Gini Dietrich

Guide to Hiring a Digital Agency

By: Gini Dietrich | May 9, 2013 | 
43

Guide to Hiring a Digital AgencyWe live in a crazy world right now. Social media has completely turned business communications on its head.

To boot, technology is changing more quickly than ever before.

It took the following technologies to reach 50 million users:

  • Radio – 38 years;
  • TV – 13 years;
  • The Internet – four years;
  • iPod – three years;
  • Facebook added 100 million users in just nine months; and
  • iPod app downloads hit one billion in nine months.

In 2011, alone, we had two big social networks introduced – Google+ and Pinterest – and the latter is the fastest growing social network…ever.

It’s no wonder business leaders are sitting back, scratching their heads, and trying to figure out not only how to keep up, but how to hire the right team of professionals to do the work.

So how do you do it?

Hiring a Digital Agency

Depending on where your business is, it typically is most cost-efficient to hire a digital agency. While you could hire a full-time employee for the same amount you’d pay an agency, the benefit is you have a team of people dedicated to your business so there is a lot of different expertise focused on your goals.

But finding the right digital agency isn’t always easy. Should you hire the one everyone is talking about? Do you want to be a big fish in a little pond? Do you want a specialist or an integrated firm? Can you find one that provides their thinking through the same channels you’d want them to use for you…and do you like the way they think?

There are lots of things to consider and there isn’t a one size fits all.

Following are six things to ask yourself while you’re searching for the perfect fit.

Honesty

The very first thing you need to do is be honest with yourself about why you’re looking for a digital agency.

Many business leaders think, “Oh we’ll hire this firm and not have to think about it again.”

That’s the kind of thinking that will get you in trouble.

If you truly want an agency to do good work on your behalf, you have to be involved. In working with our clients, we have mandatory weekly calls and communicate at least daily with all of them. Technology comes at us so quickly, a crisis can happen in a matter of minutes, and people expect real-time response.

Ignoring your agency or trying to manage it to only an hour a week is going to not only create frustration on both sides, six months down the road you’ll feel like they’ve failed you.

Be honest about how much time you can commit to making sure they can be successful for you.

Specialists

Do you want to work with an agency that specializes in social media or do you want an integrated firm? There are pros and cons to both, but don’t get trapped in the thinking only a social media agency can do digital work.

Typically a social media agency is made of people who are great at the technology side of things, but don’t have crisis, issues, or reputation management expertise. They also won’t be able to help you with marketing, communications, content, or advertising.

On the flip side, an integrated agency will be able to create a cohesive plan and work all angles, but won’t have the laser sharp focus on just the social side of things. They may not keep up on the new tools as quickly as a specialized agency.

Goal-Oriented

More important than whether or not the agency specializes is how goal-oriented and data-driven they are. Do they track their efforts against your business goals? Do they constantly review data to make changes to the program? Are they willing to stop a campaign if isn’t working? Do they understand how your organization makes money and can they point to how they’re helping you do that?

Lots of agencies talk about measuring results, but it’s a rare few that really understand what that means. They’ll provide you a weekly report with number of fans, followers, viewers, listeners, and engagement increases, but as UNICEF so eloquently put it, “Like us on Facebook and we will vaccinate zero children against polio.”

Those metrics are great for brand awareness and are necessary, but if that’s all the digital agency measures, keep looking.

Willing to Take Risk

Because technology changes so quickly and a new social network seemingly pops up every day, your digital agency should be open to experimentation and willing to take some risks.

Not only that, they should be on top of the changes at Google, which occur constantly, but big changes happen about once a month. They should know how search engine optimization, content, and Google authorship work together and how to keep your online presence updated.

Are they willing to ask for forgiveness, rather than permission? Are you willing to let them?

Collaborate

If you decide to go with a specialized digital agency, are they willing to work with other firms? Do they have a track record of success in doing so? Can they do so without fighting for budgets or not sharing information?

You may be the type to want a little infighting among agencies because you believe it helps them do their best work. That may be the case for some, but in my experience, infighting creates roadblocks and silos that hurt progress and results.

Find an agency that knows how to play nicely in the sandbox.

Chemistry

I saved the most important for last: Chemistry. When you hire a digital agency, you are working with people. You have to like them. You have to like them enough to enter into a marriage of sorts.

You will become partners. You will agree on many things and you will disagree on others. Do you like the people enough to want to hang out with them after work or on the road for conferences and trade shows?

If you don’t like them, you’ll constantly cancel meetings, you won’t answer emails, and you’ll dread traveling with them.

Find people you like and the rest will figure itself out.

A version of this first appeared on AllBusiness

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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