But how can CMOs know whether to hire a big PR firm, an ad agency, an upstart digital shop, a consultant, or a combination of all these?
There are scores of blog posts suggesting that you need to ask six to 20 questions. I maintain these two will give you the real skinny.
- Do they walk the walk? "If your key agency people are not participating as thought leaders in the space, should they be advising you? They need street cred themselves," said Ed Nicholson, director of Tyson corporate PR. Does the prospective agency, have a credible social media presence of its own?
How long have they been using social media? If they have only recently established a presence in social media, ask why it took them so long.
Do they have a following? Many agencies have no more social media presence than what they pass off as blogs. Many of those are thinly disguised press releases, or are updated every month or so, if at all.
Even if they don't have clients who are involved in social media, they need to be there themselves to demonstrate that they understand how new media actually works, and how community is built in real life, not in theory.
- Do they have case studies to share? Can they demonstrate their success incorporating social media into clients' overall marketing strategy? If they don't, they'll be learning on your dime.
Theory is great. It works for philosophy very well. But it doesn't work as a demonstration of an agency's ability to handle your social-media marketing.
Social media has been part of the online landscape for a more than a decade, beginning with chat rooms and forums, and evolving into its current form. If an agency or individual consultant has no case studies integrating social media into a client campaign, keep looking.
There are a handful of credible social-media agencies and consultants on the planet. These two essential questions will help you identify them. Ignore them at your peril.
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