A Guide to Evaluating Social Media Services for Small Businesses

social media services

Targeted leads, increased brand awareness, industry insights – these are just a few of the benefits that a strong social media strategy has to offer small businesses. Because of the time investment and expertise required, many small business owners are choosing to outsource to social media services.

With the number of social agencies to choose from growing all the time, making a decision can be overwhelming, but there are a few simple criteria you can apply to narrow your options and choose the best fit for you brand.

Questions to ask when researching social media agencies and their services:

1. Will the agency work with me to develop a custom social media strategy?

Before you hire a social media agency, check whether they tailor their services to your business, instead of just offering a selection of tiered “packages.”

Packaged services, while convenient for the agency, may indicate that the work is automated or cheaply outsourced to an inexperienced staff. This can result in reduced engagement for your brand and a poor experience for your customers.

The best social media services will work with you to create a custom social media strategy based on your business objectives.

2. Does the agency have social proof?

Because of the relative ease and affordability of setting up a website, fly-by-night social media services are popping up all over the place.

Before you engage an agency, perform your due diligence:

  • Check the agency’s reviews on Yelp, Google Maps, and Facebook
  • Review the agency’s profiles on major social channels, including Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook
  • Do a Google search to check for mentions, press releases, or awards

Social media agencies with no social profiles, reviews or press mentions should raise a red flag. An agency that claims they can help your business succeed on social media should be successful on social media themselves.

3. Are they branding experts?

Nowadays, simply maintaining a company blog isn’t enough: content and design elements that lack a cohesive theme risk being lost in the digital noise.

Social media services that place importance on building brand affinity will help you establish a tone for your messaging that stays consistent across all marketing channels – from the colors and copy on your website to the images and copy posted on your social profiles.

Additionally, branding experts can help you create a content marketing plan that guides your audience along the path to becoming customers by targeting them with the right messaging at the right time.

All of this comes together to create an image for your brand that your customers will come to enjoy and value, establishing the trust and authority that ultimately leads to brand advocacy.

4. Does the agency take an organic approach to maximizing reach?

Be cautious of social media agencies that offer a service to grow your follower count quickly. This “growth” is typically achieved by employing automated software to follow accounts in droves with the expectation that a small percentage of those accounts will follow back.

The most unscrupulous services may even generate fake followers, which can get result in your account being suspended. At the very least, your profiles will look like spam if you’re following 15,000 people and only 575 are following you back.

By contrast, quality social media services maximize reach by encouraging organic follower growth, resulting in qualified leads. Organic growth is achieved by:

  • Creating and curating high-quality, relevant content that complements your brand
  • Encouraging follower engagement with your brand
  • Using hashtags and keywords to strategically attract new followers
  • Using social data to determine optimal posting times and frequency

5. Do they conduct consumer research?

Business owners often view social media solely as a channel for attracting new customers. But it can also be a great tool for gathering valuable consumer insights about your target audience which can be used to inform future business decisions.

Consumer research offers your business the following advantages:

  • Insights into areas that need improvement, such as existing products or services
  • Opportunities to develop new products or services that your audience has explicitly expressed an interest in
  • Detailed information about audience demographics that can be applied to future marketing campaigns

Consumer insights are collected by interacting with your target audience via surveys and quizzes, as well as focus groups and interviews. This type of one-on-one consulting with customers and brand advocates can be much more valuable than insights derived from abstract sources, such as analytics data.

6. Does the agency have a plan for increasing sales?

An impressive follower count and high engagement metrics are meaningless if they don’t ultimately impact the bottom line.

Look for social media agencies that specialize in activities directly tied to sales growth, including:

  • Running successful social ad campaigns
  • Generating positive brand reviews
  • Nurturing leads with quality customer service
  • Partnering with relevant influencers to maximize reach
  • Enhancing in-house promotions with social campaigns
  • Driving qualified leads to landing or product pages

7. Will the agency generate a positive ROI for my business?

The best social media services focus on the four key benefits of social media marketing – (1) building brand affinity, (2) maximizing reach, (3) gaining consumer insight and (4) increasing sales – to achieve a positive ROI from your social media marketing.

Find an agency with a high level of transparency about their social media services. Reputable consultants should report regularly on important social media metrics to help you understand the returns you’re getting from your social marketing efforts.