Here's How Agency Owners are Approaching Social Media as a Service

Nov 30, 2022

Social media is a common service for many full-service marketing agencies. However, among the firms we work with, it's also one of the most challenging and can be one of the biggest sources of headaches. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Social media is difficult to staff. There are so many different skill sets needed to run an effective social media program–now more than ever. Gone are the days of Unicron social media managers. Agencies often need strategists, data analysts, content writers, graphic designers, community managers, videographers and more.

  • Social media is tough to run profitably. It’s a time-intensive service that requires many different team members as well as tools and technology for scheduling and data. Both of these factors can make social media unprofitable if firms are not managing scopes & budgets closely.

  • Staying on top of the ever-changing social media landscape is a full-time job. With new platforms emerging, features that constantly change, and trends evolving daily, it’s nearly impossible to stay on top of every latest trend unless an agency makes this a top priority and dedicated focus of their business. This means it's getting more challenging for full-service firms to offer social media alongside several other offerings.

  • Social media teams have high turnover rates. Burnout is at an all-time high in most industries, but we see it running rampant among social media professionals due to the fast-paced and time-intensive nature of the work. Because of this, we're seeing higher turnover among agencies. Many firms are consistently hiring, onboarding and training new social media employees to address the regular turnover of these teams.  


While the above points are certainly major challenges, we’re not suggesting that agencies stop offering social media services altogether. However, many are beginning to rethink their approach to this service to increase profitability and streamline operations.


Here are a few approaches we're seeing agencies embrace to run their social media services without burning out their team or sacrificing their bottom line.


White label partnerships

First, let's define what we mean by white-label partnerships. This is when agencies partner with another firm, consultant or freelancer, and white-label those services under their agency. A part or all of the execution is the responsibility of a third-party vendor, but clients get a seamless experience that is managed under one agency.


Many of the boutique and mid-sized firms we work with have found great success with this approach to social media by partnering with smaller or up-and-coming agencies. There are a few key factors required to get a partnership like this right, though. 


The first critical element is to ensure that white-label partners already have a proven process in place for managing day-to-day workflows and getting results. Without this, the lift for onboarding, training and management is far too high. The second is to find white-label partners that have the right industry and platform expertise. Social media best practices are not always transferable across industries and platforms, so don't expect a CPG Instagram expert to crush it at a B2B LinkedIn strategy. 


When created with intentionality, white-label partnerships are a win-win for both parties. For the larger agency, the benefit is that they get execution support from a self-managed partner that specializes in social content behind the scenes and has an established workflow in place. For the smaller agency, they have a consistent revenue stream with minimal or no client management required.


Find trusted referral partners

Another solution that agencies are considering more frequently is referring social media work to another firm instead of continuing to offer full-service support. 


To contribute to profitability and new business pipelines, agencies can either:

  • Incorporate referral fees. The most common referral fees we see are 5% of the monthly recurring revenue for the lifetime of the client (after hard costs and pass-throughs) or 10% for a set period, often for the initial contract term. 
  • Create a mutually beneficial referral relationship where two agency partners refer business to each other. For example, one agency may excel in PR and the other in social media. Sending clients to each other who are looking for those services, not only mutually benefits both companies but demonstrates trust and long-term value to the client. 


While agencies are understandably wary of giving away existing client work, they have more profit and less stressful operations when delivering services in which they’re set up to succeed and referring out the rest.


Niche down on social media offerings 

As we highlighted above, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for one person, one team or even one agency to service all of a client’s social media needs. With so many platforms, all with their own best practices and so many different types of content needed, it’s a lot to handle. 


The agencies we partner with see the most success when they determine which social media offerings they excel in and offer those exclusively. A few examples include the following:

  • Strategic planning, which is managed by an agency's internal team and then handed over to the client for implementation.
  • Campaign-focused content creation, in which the agency creates a set number of social media assets during the month or for a specific campaign, handing them off to the client for posting. This not only saves the agency time for posting, but also eliminates the job of interacting with comments, reporting, and creating content on the spot when events or announcements need to be made by the client.
  • Social media services for one channel. Depending on the industry an agency specializes in, clients are often inclined to invest more in one platform than another. For example, consumer brands might be highly focused on Instagram while a B2B company is more likely to double down on LinkedIn. We also see agencies excel when specializing in newer platforms that others haven't mastered yet. 
  • Content creation focused on one type of content. If an agency specializes in video production, offering short-form video content as a monthly service is likely more profitable and manageable than graphics or content writing. The client can then use that content on whichever social media platforms they choose--from Instagram reels to YouTube shorts and TikTok videos


With this approach, setting expectations is key. It’s the agency’s responsibility to clearly communicate where the scope of its work ends, and what the client should expect to handle internally. 

In summary, agencies cannot do everything–at least not with the team's sanity intact. If social media has been a headache over the past year, take this time to evaluate whether or not it might make sense to evolve services with one of the above approaches.

If you’d like to learn more from the Advocation team on best practices for PR & marketing agency teams, follow us on social media–Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.