Ad Agencies: 6 Quick Tips for Pricing and Servicing Social Media

Two of the most asked questions I receive from agencies are: “How do we price social media?” and “How Do we service social media?”

Many advertising agencies are trying to sell social media services and even though they don’t know how to price it nor service it. In prospective client meetings, if the agency brings up social media, it generally will peak a prospects interest.

A lot of agencies are still struggling for any new business opportunities.  So, if it generates interest and leads to a project, they’ll sell it and try and figure out how to price it and service it when they get back to the office. I’m sure your agency has never been guilty of anything like that. Truth be known, most of us have done it at one time or another.

The agencies that do have some experience with social media tend to “over-think” social when they try to price it and create a plan for servicing it. They make it much more complex than it is.

Social media is very time intensive but usually has very little hard cost associated with it. Agencies are accustom to charging for their time and that should make it easier when they need to create a proposal for social media services.

Here are my six quick tips to help with the pricing and servicing of social media:

  1. Create a very detailed proposal based on “scope of work”
  2. Use a blended rate when pricing agency time, often $125 per hour for small-to mid-size agencies
  3. Provide clients with a flat-rate monthly retainer agreement
  4. Understand and utilize the social media 3rd party tools that will allow your agency to handle multiple accounts
  5. Train your staff in time management skills specific to social media to maximize their efficiency in handling client accounts
  6. Equip junior level staff members to handle a lot of the day-to-day “grunt” work in servicing social media accounts for clients (monitoring, blog comments, Twitter, Google alerts, maintaining Twitter, schedule, etc).

If you have additional tips, please share them in the comment section below.

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About Michael Gass

Consultant | Trainer | Author | Speaker

Since 2007, he has been pioneering the use of social media, inbound and content marketing strategies specifically for agency new business.

He is the founder of Fuel Lines Business Development, LLC, a firm which provides business development training and consulting services to advertising, digital, media and PR agencies.

Comments

  1. $125 an hour seems a lot to charge for interns playing on myspace, facebook or tweeter.

    Dev.

  2. In no way have I suggested that you charge a client for ANY of your staff to “play” on myspace, facebook or Twitter.

    J.D., noting your point hopefully I have better clarified tip #6 that I was suggesting: “Equip junior level staff members to handle a lot of the day-to-day “grunt” work in servicing social media accounts for clients (monitoring, blog comments, Twitter, Google alerts, maintaining Twitter, schedule, etc).”

    Social media, done correctly, is work and a lot of it. Clients and agencies will discover that it is very time intensive. That’s why I suggested (#5) training the staff social media time management skills.

    A “blended rate” when preparing a proposal takes into account both junior and senior level staff members involvement.

  3. Michael

    Enjoyed the piece, and the timing of it. We recently created a social media proposal for a client, and (amazingly) covered five of your six points (we don’t have junior staffers — we’re all “executive grunts”).

    Probably the hardest thing was for the client to appropriately “get their hands around” social media in terms of metrics and key deliverables. While some in the business expected a rise in awareness and ‘digital touches’ for their brand, others expected lead generation. Defining the expectation early and determining key agency deliverables will ultimately refine the scope of work and investment in certain social media resources, along with making efficient use of our most precious asset — agency time.

    Thanks again for the blog post. Well done.

    Rob

  4. Rob, you’re welcome and thanks for sharing your insights.

    If some of the “grunt work” can be farmed out to junior level people, even working with them remotely, may increase the agency’s net for servicing the account. I’ve outsourced work to college students on a number of occasions and some of my client agencies have done the same.

  5. I would be careful to who you give the “grunt work” until you fully understand social media yourself. Nasty can of worms and scope creep could be painful if the grunts don’t understand what they are doing.

  6. Courtney,

    I wholeheartedly agree. Its important for agency principals and agency leadership to fully understand social media, by participating themselves.

  7. We base the costing on the effort of FTE’s, just like any other production job, front end and back end and creative. Different initiatives that are covered by retainers are handled by accounts for the most part, if they need some creative, it’ll be made, skinned and handled to them. If they got issue, we bring in a tech to help.

  8. Rob, thanks for your insights. Helpful.

  9. Hello Michael, great topic you started here. We have been struggling with how to incorporate social media into our SEO consulting. We went as far as writing an Ebook on the top five social medias we suggest to join. It was bad enough we were getting calls that lasted over an hour trying to explain why and how therefore, the solution was show them how to join the top five. Then we realized, they know how to join… Now what? We decided to come up with a worksheet this is something I would be more than happy to share with you. This breaks things down even further. In my opinion this will not only HELP THEM tracker their efforts but give them a better understanding of how a base line metric can result in identifying the success therefore changing their strategy. Seeing numbers with dates and other information always adds more value. I hope that helps.

  10. Gabriella, I would be interested in seeing the worksheet. I totally agree with establishing a baseline metric to help them evaluate success.

  11. Can you share more on how you defined key deliverables, and especially the metrics to measure them?

    Thanks!
    Debbe

  12. Hi Gabriella,

    I would be really interested in seeing how you articulated in your worksheet the issue of establishing a base line metric, and setting up a tracking mechanism.

    Thanks! Debbe

  13. For establishing a base line metric, there are a few steps involved. What is it you are trying to do? Is it reputation control, is it Branding, Improved SEO…? One, add some kind of analytic tracking to your website. We prefer Google Analytics, but there are others. Second, let it run for a month. Once the month is over, start an excel sheet and put the information you have at this moment on your site. You might add the links to your site, your site traffic and the keywords traffic is using to get there for a start. Once you know where your website is at and have all the information recorded on the excel sheet, start another tab for social media. Each time you tweet, post a blog somewhere, or anything else, add it to the excel sheet. Every two weeks, look at your statistics to find out which efforts are bringing in traffic, and which aren’t. Add that information to the excel sheet. In this way, you have an established base line (your current website statistics), but you also have an excellent way to keep track of any SEO and social media efforts to see which are working. You can better focus your efforts if you know where you’ve been, where you’re going and how you’re getting there.

  14. Gabriella –

    I concur with the baseline metric approach, but logging every tweet/post/conversation seems to be a pretty manual process that is labor-intensive.

    I find that people are already struggling with the “time” that it takes to increase social media presence – How are you handling that concern?

    Great post by the way, Michael. Good stuff.

    -Zack

  15. Zack, it takes me about 5 minutes to update my excel sheet. As soon as I post a guest blog, or article, etc. I have my sheet open in order to log the information in there. Hey working for yourself is not an easy undertaking that’s for sure. But it’s a necessary evil ;)

    Besides looking for ROI (time spent) in social media is an arguable discussion at best. I mean really, do you look for ROI from your iPhone, laptop? No but it sure does connect the dots when you make a sale or address issues a client is having. It’s all part of doing business.
    Gabriella

  16. As a social media manager at a small web design and marketing firm in Florida, we have recently decided to add blogging to our portfolio. Does anyone have any suggestions on pricing for creation and management for this platform.

    Gabriella-

    Very informative post on metrics. We recently started using Webtrends Analytics 9 for our measurement. So far, it has seemed to work exceptionally well in getting the right information to our clients.

  17. Some great points Michael. Getting Jnr staff to do the grunt work is a great idea as they most of the time have a better understanding of how to use social media, but it is important that some guidlines are set regarding what they tweet or mention on facebook so they stay focused at the goals and inline with the brand of the client they are representing.

  18. Thanks Brad.

    A lot of the “grunt” work that I’m talking about is using some of the tools such as Social Oomph, TweetAdder, etc and repurposing blog content. Not necessarily providing the updates in Twitter, Facebook, etc.

  19. We price out SM in a three column worksheet.

    Column one – Barebones deliverables that are a MUST if you’re seriously considering jumping into social media. This is the baseline cost. If you’re not willing to spend this, you might want to reconsider “going social”. This would include up front services like social channel setup/branding, monitoring setup and keyword creation, etc. It also includes weekly/daily recurring tasks like community management (community engagement, brand monitoring, content creation, reporting), quarterly reviews/exec presentations, etc.

    Column two – All MUST haves, plus a list of “nice to have” deliverables. Nice to haves might include employee and external policy creation, running your existing email list through RapLeaf, creating a weekly blog digest email. We also might recommend devoting more hours to daily/weekly recurring tasks. e.g. Under column one, we recommended 15 hours of community management a week, however it would be really great to be able to devote 20 hours a week.

    Column three – Combination of columns one and two. Populated by determining what will be the most effective solution that stays within budgetary constraints.

    Hours and costs, based on a blended rate, for every deliverable are listed. We typically recommend a one year retainer.

  20. Great detailed info Jeremy. I’m sure this will be very helpful to Fuel Line readers. Thanks for taking the time to share it. Excellent!

  21. Great post and some good replies from everyone! I’m 21 and just starting my own business but I agree with passing on the ‘grunt work’ wholeheartedly.

    Does anyone outsource? This is something I have been paid for in the past and has worked well.

    I think a lot of people are over complicating social accounts. Many small businesses I know are simply happy with a University student on a low hourly rate. They can set up the accounts and drive hot leads to a website with only a minimal amount of maintenance required through the week.

    Thanks for the post,

    Rich Burns

  22. You are welcome Rich. Some agencies are outsourcing some of their social media as a cost saver. Some are resourcing the content creation. Either to generate drafts that they can add their tone or having someone ghost writing finished posts and articles.

  23. Hey, how about if you don’t know how to price and service social media work, you leave it to someone who does?

    This post is on the right track, and pretty useful for people who can’t figure things out for themselves. Do you really want those people handling your social media?

    If after reading Michael’s instructions, you’re still not sure how to handle this, feel free to reach me at http://www.rebelindustries.com and I’ll give you our price for handling social media for you.

  24. Michael, thanks for introducing the topic.

    I agree with the cautions raised about empowering Junior employees to “handle a lot of the day-to-day “grunt” work in servicing social media accounts for clients (monitoring, blog comments, Twitter, Google alerts, maintaining Twitter, schedule, etc).”

    Engaging existing or prospective customers online is a powerful way to diffuse difficult situations and to turn loyal customers into vocal champions. However, it is essential that these exchanges are authentic. If a Junior is commenting on behalf of a brand, they need to be transparent about it. Ghost writing on behalf of a CEO is short sighted.

    Even if your client is prepared for a PR Junior to comment on behalf of the brand, I recommend ensuring the staffers are fully briefed on the overall strategy. At Magnify, we create an editorial guide for each client to ensure everyone is on the same page about tone of voice, overall online marketing objectives, speed of response, etc.

    Regarding pricing, it’s helpful to establish a menu of services with clear client benefits and to identify a price range for each. A lot of the work with web strategies is done “under the hood,” especially in the beginning. Launching social media profiles, cleaning up SEO, preparing content schedules are often vitally important steps but can frustrate clients used to paying a retainer in exchange for seeing their name in the local paper. Managing expectations with a clear price range for well articulated services and benefits is a great starting point.

    All the best,
    Moyra

  25. Everyone gets hung on the economics. What I enjoyed was the subtle foreshadowing to modern ad agencies who try to figure out how to price social media when they get back to the office. Ha!

  26. I would highly recommend separating Social Media Strategy and Social Media Management. These are two distinct scopes of work and need different rates in most cases. Selling the right strategy is paramount to a management engagement remaining valuable to the client. Building a Social Media Strategy for a client that they can 1) either implement themselves or 2) will show them the roadmap your team will be following for management frames goals, targets and success.