In this episode, social media agency owner Andrea Smith provides advice on finding and vetting a social media agency to handle your plastic surgery practice’s social media plan.

Join Plastic Surgery Practice Co-Chief Editors Alison Werner and Keri Stephens as they talk to Andrea Smith, owner of Smith Social Company, a social media agency dedicated to supporting specialty physician practices. In this episode, they talk about what plastic surgery practice owners need to know when contracting with a social media agency to handle their social media plan and the 10 questions they should be asking when vetting a social media agency during the discovery call. 

But before practices can vet a social media agency, they need to know what they do. Smith first provides that breakdown. The truth is social media agencies can offer quite a few services from graphic design and caption writing to community management, email marketing, and website management. Smith then talks listeners through timing: Specifically, when is the right time to bring in a social media agency to handle this aspect of your practice’s digital marketing plan. Clues that it might be time to hire an agency: You’re not posting at least three to five times per week and/or the staff member in charge of social media dreads the task. If your social media strategy is random then you aren’t going to get the return on investment, according to Smith. 

From there, Smith provides guidance on how to find a social media agency that can meet the marketing needs of a plastic surgery practice specifically. One tip she offers, go straight to Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn and search “social+media+agency+physician+practices.” Looking at social media channels like Instagram also allows you to get a good introduction to the agency’s work before you ever contact them.  

And finally, Smith talks listeners through the questions they should be asking during discovery calls. Her 10-part interview guide gives plastic surgery practices the tools for vetting a social media agency to know if it is the right fit for their digital marketing campaign and their practice. 

Click here to download Smith’s 10-part discovery call guide.  

Podcast Transcript

Alison Werner:
Hello, and welcome to the Plastic Surgery Practice Podcast. A part of the MEDQOR Podcast Network. My name is Alison Werner, and today I’m joined by my co-host Keri Stephens and we are the co-chief editors of Plastic Surgery Practice Magazine. Today, we’re going to be talking about digital marketing, specifically social media marketing, and joining us to do that is Andrea Smith. Andrea owns Smith’s Social Company, a social media agency dedicated to supporting specialty physician practices. She has a decade of experience in healthcare operations, physician relations and referral management. Andrea, thank you for joining us today.

Andrea Smith:
Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be here.

Alison Werner:
Great. Well, so we’re going to focus in on what you need to know about contracting with a social media agency to handle your social media plan for your plastic surgery practice and the questions to ask to get the right fit. So to get started, Andrea, what does a social media agency do?

Andrea Smith:
So a social media agency does many things for a practice. Usually they offer quite a few services. So organic services, which would be Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, could be any social media platform. Organic just means not paid. So that would include graphic design or graphics creation. That would include caption writing and caption, kind of writing in the brand voice of the practice. And then that would also include usually community management and kind of managing any comments that come in or interacting with any new followers or messages, comments, that type of thing. Our agency also offers email marketing. So email marketing is one thing that many agencies are offering, but not all. You can also usually find blog writing available through a social media agency. Some do website management, and then some will offer paid services. So you can do Facebook ads, Google ads, Bing, any of the ads like that. So usually a social media agency is a kind of a comprehensive approach to really reaching your ideal client online through social media or through the different types of ads for your website.

Alison Werner:
Oh, okay.

Keri Stephens:
Okay. And when is a time for a practice to bring in a social media agency?

Andrea Smith:
So with the transition of everything kind of moving online over the course of the last two years, more so than it was before, people are really, really moving into the social media world in terms of bringing their practice on more than they were before, because that’s where people are hanging out is online. So if your practice is not able to post consistently, if you’re not posting at least three to five times per week, and if you’re overwhelmed by social media and you kind of dread it every day, knowing that you need to post something. Or you have a staff member that dreads it every day, they know they need to post something, they don’t know what to post, they’re kind of posting random things. There’s a random strategy there that’s not really in alignment with kind of your overarching goals, I would say that would be a good time to reflect and potentially bring on an agency or at least start looking to find one.

Andrea Smith:
Social media is a long game. It’s not something that you just kind of do here and there. It’s really something that needs to be committed to. So if you cannot commit to it or someone in your office cannot commit to it, then it’s definitely time to start thinking about outsourcing.

Alison Werner:
Okay. So how do you even find a social media agency?

Andrea Smith:
That’s a really great question. There’s a lot of different places you can look. There are websites like Upwork, for example, where you can log on to Upwork. I’ve actually come across a couple clients through Upwork. The challenge with Upwork is that it can have a lot of spam on there, or a lot of foreign agencies, which are cheaper, of course, but they’re a little bit more challenging to work with, which we’ll get to that during, later in this discussion. But you can look on Upwork. I would say probably the best place to look would be on social media itself, just so that you can really see examples of this person’s work. So if you go on Instagram and you search social media agency physician practices, or social media manager or social media agency, and just start scrolling through and looking at different accounts, you can also look on Facebook and then LinkedIn as well. So that way you kind of get an introduction to that person’s work before you even contact them.

Alison Werner:
Hmm. Okay.

Keri Stephens:
And what should you be asking them during these discovery calls?

Andrea Smith:
That’s a really great question as well. So discovery calls are kind of that introduction where the social media agency will be interviewing you and you’re interviewing them and just kind of getting an idea for how a working relationship would look. And so the discovery calls are critical in terms of the social media agency putting together a proposal that will work for you. And then also for you to determine if that’s the right agency for you. So I did put together a 10-part interview guide for everyone to get a copy of after this podcast that they can use it to interview agencies. So I can just kind of walk through the questions. These are questions based on experience that I have with the clients I have now. So just some of the hard lessons that they’ve learned and things that I just tried to incorporate in.

Andrea Smith:
The interview guide has, like I said, 10 questions. So the first question is, can you tell me about your existing clients and previous clients? So with this question, you really want to see if they specialize in working with plastic surgery practices or physician practices. So the learning curve is already so steep to take on a new client as an agency as it is. Learning who their market is, learning their branding, learning their brand voice, getting to know the practice, getting to know all of the nuances that you need to know when you’re onboarding a new client. If they also have to learn the language of a plastic surgery practice and learn the language of the types of procedures and who they’re good for, and the types of, procedures you offer in your med spot potentially, that adds a whole nother layer that makes things a little bit more difficult.

Andrea Smith:
So finding somebody that specializes in plastic surgery or physician offices in general is definitely a good place to start.

Alison Werner:
Okay.

Andrea Smith:
The second question is how many people work in your agency and how many people will be working on our account? So that is a question trying to gauge if you’re working with one individual or with a gigantic agency. So working with one individual I can share. As my agency was growing and I was a freelancer for a couple of years, I had a child during that time, and so I had to rigorously plan ahead to have all of my client work done ahead of time so that I could have a week off, literally one week while I was having my child.

Andrea Smith:
So if something were to have happened during that week, it would’ve been very challenging for me to log in and fix that, and so the practices really deserve to have a team. So you don’t want to go with one person because it really, there’s just a lot of margin for error when you just have one person. And then if you’re working with a gigantic agency, it’s the whole flip side of that, where it’s difficult to really feel like they know you, they care about you. You really don’t get a lot of one-on-one attention with the decision makers in the agency. So it’s this kind of, you want to find somewhere in the middle.

Alison Werner:
Okay.

Andrea Smith:
The third question is, can you show examples of other client accounts? So you really want to log onto the other Instagram, Facebook, or other social media accounts that they are managing and take a look and see, are they engaging with people’s comments? Are they posting on a regular basis? Does the feed, so when you’re scrolling through Instagram, does it look good? Is it random, a whole bunch of different fonts, a whole bunch of different colors. Things should really look very aesthetically pleasing, especially for plastic surgery practice. So it really needs to look really nice. The bio needs to be clear. They should have a story going at any given time. They should be doing Instagram reels. So you can kind of go through and look at the client accounts they’re managing now. That would be a really great place to start with their existing work.

Andrea Smith:
The next question would be, would you provide three references that you’ve worked with that I can talk to? So this question, sometimes people are going to be a little bit reserved on providing references because they’ve gone in a different direction than clients they’ve had before and it could be a little awkward. So you definitely want to connect with at least one or two people that they’ve worked with in the past, just to see, were they on time? Did they deliver everything that they promised that they were going to? Those types of questions, because you’re really putting a lot of trust into this person to be the voice for your whole practice on social media.

Andrea Smith:
The fifth question is, how do you design your strategy for our practice? And do you provide us with analytics on a regular basis? So a lot of clients that we have recently taken on, their prior social media agency was not providing them with analytics, which is a big red flag. If the social media agency is not using analytics to drive their strategy, that’s a concern. So just like medicine, where you’re really using data and you’re using studies and they’re really focused on scientific studies of specific drugs or procedures. It really should be quite similar in social media that you’re taking a look back at what you did, looking at what did well, what didn’t do well, and then you’re providing results. So there’s no way to prove return on investment if you’re not seeing the analytics. So that’s a big question. If someone does not say when they design your strategy, that they use analytics, that would be a red flag to me.

Alison Werner:
Mm. Okay.

Andrea Smith:
The next question I have is, is English your first language and what country are you based out of? So it can be very tempting to work with a more affordable agency because we’re always trying to save money here and there. And there are many, many agencies overseas. And now I want to share, I hired a contractor that I worked with over the winter, and she was based out of the UK and just paying her alone, the changing from dollars to pounds was very challenging one… You have to prove your identity, you have to share your ID picture with this website. There’s a lot of hoops to jump through. And then the time zone is different. And then if you’re working with somebody that English isn’t their first language, and you want them to attract your ideal client, you’re going to have some language barriers there. So you’re going to have to do a lot of proof reading and stuff. So it can be done, and I’m not saying all agencies overseas are bad. I’m just saying know that there might be some extra steps if you’re working with an agency that’s not based in the US.

Keri Stephens:
Yeah, definitely.

Andrea Smith:
The seventh question I have is, can you tell me about your process for graphic design and images to be used on social media? So this is a big one because what’s happening now is a majority of practices are just using stock images because anyone can get their hands on stock images now. And that’s really kind of the easy way out to have a nice looking Instagram, but it doesn’t really show anything about your practice if it’s all stock images. So if someone is not going to contract a local photographer for you or hire a photographer to come in, I would say that is a little concerning. If they’re going to expect the practice to go and capture the images, that’s still going to have quite a bit of work on the practice’s plate to do that. And then make sure that the images are high quality. So that can be a little challenging.

Andrea Smith:
So we’ve taken on the model ourselves of hiring a local photographer for our clients, and it’s worked really well all across the country. Our team is virtual. So we just partner with that local photographer. They go in, they take the shot list of things that we need done, the videos we need done, and it works really well. And then that way we avoid so many stock images. So if someone does not include a photographer in their package, I would definitely ask about that. Unless, if you’re wanting to take on capturing the content yourself, or if you’re okay with stock images or just graphics. But in terms of a plastic surgery practice, patients want to see before and afters and beautiful pictures.

Andrea Smith:
So if your content doesn’t show me that it looks to me almost low budget. So if you’re low budget on social media, are you low budget in every other way?

Alison Werner:
Ah, okay.

Keri Stephens:
Makes sense. For sure.

Alison Werner:
Yeah, okay.

Andrea Smith:
Yeah. So I would say definitely that photography piece, the professional photographer, is very important.

Alison Werner:
Okay.

Andrea Smith:
The next question is a very important question in terms of really covering the behind of the plastic surgery practice. And I’m sharing this based off an example of an existing client we have now. So the question is, if our contract were to end, how do you ensure we have access to our accounts? And do we own rights to the materials created throughout our contract? So I have a client right now that is unable to get access to their ads account because their prior social media agency is hanging onto that access and refusing to give them their access back. And so it’s causing a lot of issues and they’re unable to connect with Facebook and Instagram to get that changed. So just make sure that the social media agency has some sort of a subcontract in place, or you can create a subcontract very simply, to say that at the closure of this contract, that immediately the access to all accounts, and you can even list them, are turned over to the practice so that you have some sort of recourse. Otherwise you don’t have any access to your accounts. It can be very challenging.

Alison Werner:
Yeah.

Andrea Smith:
The second to last question is, how do you incorporate our brand voice, branding, upcoming events and things we want to focus on into our social media strategy? So the goal of this question is to really get somebody to show you that they’re willing to listen to you and that they’re willing to bring in what your priorities are, because it’s going to be quite strange for patients if they have one type of interaction with you online, and then they come into your practice and it’s very different than how it was online. So you definitely want your social media presence to be similar to how the presence is in the office. And the only way to do that is if the social media manager or social media agency is very involved with you and listening, and really trying to learn more about how you talk to patients and what services you offer and the type of vibe, if you will, that you want to give off to patients.

Andrea Smith:
So just make sure that they really come off as a good listener. And then the last question I have is, what strategies do you use for growth and how do you engage on our behalf? So as a social media agency owner, I always, always, always want to turn in analytics that look great. And then there’s a lot of cheap things we can do on the back end to make analytics look great that a practice manager isn’t going to know that you could do, you can buy followers very easily, very cheap, you can buy followers. And so no one’s really going to admit that they do that, but you want to ask that question to hear them say that they’re using engagement checklists or a very specific form of engagement to make sure they’re using legit strategies to grow your account. So that would be logging in and interacting on your behalf, answering comments, answering DMs, interacting with other accounts, and not just posting and ghosting, we call it where you just post and then don’t log back in and check what happened. And then making sure that they’re not using bad practice to make your account look like it’s growing.

Andrea Smith:
So those are really important questions.

Alison Werner:
Ah. Okay. Makes sense. Okay. Well, Andrea, thank you so much for that. I think that’s really good information. I love the way that you have this list and this list will be available in the show notes. Andrea has created a PDF for us and it’s available to all our listeners. So please go check out the show notes and download this for yourself and take it with you when you go talk to a social media agency. And to our listeners, if they want to contract you, Andrea, what’s the best way to do that?

Andrea Smith:
I really work best through email. So you can email me at Andrea@smithsocialcompany.com and my website is smithsocialcompany.com, so you can also check us out there.

Alison Werner:
Okay. And we will have links to both of those in the show notes as well. So be sure to contact Andrea if you have questions or you’re interested in working with her. And to our listeners, I’d also remind you that Andrea Smith actually writes for us frequently on social media marketing. So please be sure to check out her articles. There’s a great one on measuring the return on investment of your social media strategy that I hope you will check out and be sure to check back soon on the MEDQOR Podcast Network for the next episode of the Plastic Surgery Practice Podcast. And in the meantime, to catch up on the latest industry news, please check out plasticsurgerypractice.com. Until next time, take care.