How to Start a Social Media Marketing Agency in 2024 [Course & 20+ Templates]

Brand Strategy & Identity
Team Slam
Helping you win online

If you’re wondering how to start a social media marketing agency in 2024, you’ve come to the right place! Owning and starting your own social media marketing agency can be a profitable and rewarding opportunity in our digital world. This blog post will provide actionable advice and templates on how to start a social media marketing agency – from selecting the right niche to hiring experienced staff – so that you can make waves in the growing digital marketing space.

How Did We Start Slam Media Lab?

Whether you specialize in social media marketing or another digital marketing channel, starting a digital marketing agency can take hundreds of hours. There are so many things you need to know, from how to find a bookkeeper, to what legal and operational systems are required to launch your business, to how to operate your business.

We started our digital marketing agency - Slam Media Lab (Slam) - during the pandemic, and have grown to over 30+ customers in just 2 years of operation. Slam is an award-winning digital marketing and design agency based in San Francisco built for founders and brands shaping the future. We are experts in providing our clients with Webflow design and development services that enhance their brand and boost their online presence, specializing in content marketing, SEO, and brand strategy. Needless to say, we know the passion, hustle, and dedication it takes to build a successful digital marketing agency from the ground up.

If you've been researching "how to start a social media marketing agency", you might have noticed by now that most search results tend to be mere lists of things to do but no tools to execute, which is why we created Slam’s “How to Start an Agency” Course Our course includes all of the documented processes and necessary tools we used to launch and operate our successful digital marketing agency, Slam. We want to save you from the never-ending rabbit hole of research by providing the all-in-one resource you need to reduce the barrier to entry to start an agency.

Key Course Takeaways:

  • How to start a social media marketing agency by defining your agency focus, unique value proposition, and marketing services.
  • How to leverage networking and industry events and build credibility to acquire new clients
  • How to streamline agency operations with social media management tools for analytics, reporting, and content scheduling and automation.

What is Social Media Marketing (SMM)?

Social media marketing is a type of digital marketing that helps businesses utilize social media platforms to achieve marketing and business goals. These business goals could be to help build their brand identity, increase sales, or create a community of loyal followers that become repeat buyers/consumers.

The sky's the limit with social media marketing. It provides brands the opportunity to capture the world's population as their potential consumers, and for businesses of any size to interact directly with their target audiences in a relatable and authentic way.

Types of Social Media Marketing Agencies and Services

There are many different types of social media marketing including:

  • Influencer marketing
  • Social media community management
  • Content marketing/content creation
  • Paid advertising

Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing includes building and managing relationships with social media influencers - people who have loyal audiences on social media - to get them to promote a product or service on their social media platforms. Influencers have the unique ability to develop parasocial relationships with their followers, so if they promote a company, product, or service, this increases the likelihood of their followers becoming buyers too.

Social Media Community Management

Social media community management is a strategy to engage audiences across social media networks to increase brand loyalty and grow connections. This typically includes facilitating interactions with fans such as responding to comments to increase user engagement. This promotes brand awareness and authenticity, which builds brand loyalty over time.

Content Marketing/Content Creation

Content marketing involves developing and distributing content across various social media platforms. Content can vary from blog posts to videos, podcasts, infographics, and more. The information included in these different content formats should have a unified brand voice while delivering valuable insights necessary for a user to fully understand a brand and its products or services.

Paid Advertising

Paid social media advertising involves advertising a product to a larger audience on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube, among others. To advertise on these platforms you must purchase online ad space, typically using a pay-per-click (PPC) model. This results in a boost in traffic, sales, conversions, and clicks, which can in turn increase brand awareness and overall revenue.

Master feedback and SLAM your workflow with help from our Notion Feedback Template

Is It Worth Trying to Start a Social Media Marketing Agency?

Over the last decade, the rise of social media has been astounding, and this surge in popularity is not going away anytime soon. As of January 2023, there were 4.76 billion social media users worldwide. As the data indicates, it is absolutely worth it to start a social media marketing agency.

The sheer number of potential customers businesses can advertise to on social media should be enough motivation to employ a team of experienced social media marketers. Hiring a social media marketing agency is the solution for businesses of all sizes that need to increase their social media engagement without the time and stress involved in managing it themselves. By leaving their social media strategy to the experts, companies can focus on other areas of business growth.

As an agency owner, you have the choice to only offer specialized social media marketing services, such as paid ads management or influencer marketing, or you can offer broader packages that include a combination of many social media services.

Like any business, running a social media marketing agency can present some unique challenges, such as time management and client acquisition and retention. However, with the right set of resources and guidance, you can overcome these initial hurdles to grow and scale your social media marketing agency with confidence. The payoffs of being a social media agency owner can include increased income, flexible working hours that can promote greater work/life balance, and most importantly, the ability to work in an industry you are passionate about. As the saying goes - if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life!

How to Start a Social Media Marketing Agency in 7 Steps

There are seven steps that we recommend following in your journey to starting your social media marketing agency. These seven steps include:

  1. Choosing your niche
  2. Crafting your business model
  3. Developing your social media strategy
  4. Building your agency's online presence
  5. Hiring a team
  6. Acquiring and retaining clients
  7. Building operations with social media management tools

Carving Out Your Niche in the Social Media Landscape

The first step to starting a successful agency is to figure out your niche to solidify your unique place in this competitive industry. To figure out your niche it is important to understand the types of clients you want to work for and the values that are most important to you as an agency owner. These key facets will help you differentiate yourself as an agency and remind you of your "why".

Identifying Your Target Market

For a company to identify its target market or ideal client profile (ICP) it would perform market research to understand their demographic and psychographic traits. These include - but are not limited to - age, gender, economic status, education level, occupation, and family size. The same concept can be applied to your clients.

Is your goal to help local businesses with a lower budget build a social media presence from the ground up? Or do you only want to serve larger corporations with more marketing dollars and an already established social media presence? Once you hone in on the exact type of business your social media agency would like to service, you can begin establishing your brand.

Establishing Brand Values

When thinking about how to start a social media marketing agency, it's important to consider your brand values, beliefs, attitudes, and interests. Defining the unique aspects of your brand and cultivating the voice and tone that will appeal to your target audience can help inform the core services you will offer clients. Ask yourself, what are some morals/ethics that my ideal client should possess?

For instance, Slam Media Lab's ideal clients are mission-driven companies in education, health, immigration, climate, tech, and venture capital. That's because Slam's CEO, Silvia Li Sam, founded the agency as a Hispanic marketing agency with a desire to serve an underrepresented Hispanic community–particularly Asian-Hispanic–in marketing. Naturally, Slam's ideal client also prioritizes social awareness.

Once you decide on your brand values and non-negotiables, you can start to think through your strategy for winning clients that you'd be excited to service. Solidifying these values can help you get super clear on your agency services, particularly if you will provide hyper-specialized social media services or offer broader, more generalized packages.

Crafting a Robust Agency Business Model

Building a successful social media marketing agency is like constructing a building. Buildings require a strong foundation, an architectural blueprint, and an attractive, inviting exterior. Similarly, social media agencies require:

  • A strong financial foundation for economic growth
  • An exact blueprint of your agency's core service structure and pricing
  • An aesthetically pleasing brand identity that easily communicates your agency's unique value proposition to potential clients

When researching the process of how to start a social media marketing agency, you must prioritize constructing a business model that ensures long-term sustainability and profitability.

Structuring Your Service Offerings

Organizing your service offerings involves deciding what kind of social media services your agency will provide to clients. These can include core services like:

  • Content strategy and development - creating and publishing content for clients across various social platforms
  • Paid advertising - building and managing PPC ad campaigns on platforms like Google Ads and YouTube
  • Social media analytics/reporting solutions - building out quality reporting solutions for businesses to track their social media marketing ROI

Regardless of the type of package you offer clients, there should be two integral components - social media strategy planning and content creation. These are vital for a successful, comprehensive social media marketing campaign and for ensuring that you are offering satisfactory client service.

Pricing Strategies That Work

Determining the right pricing scheme for your business is essential, as it can position you at a competitive advantage over your rivals as you compete for more clients. The key to successful pricing is finding a balance that aligns with the value you provide, while remaining competitive in the market.

Different pricing options include:

  • Charging flat rates for client projects
  • Charging for billable hours spent consulting a client
  • Having a client pay a retainer to guarantee the completion of a service
  • Using a subscription model where the client pays a monthly recurring price for ongoing services
  • Tiered prices with different levels of support available at varying price points

When choosing your strategy, you should consider the services you are offering clients, the average time it takes to complete those services, the market rate that other social media marketing agencies charge, and any additional overhead, such as office rental and employee payroll/benefits.

We recommend having diverse payment methods that allow for a level of customization and flexibility for new clients, helping them feel comfortable and confident in their choice to work with you. Ultimately, you should consider a pricing model that accommodates both your and your clients’ needs.

Developing a Winning Social Media Strategy

Before you can offer clients your social media marketing services, you first need to find clients! Your social media marketing agency should be able to successfully execute its own social media strategy to market to clients.

Say you're a social media agency, and one of your offerings is paid advertising. If a business is looking to hire an agency that offers paid ads, your social media agency should pop up in the top 3 sponsored results when they search for "paid ads agency". Not only will your portfolio of work from current and past clients help you acquire new clients, but your agency's online presence should as well. Creating effective social media campaigns to market your own agency will give you the confidence, skills, and credibility required to do the same for your clients.

Content Creation and Curation

Essential to any successful business or brand is crafting high-quality content. This content should reach your target audience, clearly communicate the goals and value proposition of your social media agency, and help cultivate a unique brand voice that exudes your brand values.

Brainstorming Content Ideas

To create quality content, you should start with in-depth target audience research and several quality brainstorming sessions. Here are some questions to think about to better understand what type of content your ideal client is looking for.

  • What are some terms or keywords that your client might be typing into Google to try to find an agency exactly like yours?
  • What might they be most interested in seeing when they are scrolling on TikTok or Instagram?
  • Does your ideal client prefer easily digestible, short-form content, or are they looking for long-form, industry-specific content?

As the saying goes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so take bits of what you admire about other brands' content to help you further niche down on your target audience. We are not suggesting plagiarism of any sort, but rather let the brands you admire act as inspiration for your own business. Of course, be sure to use credible sources to provide truly valuable and relevant content.

Crafting, Finalizing, and Posting Your Content

Once you have your content ready, you can begin planning and scheduling your posts, in addition to analyzing the performance of your content after it goes live. A great tool for this is SproutSocial, which allows you to schedule your social media posts across various platforms in different formats all at once. This ability to plan ensures you are posting consistently without worrying about missing a post the day of.

Another great tool is Iconosquare. This tool provides social media analytics that breaks down the performance of your social posts, and the demographics of who you reaching across different platforms. This data can help you tailor and perfect your content moving forward to ensure you are creating more of the content that is resonating with your target audience.

Community Management and Engagement

Effective social media strategy requires efficient community management and engagement. Like throwing a party, a great host ensures all of their guests feel welcome and are enjoying themselves at their gathering. You are that host just on social media! This might look like setting up groups or networks on different social media channels or prioritizing timely responses to users' questions and comments on your posts.

A great way to increase social media engagement is by offering a variety of content types to keep your social media feeds diverse and fresh, and adding calls to action (CTAs) to encourage users to engage with you further. Examples of CTAs to utilize in your content include:

  • A push for users to explore your social media more
  • An invitation for them to sound off in the comments of your posts or to share your posts with their followers
  • A "freebie" of some sort in exchange for users that sign up for your agency newsletter

Finally, create thought leadership content that focuses on adding your commentary on popular topics or industry current events. When possible, add your unique voice to the larger social media marketing conversation and increase your chances of getting in front of your ideal client.

Setting Up Your Agency's Online Presence

Your website and social media channels are your social media marketing agency's first impressions to clients. Your agency website should exemplify your brand values, showcase the services you offer, and provide social proof of your agency expertise.

Building a Persuasive Website

There are plenty of great website builders you can utilize to build your agency website, such as Squarespace, Framer, and Webflow – Slam is a certified Webflow Expert partner. Slam’s website launch checklist is a helpful resource to ensure your website is set up correctly. 

Many agencies with a prominent online presence have the following on their sites:

  • An up-to-date list of agency services
  • Client testimonials from existing clients and previous clients as social proof of your value proposition
  • Educational content, such as blogs or resources written with SEO in mind

For more tips on how to write with SEO in mind, subscribe to Slam's agency  newsletter.

Leveraging Social Media Platforms

Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok, and YouTube are powerful tools for increasing your agency's brand awareness. These platforms offer a great way to connect with relevant audiences from a diverse location range. So what should you post?

It's easy to create beautiful graphic designs and infographics with tools like Canva. They have pre-built templates for Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and an option to create a brand media kit. Having uniform brand guidelines and colors stored in your Canva makes it quick and easy to re-work content cohesively for all social media platforms.

We also recommend checking out Slam's TikTok script template and TikTok content planner for creative post ideas and how to create a content calendar for your agency's TikTok account.

Assembling Your Dream Team

Having the right agency team can make or break your business. Every individual brings their own set of strengths that can take a social media marketing agency from good to great. Understanding how to recruit and hire team members to execute your vision and deliver quality service that exceeds client expectations is vital to retaining clients.

Hiring for Key Roles

When it comes to staffing your agency, hiring the right people is essential. Some titles you might look to hire for include Social Media Manager, Digital Content Creator, Paid Ads Specialist, and Influencer Marketing Manager, among others. These individuals should be subject matter experts and should have proof of successful social media campaigns they have executed.

To find the right level of talent, take time constructing job descriptions that clearly state the must-have qualifications a future employee needs to be successful at your agency. Utilize recruitment methods such as posting on job boards like LinkedIn and Indeed. If you don't need a team of full-time hires you can hire freelancers using sites like Upwork and Fiverr.

Promoting a Collaborative Culture

Creating a culture of collaboration backed by a well-developed standard order of processes (SOPs) is essential for promoting unity among your team, and contributing to improved communication, productivity, creativity, and decision-making. Not to mention, a healthy workplace environment reduces employee turnover, keeping clients happy and relationships running efficiently, with minimal disruption to workflow and results. Tools like Notion can help with internal project management and collaboration, and Gusto can help with HR, payroll, and team management.

Mastering Client Acquisition and Retention

To keep your agency profitable, you need a steady flow of client work. This requires a focus on getting new clients for your marketing agency, while also nurturing and retaining your current client base.

Networking and Industry Events

Attending social media industry events provides opportunities to build relationships with potential customers and influential individuals in the sector, stay current on trends, and authentically enhance your brand's recognition. Additionally, using tools like LinkedIn Premium allows you to pitch to new clients using Inmail messaging credits. Slam's Agency Starter Course includes specific examples of how to authentically pitch your agency and network your way to clients on LinkedIn.

Showcasing Success Through Case Studies and Referrals

Case studies provide social proof that demonstrates your agency's ability to deliver results. If you can earn your client's trust, you can ask to utilize their campaign as a case study to market to future clients. We recommend spreading out your case study displays on your website and all social media platforms to maximize the chances of attracting potential customers and investors alike. You can even go a step further and ask if your current clients would consider referring your agency to their personal or professional network.

Streamlining Operations with Social Media Management Tools

Social media management tools are vital to grow and scale your agency from an operational standpoint. They can help you maintain productivity, automate tasks to save time, increase profitability, and bring in new leads. Slam provides products and resources to help streamline your social media operations which can be purchased individually, or you can access all of them by downloading the Slam Agency Starter Course.

Content Scheduling and Automation

Content automation and scheduling are essential to a successful social media marketing agency. These tools guarantee that content is consistently shared with your audience, improving engagement levels and producing a more prominent online presence.

Examples of content scheduling automation software include Tweetdeck, PLANOLY, SocialPilot, ContentStudio, Hootsuite, Buzzsumo, and SproutSocial. These tools offer features suitable for agencies such as scheduling functions, automatic options, analytics/reports data, and multiple platform capabilities.

Analytics and Reporting

Analytics and reporting tools provide essential insights into how well your clients' content, campaigns, and brands are performing on social media. ROI can be captured by tracking Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and marketing attribution channels using tools like Google Analytics and tracking apps like Iconosquare.

Providing quantitative data on the ROI that your agency drives for your clients builds their confidence in you. This is a win-win as it helps you retain their business and provides opportunities to upsell your clients who are confident in investing their marketing dollars with you.

Final Thoughts: Starting and Scaling Your Social Media Marketing Agency (SMMA)

SMMAs can be lucrative, providing a variety of services ranging from $500 to up to $5000 or more. Since having a presence on social media is essential for companies of all sizes and industries, there are endless opportunities to find and serve clients.

Understanding how to start a successful social media marketing agency is a meticulous process - from settling on your niche to finding your first clients to following guidelines to legally operate. However, with the right set of resources and expert guidance from Slam Media Lab at your disposal, the potential of launching a thriving social media marketing agency remains promising for those willing to take on the challenge.

Ready to take the next step? Download the How to Start an Agency Course to access everything you need to legally build and operate a lucrative social media marketing agency! 

Interested in starting other types of agencies? Check out our guides:

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