How to start and grow a social media marketing agency
The demand for social media and content outsourcing is growing. In 2021, agencies in the US experienced the fastest growth in revenue in the past 20 years.
Agencies are expanding their services and teams to keep up with the ever-changing social media landscape. And creators and influencers are working with larger clientele, creating ad-hoc agencies to keep up with the demand.
In this article, we’ll give tips for those looking to create an agency and agency veterans looking to grow and hire top talent.
Starting your own social media marketing agency
If you’re looking to create an agency, this section is dedicated to you. If you already have an established agency, skip to the next section.
Here are five tips for starting your own social media marketing agency:
1. Define your niche and services
Before you move forward, you need to determine your niche. Tailoring your niche will help you define your service offerings and your potential clientele. Your agency can be industry specific (B2B, tech, beauty etc) or platform-specific. For example, many TikTok marketing agencies specialize in creative productions and talent management.
Once you confirm your niche, begin thinking about the range of services you want to provide. Modern agencies offer services that include creative, strategic and tactical support across social channels.
Publishing, strategy development, social media contest management, performance reporting and advertising campaigns are just a few examples of social media marketing agency services. Since agencies can offer a variety of services, specialization is very common.
According to our Agency Pricing and Packaging Report, 33% of agencies describe themselves as full-service:
Defining your social media agency services will also determine the tools you want to use and your pricing, which leads us to our next tip: set your prices.
2. Set your pricing
As you grow, you’ll be able to charge more and adjust your business margins, but here’s a glance at average monthly pricing based on our data:
Think about how you want to charge your clients as well. You can offer a la carte services, value-based pricing, packaged services or standard pricing with customized add-ons. You can also change per client.
3. Create a business plan
As they say, a dream without a plan is just a wish. The same goes for creating your social media marketing agency. You need to create a business plan to lead your decision-making as an agency owner. More importantly, you need a solid financial foundation to get started and continue operating.
4. Build and nurture your clientele
This is one of the most important parts of building your marketing agency. Note that the amount of clients an agency can service depends on its size.
Here’s a quick glance at the average number of clients by agency size, according to our report:
- Nearly 40% of SMB agencies average between 5-10 clients, and an additional 32% average 1-5 clients.
- Mid-sized agencies most commonly (31%) average 5-10 clients, followed by 28% that average 10-20 clients.
- A quarter of enterprise agencies average 10-20 clients, 19% average 20-40 and 16% average more than 40 clients.
There are several methods you can use to help grow your brand. Here are a few ways to build your clientele when you’re starting your agency:
- Pitch to clients within your niche
- Use your current network to secure clients and projects
- Attend conferences so you can network and create connections in person
- Pay attention to freelance websites for potential clients/projects
- Embrace social selling and use online communities like LinkedIn to identify prospects
- Run events like webinars to increase brand awareness
- Volunteer pro-bono or discounted services for a non-profit to show your brand values and earn experience
5. Hire employees
As you grow, you’ll need more employees. You won’t have a full team starting out and that’s okay.
You might only be able to handle a team of two to three people at first because your hiring relies on your financial resources. If you already have a team, evaluate the skills they encompass, then consider which roles are non-negotiable for you at the moment. A content writer, graphic designer, lead generation marketer and an accountant are some examples of good roles to help launch your agency.
6. Track your growth and improve your portfolio
Learning how to start a social media marketing agency won’t happen overnight. You’ll need to track your high and low points to determine the next steps for improving and scaling your business. Even the biggest social media marketing agencies evaluate their performance, so get into the habit of reviewing and tracking your growth.
Along with tracking how far you’ve come, make sure to continue adding to your portfolio. A good portfolio will illustrate why potential clients should work with your agency. Whenever your agency closes out a project, add it to your portfolio. Consider adding testimonials or case studies to strengthen your experience even more.
A case for growing your social media marketing agency services
Social media has quickly matured over the years, requiring marketing professionals to create more sophisticated strategies with efforts tied to business impact. Brands are looking to agencies to help them tackle complex challenges and stay ahead of their competitors.
Modern agencies are also grappling with the challenges of more brands shifting their marketing functions in-house. Thus, the range of services offered by social media marketing agencies has exploded over the past two years, becoming more specialized to meet the needs of today’s clients.
According to our data, over half of agencies have added new services in the past 12 months and more than a third have prioritized core services. Those that haven’t already created new services plan to do so within the next 12-24 months.
To keep up with the landscape, many agencies are expanding their services from traditional executional work to more strategic advising and consulting. Although there’s still a need for executional work, three of the top five most offered social media marketing services lean toward strategy.
The most popular agency services include social media strategy (97%), content creation and publishing (94%), social media management (92%), paid social (87%) and social media analytics (86%). Hands-on services like social media engagement and community management are less popular compared to 2020.
However, expanding your services isn’t possible without the right staff on board. Once you have a talented team secured, your agency can grow and develop more social media marketing services.
Staffing your agency: 5 best practices to find and retain top talent
According to our data, during times of economic uncertainty, agencies focus on client retention and growth, refining agency expertise and lowering fixed costs. A whopping 80% of agencies say retaining clients is the #1 focus during economic uncertainty as well.
This is why retaining your current employees is so imperative. Your team can retain clients because they already have the experience required to do so. And strong, established relationships with clientele drive referrals—90% of agencies rely on word-of-mouth or referrals to drive new business.
Along with retention, staffing your agency with top talent is just as important. Expanding your team could help you address the growing amount of services clients expect and many agencies are incorporating. Plus, dispersing a workload across a large team can widen bandwidth and help your team avoid burnout.
Here are five best practices to help your discover and retain top talent:
1. Write relevant job descriptions
The good thing about hiring for a social media marketing agency is that your future employees are already online. The hard part? Crafting a job description that will attract ideal candidates and make your brand stand apart in the sea of applications.
A straight-foward, thoughtful job description will attract qualified talent because it shows you’re able to understand the requirements of the role. It also shows your brand has transparent communication.
Also consider if and how the job description includes inclusive language. We all have implicit biases that can sneak into the hiring process. Having a diverse team isn’t just about representation—it’s about having a diversity of thought, experience and skills necessary to build your brand. An inclusive description can encourage applicants from marginalized groups to submit their applications.
2. Take advantage of social recruiting and employee advocacy
Again, meet potential teammates where they are and utilize social recruiting. Job seekers are already following companies on sites like LinkedIn to find opportunities. Social media allows recruiters to find qualified candidates faster and can help narrow down the applicant pool too, so take advantage of it. Check out our guide on creative hiring post examples to learn how to set your brand apart in the marketplace.
Plus, if your agency implements social recruiting effectively, you give prospective candidates a glimpse into your company’s culture. Sprinkle in some employee advocacy content and you’ve increased your recruitment reach significantly. A current employee sharing a job listing while raving about working for your agency goes a long way.
3. Consider flexible working hours
Today’s job seekers are looking for positions that will allow them to work from home or work flexible hours. It’s the new norm in our post-2020 world and it isn’t going anyway. Potential candidates will be attracted to the flexibility, but it’s a win for your brand too. Widening working hours allows brands to cover different time zones, targeting a more diverse location range and hopefully more clientele.
4. Hire for specialized roles
The days of the jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none professionals are fading away. Clients are requiring more specialized services and your team will need to follow suit to keep up in the current landscape. Agencies are notorious for high-stakes, fast-paced environments, but this type of culture isn’t effective or sustainable, which leads to our next tip: help avoid burnout.
5. Help current teammates avoid burnout
If you’re interested in retaining your top talent, this tip is very important. If your current teammates feel frequently overwhelmed with their workload or feel unheard, they’re at risk of burnout. In extreme cases, they could even pursue quiet quitting.
Only 29% of social media marketers say they’re comfortable talking about burnout with a direct manager. Creating a culture of transparency, trust and support can motivate your current team to continue doing great work.
Elevate your social media agency services with social listening
Understanding the current agency climate and how to attract and retain top talent is just the beginning of scaling your brand.
To learn more ways to grow your business, read our guide on how to grow a digital marketing agency using social listening.
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