It is common knowledge that the key to any business relationship is trust. You recognise that you need to start using social media but you decide that you don’t have the expertise to manage your accounts. The obvious answer is to find an inbound marketing agency to do the work for you, but how do you know that you really trust them?

Essentially the agency that you outsource to will live, breathe and eat your programme/event/service; that’s a massive risk to take if they get it wrong. It is typical for clients to come on board never having met some of the key people that will be handling their accounts. This could be due to two factors, they don’t realise the importance of trust in the agency-client relationship, or not realising they could potentially get to know the people with whom they’d be working through.

So what should you be doing to ensure you are hiring the right agency?

Well to start with, a little research on the people that will be handling your accounts and some simple requests from the prospective agency can go a long way to tackle the two factors above. The next thing you want to consider is if the agency practice what they preach. You will find that some social media marketers “blow a lot of hot air” and “fluff-up” their proposals, but a good way to work your way through this is to see whether they’re following their own advice. After all, why would you listen to an agency talk about how important social media is when their accounts have been dormant for a long period? It is key to remember not to take the advice given as gospel, vet the agency and make sure that they are actually implementing what they are advising. If they are doing it for their own business, you can trust them to do it for yours.

As they say “from the mouths of babes…”Case studies and recommendations from clients will demonstrate very specific instances of success for their clients. Ideally these case studies and recommendations should relate to your business goals, whether it’s showcasing industry-specific knowledge, validation for solving a particular problem or building you a brand presence through social media.

Furthermore, you want your agency to be transparent in the fact that you should also be able to get in touch with an agency’s clients for more in-depth references. Not everyone may be willing to share this information but if there is an existing strong relationship with the client and the agency, you may be able to start an open conversation.

A prospective agency should know what your goals are and will help you develop them, identify opportunities, and start building a plan. It’s also useful if you know which of your prospective agencies services are in-house, and which services are outsourced. If they’re up front about their strengths and weaknesses, it’s a good sign that they’re trustworthy.

Ultimately you want to see success, so knowing that the agency is focused on getting you there is also another way to know if the agency is trustworthy. Even if the truth hurts you want them to be honest, rather than telling you what to hear just to receive their payment at the end of the month. If you ask a question and the answer is “no” it’s actually a good sign that the agency is concerned about your reputation, and they’re concerned about your success.