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9 Critical Questions to Ask When Hiring a Social Media Agency

A few months back, New York Times Bestseller, Gary Vaynerchuk said that 95% of Social Media consultants were “bozos”.  Although Gary apologized for his hyperbole, on some level we agree that businesses would be better off if they asked their agencies better questions up-front.

Since social media has taken a front-seat role in many communications plans it pays to dig deep and really understand what your social media agency has “under the hood.”    This isn’t new, the web is filled with helpful agency hiring checklists, but most of them ask the wrong questions.

Although it’s helpful to know about experience, case studies, and services that isn’t the most important criteria to check.  Instead, you should evaluate how the agency will use social media to meet your business objectives.

Here are 9 questions that will get you the answers you need:

  1. Describe our business model?
    Your agency should have an intuitive feel for how your business creates products and makes a profit.  Social media is a communication tool for connecting your business with its customers.  An agency can’t do this unless it understands your business.

    Danger Sign: The agency spends more time talking about their services than your objectives.

  2. Why do you think that Social Media is important to this organization?
    Don’t settle for cookie-cutter social media programs.  Social conversations are unique and are impacted by the organization’s position in the marketplace.  Your agency must be willing to craft a program that accentuates your strengths and boldly addresses your weaknesses.

    Danger Sign: “To a hammer – everything looks like a nail”  Make sure that the agency can provide clear reasons why social is the right tool for the problem.

  3. Describe a communications problem you solved with social media?
    In business, every communication should drive the organization closer to its business goals.  You want an agency that shares this outlook.  Examining how your agency uses social to solve problems is the best way to predict their performance as a partner.

    Danger Sign:  Be on the lookout for agencies who point to vanity metric performance (# of Facebook fans) rather than systematic processes for identifying, diagnosing, and solving core problems.

  4. Explain your process for building relationships with influencers?
    New social media programs need help from influencers to gain traction.  Influencers can lend credibility and jumpstart audience growth.  For this reason, spend time evaluating how your agency finds, nurtures, and activates influencers.

    Danger Sign:  Influencer-Lite approaches that emphasize watching Twitter or heaven-forbid carpet-bombing bloggers with template emails asking for mentions.

  5. Can you walk us through the steps for creating our social media strategy and tactics?
    Unfortunately, it’s very easy to play the role of “social media expert”.    Put your agency team in a room, give them a problem, and ask them to walk through the steps for solving the challenge.  You’ll learn if they have the proven processes needed to arrive at great solutions.

    Danger Sign: A telltale sign of an actor is their focus on tools (“We think Twitter is tailor-made for you!”) rather than using a strategy to emphasize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses.

  6. How will you track our program’s performance?
    There isn’t a right answer for this question.   You are looking for a focus on accountability and progress.  While it’s difficult to pin social media to quantitative metrics, your agency should be to offer a practical measure for the program’s success.

    Danger Sign: Too much faith in a particular reporting tool.  There are some great tools out there but much of the real insights will come from smart people who know how to ask great questions.

  7. How will you handle content creation?
    Successful social media programs are built on excellent content.  Your agency should be prepared to create content for each platform.  Agencies that shy away from creating content may not understand the critical role unique content plays.

    Danger Sign:  A top-heavy agency that’s long on PowerPoint artists  and short on insightful and creative content producers.

  8. How will you manage legal risks?
    Like every communication, social media updates require a systematic review process.  It’s always a good sign when your agency proactively seeks to understand your communication approval process and legal protocols.  A little diligence up-front can save you expensive headaches down the road.

    Danger Sign: Blank stares.  Seriously…I’ve seen them.

  9.  How will you coordinate social media with our other communication functions?
    Social media shouldn’t be operated in a silo.  Your agency should take the lead in sourcing content from other departments and seek to integrate content across disciplines.

    Danger Sign: Budget Sniping.  Walk away if your agency guns for other budgets before they’ve proved their  performance.  Hire them and you’ll end up spending your time refereeing agency power grabs and feuding.

Do you have a #10?

Do you have some agency questions that really scratch beneath the surface?  Let us know in the comments below.


photo credit: blank array via photo pin cc

About Stan

Stan Smith is the CEO of Pushing Social a content marketing consultancy for aggressive, results-focused organizations.

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