I’d like to begin with a disclaimer: This article is not about ALL digital marketing agencies. It is starting the dialogue about a fairly undiscussed topic so far. As with any industry you will always get people trying to do what others do and at the same time, cut all the corner corners, spend less and charge more. This isn’t the first nor the last time we will see an industry develop these con artists, but I do want to help others spot these types of agencies and avoid them.
Sometimes digital marketing agencies are a great place to start before making an investment. Agencies *should* be able to provide you with reasonable deals that are a cheaper alternative to hiring and training someone yourself. They *should* also have the software available to provide you with content you wouldn’t have the time or facilities to create on your own.
However, there are agencies out there that take advantage of some business owners’ lack of knowledge on digital media.
A good agency will provide you with a tailored package that makes absolute sense to your company and industry. The agency will get to know you and research your industry thoroughly, as well as ask you what you want to get out of this venture. Not only should the approach differ depending on industries, but it should vary if you’re after sales? followers? website traffic? etc.
For example, industries like construction or manufacturing (or other B2B businesses) are not going to benefit as much on platforms like Facebook, the way retailers of handbags (B2C) or personal trainers will. Someone in manufacturing should be on LinkedIn where their customers and connections are. Meanwhile, a personal trainer might use LinkedIn to increase their online presence, but their focus should be on Facebook and Instagram, maybe even Snapchat. Somewhere more visual!
The problem with the majority of bad agencies is that they apply one technique (probably the only thing they know) to all of their customers. This results in manufacturers on Instagram where absolutely none of their buyers are and casual / informal content on LinkedIn for a Yoga instructor. It’s completely inappropriate.
If your agency is doing something that you don’t deem suitable to your industry, ask to see the research or logic behind that decision. Don’t be afraid to have an input. You will know more about your industry than a bad agency will. A very poor agency won’t do much more research other than check your website a few times and maybe ask for your competitors so they can see what they are doing (and copy them).
Another way to recognise this dangerously broad approach is to ask early on who else this agency are working for. Most agencies will have agreements saying they can show prospective customers who they are working with, as this is a sure fire way of proving you have a good track record. Let’s face it, if your client was Coca Cola, you’d want to show off about that right?
Comparing the social media content your company has put on the profile to other active customers of the same agency is an easy way to spot this wide brush stroke technique.
For instance, is everybody getting exactly 5 posts a day? Is there an order to these posts? News followed by a joke, followed by a poll? If you don’t have access to other clients, compare your own social media on a daily basis. Does every day start out with a lame motivational quote, followed by a link to your website. Are the same images being recycled week in, week out?
Another way to spot agencies that really don’t know what they are doing is by starting a little research into the industry yourself.
For example, right now, if you just type into Google ‘Social Media Trends’ there will be recurring themes that come up over and over again. Right now, this is videos and in particular (May 2017) Live Streaming.
Knowing this, takes very little research. Sure your understanding of it may not be crystal clear, but if the hottest social media trend right now is video and your agency hasn’t posted one video .. you better stop and think, “do these guys even know what they’re doing?”
Don’t let them fool you that you need to provide the video content either. If an agency is advertising themselves as social media experts they should know that videos are all the rage right now. There are agencies out there that will look after you. Don’t let them fool you that they need the facilities or the footage provided. These days smartphones are just as good as cameras. If you go to a Business Expo, invite your agency along. They can live stream throughout the day. If you’re doing a sale in your shop or a launch of a new event, say come and get some photos.
At the end of the day, if I were a freelancer, I would be the one making these suggestions, not expecting them to. But if you do offer and your agency still declines, I can only shrug my shoulders and recommend you go elsewhere.
Myself and some friends in the industry have witnessed the behind the scenes of some poor digital marketing agencies and the same problems come up time and time again.
The staff are very young, some (most) are interns or apprentices who receive very little training not to mention pay. They follow a formula of post X followed by Y every day. Meanwhile, the sales team prey on business owners who have little to no experience with technology and social media.
One final tip, check the company’s own social media and don’t fool for paid likes/followers (yes this is still a thing). If they have 23k followers on Facebook but get 0 likes on most of their posts, their followers are either inactive or fake, or both. Again, if they don’t post at all or their posts are bad quality, this should be a big, fat red flag.
You’d be surprised at how many worrying agencies like this exist and trade quite easily.
If now really isn’t the time to take someone on board, that’s fine, but do your research into where you want to outsource it to.
The smaller companies and one man bands are more likely to look after you and be more affordable too. They have more time and focus to put on you and they will be happy to research and learn about your business. Remember, in a bigger agency you might speak to a salesperson and tell them everything about your company, but they might not relay this information to the entire team responsible for your marketing.
There are plenty of people who do know what they are doing and have passion and effort to inject into your brand. But as someone who has watched poor marketing come about as a result of poor agencies I do feel responsible for beginning the dialogue and raising the awareness of these “black hat” digital marketing agencies who profit from the naivety of others.
Why do I care?
As somebody who is passionate about social and digital marketing, having agencies giving social media a bad name makes my life miserable too. Achieving poor results for already social-media-dubious companies just demolishes further the relationship between social media and business.
It reaffirms the (slowly declining, thank God) belief, that social media is no good for business development, which many social media experts find themselves battling on a daily basis.