How Social Media Agencies Actually Work (And Why You Should Avoid Them)
Social media was never and can never be a stand-alone marketing strategy. It’s a vehicle that will help you reach your goals as an influencer. Learn how social media agencies actually work and why you should avoid them.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the Age of Information, it was the age of foolish social media.”
Charles Dickens’ famous The Tale of Two Cities predicts the arrival of a chaotic revolution or radical transformation of sorts. And the prediction was right. A revolution came riding in on a series of Twitter threads.
It was the social media revolution, and it prompted the creation of social media agencies galore. It sounds trendy (because it is), but the revolution happened so suddenly…
… Do we even understand how social media agencies work? Why do their services range from $200 a month to $40,000 a month? What purpose can they serve you and your brand?
After reading this article, you’ll know:
- What social media agencies actually do
- The 8 general services they offer (#3 is crucial!)
- The 4 reasons why you should avoid social media agencies
What Do Social Media Agencies Do, Exactly?
No two social media agencies are the same, which makes their work seem all the more mysterious. As Albert Einstein once basically said, “Two things are infinite: the universe and social media agencies; and I’m not sure about the former.”
The best way to answer this question is to break it down by the services that social media agencies offer. A social media agency will offer one or any combination of the following services:
Social Media Audit
During a social media audit, the agency will evaluate your social media presence across all your platforms. The audit will determine the extent to which your social profiles are effective, consistent with your brand, and appropriate for each platform.
The agency will look for what’s working, what’s not working, and what needs improvement. You’ll likely receive channel-specific metrics such as:
- Posting frequency
- Engagement levels
- Follower growth
- Referral traffic
They’ll also calculate your ROI and give you ideas to up your social media game.
Social Media Competitive Analysis
A good social media competitive analysis will do 3 things:
- Find your current and emerging direct competitors
- Analyze their activity across all relevant social media platforms
- Use that analysis to inspire and inform your social media strategy going forward
After running this analysis you’ll have a thorough understanding of the competitive landscape to help you make smarter social media decisions.
Social Media Marketing Strategy
If you have a social media budget, you’ve got to have a social media strategy. An agency will create your social media strategy by helping you:
Set Objectives & Goals:
Besides “increase followers,” what do you REALLY hope to achieve with social media? You should have multiple goals.
- Sell more books
- Increase event sign-ups
- Attract awareness for your brand
- Provide customer support
What does it look like to complete each goal? What metrics will you use to track your goals?
Choose Your Platforms:
- Who is your ideal audience?
- Where does your audience spend time online?
- How will you cater your message to match the style of each platform?
Define Your Brand:
To maintain consistency across all your social media profiles, you’ll need a style guide that clearly defines both your visual and verbal identity.
- A visual identity includes logos, colors, typography, and photography.
- A verbal identity includes tone and voice guidelines, slogans, and writing style guidelines.
What’s appropriate for your brand? Do you use humor? What type of language appeals to your target audience?
Create an Editorial Calendar:
This is your tactical document of social media to-dos and is central to your social media strategy. It controls the who, what, when, and where of your content. Your editorial calendar needs to make sense for your unique workflow but should at least include the following:
- Publishing dates
- Person responsible for the content
- Channel(s) for content distribution
Social Media Setup
What’s your biggest fear? If it’s social media, you should probably have an agency set up your social media profile(s). If not, you can definitely do this in-house.
Setting up your social profiles requires 4 things:
- A profile picture
- A header or timeline picture
- A bio — including website links, contact information & an About or Summary section
- Finding friends & followers
Lastly, the social media agency will configure the permission settings on your social profiles so the right people have access to the right functions. Think twice before you give logins and passwords to everyone on your team and prevent #socialmediafails.
(Image source: https://twitter.com/)
Social Media Assets
These are the creative services you need to fuel a thriving social media strategy. Social media agencies that offer this service either do so in a bundle or as a custom quote. You’ve got options.
- Copywriting for statuses or posts
- Copywriting for articles (ghostwriting)
- Copywriting for profile bios
- Profile graphics
- Status graphics
- Logo design
- Campaign videos
- Lead magnets
Social Media Engagement & Customer Support
The #1 channel for customers to engage with brands is social media. (In fact, 35% of people prefer social media to interact with brands vs. 25% prefer websites & live chat.) This shows us that social media is a relationship first and foremost.
Even JFK totally understood this…
“Ask not what social media can do for you, ask what you can do for social media.”
…And any agency that offers engagement and customer support services understands this relationship too.
They will manage responses and reply to any messages that your brand receives on social media. They’ll also proactively handle any negative mentions of your brand and monitor your social media community.
Social Media Management
You can put your social media on autopilot with an agency that offers management services. It takes your brand’s social media game full circle, starting with developing a strategy around your brand’s goals. The agency will set up your social platforms (if they aren’t set-up already) and keep everything active by publishing content on your behalf.
The frequency and quality of content published varies by agency, so take that into consideration if you hire an agency for this service.
Social Media Campaigns & Advertisements
Routine posting and engagement is the standard on social media, but you also need to leverage the power of social media to drive specific campaigns and promos.
Agencies offering this service run ads that drive instant traffic and conversions for your campaign. These agencies are experts in Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google ad management tools.
You’ll need to set a reasonable budget if you hire any agency to run your social campaigns — at least $300 a month — to really be effective. The agency might set a minimum monthly campaign budget or refuse to work with you.
Now that you know how social media agencies actually work, let’s look at why you should avoid them.
Why You Should Avoid Social Media Agencies
By now you know the importance of being active on social media. Even the IRS has 90k Twitter followers.
But before you start flocking to social media agencies, consider these 4 reasons to avoid them.
Social media agencies try oh-so hard to sound like you. They “really get to know you” by having you fill out forms and asking questions about your goals. The truth is, they don’t end up sounding like you. Your message comes off as inauthentic, even amateur sounding.
If you’re a thought leader it’s because you have something to say. Your audience can tell if you’re relying on someone else to write for you.
2. Content Curation
Social media agencies share other people’s content and comment on it. You’ve seen these posts…
“Love this article by Brene Brown on being vulnerable!”
That benefits the actual content author, but it doesn’t benefit you. People who are experts in their fields have things to say. They need to be the ones speaking. Your audience wants to hear what you have to say and they want to hear it in your voice.
3. Vanity Metrics
Social media builds your reputation so that more people get to know you. As they get to know you, they visit your blog to learn more. You use your website to capture their email in order to speak to them directly.
Many social media agencies focus on vanity metrics such as likes, comments, and shares.
According to Bill Maher,
“Checking your likes is the new smoking.”
Vanity metrics are fun, but they don’t translate into traffic to your site. Without traffic, those posts aren’t serving you. Yet this is what so many social media agencies focus on.
4. Focus On Building Followers
The number of social media followers doesn’t matter. What does matter are the number of raving fans who consume your content and purchase what you sell. These fans will open doors for you.
You want depth of relationships while scaling, not breadth.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you want to be a trusted resource in your industry?
- Do you want to grow your authority and influence in your industry?
- Do you want to build real, genuine relationships with your audience?
- Do you want to increase recognition for your brand or thought leadership?
Answering yes to any of those questions means you have no excuses. You’re ready to ditch the “strictly social” mindset and start building your authority for real.
Social media was never and can never be a stand-alone marketing strategy. It’s a vehicle that will help you reach your goals as an influencer.