Everyday, businesses and professionals pick and choose what they think will work for them, a little social media, a dash of online advertising, a pinch of email marketing, and before you know it, you’re scattered all over the place without a cohesive message. And more often than not, you’re not seeing results despite your efforts, and end up missing out on the customer right in front of you or frustrated, doing nothing.
This is where help comes in.
Hiring the wrong person or firm to handle your online activity can be a waste of time, money, and can take your business in the wrong direction. A lot of “experts” claim to know what they’re doing however one should know, it takes more to effectively market online than being good at Facebook, it takes someone who is trained in online marketing strategies and that provide measurable results.
Once you decide to seek out help with your online marketing, you may ask around for a referral, or Google online marketing or PR help in your area. If you search online, you’ll see a ton of results, which, can be overwhelming. Everyone from web design firms, to out of work college students offer online marketing services. Basically anyone with a domain name, can claim to be a self proclaimed “expert” in online marketing. Unfortunately, it’s not getting any easier to separate those claiming to be “experts” from the real deal.
So how does one select an online marketing agency or individual in a sea of “experts”?
When looking for a social media/online marketing agency, or individual, here are are a few things you can ask before choosing the right one:
- Do they have certifications, additional training or experience, or a specialized degree in the services they claim to provide?
This is really important. Since anyone can claim to be an online service provider not all of them can provide results. There are certifications in everything from online advertising like Google AdWords and more, to additional training at social media conventions, to specialized degrees in Internet marketing or PR.
Experience is great but those who seek out additional education, either through webinars, college coursework, or seminars, are more likely the real deal verses someone who uses Twitter for personal use or can post an update on Facebook on your behalf. Continuing to ask questions about measurable success is important because, things are changing rapidly in the online world; as service providers, we need to keep up to date on those changes through continually educating ourselves.
- Can they provide you measurable results or benchmarks for success?
Online marketing can and should be measured, otherwise how will you know what’s working and what’s not? Likewise, there is a lot of testing before you can determine actionable results therefore, if someone cannot provide you data or benchmarks for success, you may want to move on, especially, if they tell you social media can’t be measured. So ask, how do you determine success, what are your benchmarks, what type of value will you provide and what tools do you use? Measuring success goes beyond page views on a website, if they’re not using measurement tools, again, move on.
- Do they actively blog? Which blogs do they read daily?
Sure, we all get busy with life but, marketing online things can change with a single tweet, or blog post announcement, and it’s our job to keep up to date on anything new in the online world. So if they’re not reading blogs or struggle to name any in the industry, regardless if you know them personally or not, you have a problem. Also, blogging allows for many Internet marketers to gain an audience, showcase their writing skills, or portfolio so, if the blog hasn’t been updated, or you can’t find it online, what value can they provide to your organization?
- Have active social media accounts and an online presence?
One example, if they claim to build Facebook pages or can build your Facebook presence and their business is set up as a profile, Houston, we have another problem. It’s against terms of service on Facebook for a business to have a profile, they must make a page. If they do this and don’t practice what they preach, you can imagine what they can’t do for you. Online service providers should at the very least know about emerging social networks and provide you with some examples of the latest up and coming networks.
- Do they follow the rules on social networking for contests or promotions?
Following the rules on social networking whether for contests, or promotions is a big deal, and if not followed, your account can be deleted. Once deleted, you no longer have those contacts, furthermore, you can only use an email address once on Facebook so if your whole account is gone, you’ve lost those fans forever. Therefore, it’s important to ask questions, and follow the rules. Professional agencies or individuals should know and follow them to a ‘T’, no exceptions. Also another big question, are they up to date with online terms of service agreements, privacy policies, COPPA or FTC Endorsement Guidelines again, if not, just walk away.
- Do they have online conversations?
I see this a lot online, agencies have thousands of followers so they look active in the social world, dig deeper, they’re just chatting with someone within their company or just spamming people with a bunch of links. Social media is meant to be social, sure chat it up with friends but, pay attention to who they’re chatting with long enough, you’ll quickly know the faux “experts” online.
- Can they provide examples of previous work, case studies, or customer testimonials?
This is by far the most important thing a business could ask for, examples of work. Regardless of experience, if they’re just starting out, an online service provider should at the very least do some mock up accounts, graphic design, or somehow be able to provide you with value as to what they can do. Don’t just assume, ask for proof. You wouldn’t hire a nanny without references or work history, same goes for online service providers, ask for examples or references. These are just a few of many questions that can be asked.
Dig deeper, don’t be afraid to ask, if they don’t offer an answer, you may want to keep digging for the right person for your needs. On a final note, expect your service provider to ask a lot of questions of you as well. I’ve done a few consultations where I ask all the questions and can tell the potential client is overwhelmed but don’t be. More times than not, it’s these types of questions and open communication that can lead to lasting success online.
And if you’re in need of an online marketing provider, feel free to contact me, I’d love to give you my answers to these questions and more.