This article is written by me and sponsored by Sprout Social.
From establishing content distribution channels to growing brand awareness and driving sales, social media marketing plays a critical role in solving your company’s key challenges.
The increasing adoption of social media for business has created a fiercely competitive industry, with options ranging from niche solutions to all-in-one software and full-service agencies. When it comes to finding the correct combination of trusted service providers, the challenge can feel overwhelming.
Here’s how to find social media management vendors and tools you can trust—ones that align with your budget and relate value back to your organization’s overarching business goals.
Narrowing Possible Service Providers to Match Your Business Needs
When you begin researching social media providers, you likely will come across vendors with some pretty bold claims. This could range from inflated promises of increased follower counts to better social conversions. While this sounds nice, it’s best to put these claims aside and conduct your own social media audit to find a trustworthy solution.
Start by creating a list of potential service providers that fill your most important social media needs. Limiting your audit to five candidates will make your research more manageable. Think about solutions with must-have features—including tools for engagement, publishing and analytics—versus add-ons that you might not really need or ever even use.
Next, find pricing information, and consider hidden costs for features that you might think are included but have to be unlocked through a firewall of payments. Also, ask the service provider if prices will increase if your needs expand or scale over time; a trustworthy provider should openly disclose this information.
After evaluating features, services and pricing, start your social media audit by finding written third-party content. This can include past customer reviews, client testimonials, case studies or an online portfolio of their services.
Researching third-party claims is an important step when determining if a vendor or product’s marketing claims can be trusted or whether they are primarily using sales fluff to sell themselves.
After arming yourself with this information, begin reaching out to your candidates and ask them how they would manage your company’s specific social media needs. Ask for examples of similar campaigns that they managed with existing clients, what the results were and how these experiences have primed them for finding success with your business.
Be wary of service providers that cannot give examples of past clients or work performance, as it can be an indication of low experience or that they are not in good standing with their clientele.
Assessing Social Media Management Software
The aforementioned evaluation tactics work best as a general rule; however, when you begin to narrow down your options, such as assessing software solutions versus social media agencies, there are unique factors to consider.
For example, if your in-house team is already managing multiple social accounts, this may steer your search to finding software to help them schedule content, organize their current workflow or better manage your customers.
When evaluating social media software, it’s particularly important to identify the core features that your team needs to perform since many software solutions have overlapping feature sets and you want to ensure that you are not buying features that you don’t need.
To better identify your needs, start by testing each type of software. Many social media software companies offer a demo or trial period to evaluate their services—generally 14 days to a month.
In this period, it’s key to make sure that any employees that will be using the software get acquainted with the user experience and have the opportunity to provide feedback. This can help you identify more questions to ask the service provider and whether they are a good fit for your team’s specific needs.
Contracting with a Social Media Agency
For some businesses, contracting with an agency may be the most effective tactic for managing their ongoing social media efforts. Agencies tend to employ a talented staff with a diverse skillset—think copywriters, SEOs, designers, coders and more.
Access to this expertise can give your organization an opportunity to work with a team of professionals at a much more affordable price then hiring in house, especially if you’re looking for full management of your social media.
When evaluating social media agencies, aside from price and performance considerations, it’s important to ensure that your project managers and the agency establish a trusted relationship focused around clear communication.
A trusted agency will be professional and show signs of genuine integrity. They will promptly answer your questions, return correspondence and consistently deliver on their promises. They likely won’t guarantee performance results since social media campaigns can be very difficult to predict—be wary of any agency that promises viral marketing or outlandish results.
Also, a trusted agency will openly document exactly how it plans to work with your specific social media needs; it will take the time to speak with your project managers, get to know your situation and establish a timeline of results your business should expect from the partnership.
By doing your research ahead of time and understanding your team’s social media needs, you can better select a social vendor that you trust and that consistently drives results for your organization.
Learn more about social media management and engagement from this article’s sponsor, Sprout Social.