How To Start A Social Media Marketing Agency: A Step-By-Step Guide

To say that social media has revolutionized the commercial landscape would be a massive understatement. 

Just consider some recent statistics, as cited by Forbes: More than three out of four businesses now include social media as part of their customer outreach efforts, while nine out of 10 customers follow at least one business or brand’s social media activity.

In short, there is ample opportunity for anyone looking to engage the crossroads of social media and marketing. 

One of the most lucrative and rewarding ways to do so (and to be fair, one of the most competitive) is to launch a social media marketing agency. The question is, where to start?

What is a social media marketing agency?

Coca-Cola’s marketing strategy is a masterclass in timeless appeal, effortlessly bridging generations with lively content and simple messaging. They foster genuine connections with consumers, seamlessly blending tradition and innovation — a testament to their marketing prowess.

A good place to begin is with a basic definition of terms. After all, not every company that works in social media is an agency, per se. So what makes the agency model unique?

Agencies are defined by two basic activities: They provide their corporate clients with a high volume of content that can be published to social media, and they offer a big-picture strategy to guide that content development.

While social media marketing agencies may vary in the specific services they offer, some of the staples include:

What skills are needed to launch a successful social media marketing agency?

To succeed in launching a social media marketing agency, it’s important to have the right portfolio of skills. Some of the most essential skills include:

  • Intimate knowledge of the social media ecosystem.
  • Ability to manage multiple client accounts at once.
  • Capacity to stay up-to-date on emerging technology and trends.
  • Passion for relationship-building.
  • Basic awareness of other digital marketing disciplines, including SEO.

If you feel like you’ve honed this particular combination of skills and core competencies, you may be well-positioned for success as a paid media agency owner. 

What are the steps to starting a social media marketing agency?

While every agency owner will have their own unique journey, a typical trajectory looks something like this.

1. Define your niche, vision, and values

With so many agencies in the world, you’ll need to have a clear, careful articulation of what sets you apart. This may mean focusing on a specific industry (e.g., social media services for real estate businesses, for law firms, or for e-commerce sellers), or perhaps even highlighting a particular form of advocacy (e.g., focusing on social media marketing for racial justice organizations). Emphasize unique value propositions, like offering customized real estate social media marketing strategies that enhance property visibility and attract potential buyers.

In other words, you’ll need to define whether you’re a generalist (accepting any and all clients) or a specialist (seeking only certain kinds of clients). If you’re going to position yourself as a specialist agency, as opposed to a general digital marketing agency, be prepared to detail the experience you have in that space that makes you a subject matter expert.

A written expression of your vision and values will help you steer your agency in the right direction while also distinguishing you from the competition. On top of this using best calendar app for business will ensure your team stays organized, and aligned with our vision and values. 

2. Choose the right business structure for your company

The legal structure you choose will have big implications for how you pay taxes, how you manage your company, and more.

For most new businesses, the Limited Liability Company (LLC) is the ideal structure, providing personal asset protection as well as administrative flexibility. There are several types of LLCs that you can choose, so you need to figure out which LLC type suits you best. Some quick steps for creating a social media LLC include:

  • Choose a name that’s not already claimed by another LLC in your state.
  • Hire a Registered Agent or Be Your Own Registered Agent 
  • File Articles of Organization with your state, paying the nominal LLC fee.
  • Make sure you have an EIN and a business bank account.
  • Consider drafting an Operating Agreement, detailing your social media LLC management structure.

3. Select the services you will offer

What menu of services will you offer your clients? While some agencies emphasize content creation, others place more focus on paid ad strategy. You’ll want to consider not just the a la carte services you’ll offer, but how you’ll bundle services into monthly or yearly packages.

It may be helpful to consider how other online marketing agencies characterize the services they offer. For example:

  • About a third of all agencies describe themselves as “full service,” while nearly as many offer a broad cross-section of “digital marketing efforts.”
  • Meanwhile, only about 10 percent of all agencies focus on social media exclusively.
  • About five percent focus on PR, and another five percent focus exclusively on online ads.

Clearly, there is a niche for agencies that focus on social media, and quite a bit more competition for those that offer a wider spectrum of digital marketing services.

4. Choose your pricing structure

Different social media LLCs structure their pricing in different ways, but generally speaking, you’ll want to divide your fees into three basic categories:

  • Start-up costs, which cover all the administrative costs associated with onboarding a new client to your system.
  • Maintenance costs, which cover the week-to-week and month-to-month work of content development, publication, and reporting.
  • Exit costs, which include any fees you’ll charge to clients who terminate their contracts with you (at least those who do so without proper notice).

In terms of monthly maintenance costs, these will obviously vary by client. According to industry benchmarks, however, the average price point is $1,501- $3,000 monthly. At the upper end of the cost spectrum, some enterprise-level clients might pay $5,000 monthly, if not more.

Also note that, in some cases, it is wise to provide hourly consulting costs or one-time project-based costs, for clients who just need help with one specific thing. Lastly, using project management tools can streamline communication, track progress, and efficiently allocate resources. 

5. Create a business plan for your social media LLC

A business plan not only provides you with a sense of direction, but it can also be used to attract potential investors or partners. You can even pick a template to start with.

So what kinds of information should an ideal business plan template include? Some common elements include:

  • Your goals for the business, both short-term and long-term.
  • The activities you’ll undertake to achieve those goals (including services you’ll offer as well as methods for marketing and lead generation).
  • Information about how you’ll allocate business profits between leaders or partners.

A good business plan will provide a road map for building and scaling a successful social media LLC. You can even use any AI business plan generator makes it easier to write a business plan, so you don’t have to do it yourself from scratch.

6. Establish in-house social media and lead generation

In addition to building your social media presence, ensuring your agency’s digital footprint is well-established starts with a solid foundation on the web. This includes understanding domain vs subdomain which can significantly impact how your brand is perceived online and how effectively you can attract and manage traffic to your own site or those of your clients.

Additionally, connecting with the best digital marketing agencies can provide valuable insights and strategies for launching your own venture. If you’re trying to promote your services as a social media marketing agency, you’ll obviously need to have a strong social media presence of your own.

You’ll also want to employ some other means for lead generation. Some options to consider might include an email marketing newsletter and downloadable guides or white papers you can offer on your website.

Leveraging a lead generation tool can be highly effective in capturing potential client information and nurturing those leads through automated campaigns and personalized follow-ups.

7. Build relationships with local SEO and web design companies

While there are plenty of avenues you can use to bring in new clients, one of the most effective is to build a referral relationship with a local SEO firm, staff augmentation firms, or Web design company.

They could be for valuable business referrals, which can help you reach the masses. Partnering with another business working in the digital marketing space can prove mutually advantageous.

You can seek these relationships via cold outreach emails, through attending local/industry conferences and networking events, and by engaging/sharing content from these companies on your social media accounts.

8. Maintain a portfolio

As you bring in new clients, you’ll naturally be asked to provide some examples of your work.

Be sure you have a portfolio of campaigns that you can highlight. When you’re first starting out, this might need to include work you’ve done as a hobby or pro bono.

Your portfolio might include:

  • Referrals and testimonials from happy clients.
  • Case studies, demonstrating the results you can provide to your clients.
  • Examples of previous design or content generation work.

9. Hire staff

Sooner or later, you’ll need to build out your team. Some of your first hires might include entry-level sales or marketing roles, administrative positions, or even some in-house designers to help create original graphics and videos.

Consider using HR software to automate and manage employee-related tasks like recruitment, payroll, performance tracking, and more.

As you consider staffing, it may be helpful to review some of the most common social media marketing job titles. These include:

  • Social media interns
  • Bloggers
  • Social media coordinators
  • Content curators
  • Social media specialists
  • Social media managers
  • Social media community managers
  • Marketing associates

And don’t forget to implement a great hiring process. These onboarding templates for success can help you out. Remember that a poorly trained staff member isn’t as capable of doing their job, so pay attention to who you hire and the techniques you’ll use to get your new hires up to speed. 

10. Invest in the right tools

It’s certainly important to recruit the right team members, but it’s equally important to outfit your social media marketing agency with the right set of social media management tools, allowing you to do your work more efficiently and in some cases to curb your need for additional manpower.

In particular, automation tools can take a lot of the tedious manual labor out of posting content. Software that generates data and reporting can also be valuable for proving to your clients that you’re making progress on their behalf.

Positioning your social media LLC for long-term success

Social media marketing is a competitive field, but also potentially lucrative and creatively rewarding. Those who have a clear understanding of the agency model, and who possess the right set of skills and core competencies, may be good candidates for agency ownership.

Starting an agency means setting a vision, choosing the right legal structure, drafting a business plan, and building a portfolio, among other important steps. Keep these guidelines in mind as you try to establish a firm foundation for your social media marketing agency.

Author Bio

Amanda E. Clark  is a contributing writer to LLC University. She has appeared as a subject matter expert on panels about social media marketing, as well as content marketing.

Related Articles

How & Why You Should Start Social Media Recruitment For Your Business

How To Manage & Improve Online Brand Reputation in 2024 (Guide)

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is a social media marketing strategy?

Developing a social media strategy for your clients means defining the goals for their campaign, as well as the metrics you’ll use to measure your success. It also means determining which social media platforms are relevant to achieving those goals, and which ones can be omitted or sidelined.

2. How much does it cost to register a social media LLC?

The costs associated with registering an LLC vary from state to state, but in most cases the total amount is under $100. In some states, the cost of registering an LLC is as low as $15.

3. Can I run my social media marketing agency as a sole proprietorship?

You can, but doing so means there is no legal distinction between your business liabilities and personal assets; in other words, if the business doesn’t do well, your personal wealth may be in jeopardy. The Sole Proprietorship model can also introduce some complexity if you ever want to hire employees. For more social media marketing agencies, the LLC structure makes more sense.

4. How much does a social media strategy cost?

The cost for a social media campaign can vary wildly depending on the scope of work. You’ll want to have a competitive pricing structure that’s based on individual client needs.