?
Social media advertising is its own beast under the social media management umbrella. Facebook is notorious for burying business posts unless you pay up, and when it comes to boosting your content, a solid targeting strategy is the difference between great visibility and tossing your budget down a digital drain.
Ask your agency how they approach social media advertising, and whether that’s included in their social media management packages. At TCF, we include the following in our social ad services:
- Ad concept and copy
- Graphic design
- Campaign management
- Audience targeting
- Adjusting ads as needed to maximize results
- A/B testing between multiple ads within the same campaign
- Analytics reports
Speaking of reports...
9. How often do you provide social media analytics reports?
Without analytics, you can’t be sure that your social media presence is generating real traction or just noise. You should be able to work with your agency to develop measurable, achievable goals, and hold them accountable with monthly social media analytics reports that track:
- Follower counts (and whether you’re gaining the right kinds of followers)
- Post engagement
- Click throughs and conversions
- Which types of content perform best for your brand
10. What social media management tools do you use?
One of the benefits of working with an agency is technology: because social media marketing is part of their business, it makes sense for them to spend more money on social media management tools to give their clients an advantage. From Buffer for scheduling and analytics, to Meltwater and Hootsuite for social listening, to BuzzSumo for measuring the types of content shared most frequently across various channels, their marketing stack can turbo charge your social media game.
Have we mentioned how much we love BuzzSumo? Yes. Yes we have.
11. How is my social media marketing currently performing? What do I need to get ahead?
Before you make any changes to your social strategy, it helps to establish a baseline. A good social media management company will take a look at your current social networks to get to know you better and offer some suggestions for growing your influence.
Maybe you need to post more frequently. Maybe you need to ask more questions to your followers to solicit engagement. Maybe you need to interact with more influencers. Without access to your analytics, they can’t perform a full social media audit (though that should be their first order of business after onboarding), but they should at least show they’ve done their homework and have valuable ideas to contribute.
12. What are my competitors doing on social media?
Again, without a full social media audit and competitive analysis, you won’t get the complete picture, but a company vying for your social media management investment should also take a look at your competitors — what their social presence looks like, what looks like it’s working well for them, and what isn’t working so well. Why? Well, let’s take a look at a cautionary tale.
When IHOP decided they needed to promote their burgers, they somehow landed on the IHOb campaign — which Chris Fuhrmeister called “the most obnoxious brand move of the year.” IHOP tried to drum up mystery by announcing they were changing to “IHOb” and asking their followers what they thought the “b” stood for.
Er, breakfast?Bacon?Bagels with lox?
The world wasn’t exactly waiting with bated breath when IHOP announced that the “b” stood for “burgers,” only to be met with the groan heard ‘round the world.
Now, had IHOP taken a look at their competitors in the burger space, they would have realized they’d be up against Wendy’s, a brand that moonlights as a social media assassin when they’re not busy bequeathing nuggs to loyal followers.
The carnage was brutal. Lesson learned? Don’t be like IHOP — er, IHOb. Ask your agency what your competitors are up to.
Remember when you were like 7 and thought changing your name to Thunder BearSword would be super cool?Like that, but our cheeseburgers are still better.
— Wendy's (@Wendys) June 11, 2018
13. Do you have social media management experience in my industry?
Social media management is trickier for some industries than it is for others. Healthcare and financial services companies tend to have strict legal compliance standards for their communications, while entertainers and public figures have a lot to lose in a public relations fiasco. An agency with experience in your particular vertical will have a better sense of the social media landscape, hot topics and trends that you should be aware of — or steer away from.
That isn’t to say that a social media manager who hasn’t worked with a company quite like yours can’t knock it out of the park. You’ll just need to educate them on your industry and business model. Make yourself available to answer questions if they run into a topic they don’t feel comfortable talking about without your input.
14. Do you engage in any black hat shenanigans, like buying followers?
To be clear, the only good answer to this question is “no” (or its variants, “heck no,” “not on my life,” and “what kind of social media management company do you think this is?”). Not only does artificially inflating your follower count tank your engagement rates and make you look sketchy, but agencies who purchase those fake click-farm followers are happy to charge you more than $6k for the trouble.
(If you hate feeling joy, read this Cracked.com account of working conditions at a click farm. Severe anxiety, maddening noise levels, computers running so hot that brushing up against them causes serious burns — you really don’t want to support this industry.)
15. Can you send me your social media management case studies?
This is probably the most important question on this list. At the end of the day, your social media management company is only worth the results they can deliver for your brand. Short of hiring Professor X to see into your social media future, reading an agency’s case studies is the best way to predict whether they can help you hit your goals. Any social media manager who’s proud of the work they’ve done will be more than happy to share those outcomes.
At TCF, we include our digital marketing case studies in our proposal (and you can find them on our website, too!)
See TCF’s social media management pricing structure.
To see our social media marketing case studies — as well as our generic pricing proposal — all you have to do is click that big link below! The Content Factory has helped companies in a diverse range of fields get more followers, grow their thought leadership profiles and win more business through our battle-tested social media management best practices. Whether you want to be the next Instagram sensation or the B2B kingpin of LinkedIn, we’re happy to help.