Is Your Social Media Marketing Agency Legit? 3 Questions to Find Out

After Google effectively banned the treatment niche from its Adwords platform in mid-September of 2017, you might be looking for an alternative...

Or maybe you'd just like an alternative to relying 100% on relationship management and referrals, which can be like waiting-for-it-to-rain.

Screen Shot 2017-11-04 at 5.36.22 PM.png

If you've got a treatment center that legitimately helps people take back the power over their addictions, and you're looking for a way to get the attention of more of those you could help, ethically...

You might be considering Facebook marketing, or social media marketing.

When treatment center owners started asking us about Facebook, we'd already been using the platform for years, to generate results (in the form of consults and patients) for our medical and dental clients. As we began offering social media to our treatment clients, we started getting calls from other marketing agencies.

That's when we learned an interesting fact.

None of the agencies we spoke to in the treatment niche had any experience running anything like the type of campaigns we'd been running.

To their credit, the agencies we spoke with were transparent about this, and didn't want to misrepresent their competencies - which usually included SEO and Adwords - to their clients.

However, those agencies one might find in Google for social-media-related terms, were not so transparent.

What's more, a number of myths - chief-among-them that Facebook or social wasn't "designed to bring [centers] clients" - shrouded the channel in confusion.

Now that Adwords shows no signs of coming back anytime soon - at least not in the form we used to know it - and centers who recognize the opportunity to compete more effectively on a level playing field are turning increasingly to social media... too are the marketing agencies that serve them.

Check out this chart: this is the number of treatment-related Facebook ads detected online. See how it's skyrocketed in the wake of the Google ban. Where were all these agencies before September 16th?

Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 8.15.45 AM.png

All of which leads me to want to arm you with a little knowledge. You may be tempted to trust your existing marketing agency to run social marketing for your treatment center.

Or to hire in-house for "social media management" (often a nonsense profession that has nothing to do with generating actual ROI).

Or to Google "Facebook marketing for addiction treatment", and trust one of the top results.

And that's great: I'd do it too in  your shoes.

And let's be clear: 100% of the agencies we've talked to are good people, good-at-what-they-do, and sincere in wanting their clients - the centers - to succeed.

But before you trust somebody to manage your ad dollars, and your reputation, be sure and ask them these 3 questions...

Question One: Have You Generated Admits Via Social Channels

If the marketing agency owners I spoke to on the phone were transparent - "we're great at SEO, we were great at Adwords, but we haven't seen results via social: can you help us" - those I found via a Google search are playing it "closer-to-the-belt".

Many of them claim to do social media marketing, but here's the thing:


Nobody says a word about results.

Most of the social-marketing-related content out there just equivocates, hides behind vague advice like "the most basic targeting option on Facebook is audience targeting", and doesn't mention the elephant-in-the-room:

Have they actually gotten admits for their clients.*

But some agencies actually double down on their lack-of-results-generation. One actually claimed "social media is not designed to bring you clients."

So how are you supposed to evaluate their performance?

The agencies who won't talk about results like to use two "buzz words": engagement and branding.

*Quick sidebar: in this context, "get admits" means "admit people for whom your center is clinically appropriate, by advertising to them via and truthful, transparent, and ethical means."

Question Two: How Would You Market On Social Channels?

If agencies aren't pointing to their results, they at least should be able to describe a coherent direct-response strategy, and answer the following:

If you're not speaking directly to potential admits, who are you speaking to?
  • Whom are you trying to reach?
  • What do they know/what are they willing to admit/what are they afraid of/what are they afraid to lose?
  • What will you say to them to earn their trust?
  • How will you know if it's working?

Seeing a strategy will quickly reveal whether the money, time, and brand equity you're spending on Facebook is going toward building relationships with people that will eventually result in admits of those you can help...

...or if it's "likes", "engagement", or any other empty** metric.

"When [a piece of content] gets shared," says one website, "it is not uncommon for [it] to bring hundreds, if not thousands, of hits to your treatment website in a single day." 

That's great if you don't care about admits, but what if you do? How many of those "hits" turn into admits, especially if you don't have a landing page strategy to convert eligible website visitors into consults or calls?

And how often do articles go viral? (We've done social for years, and can tell you: not often.) If they do, how do you know you can count on a sustained traffic boost? If they don't what are you supposed to adjust?

At Admit Scout, we "keep it boring". Either a strategy results in directly-attributable admits, or it doesn't. We can tell which, and we know what-to-adjust to make it happen.

Another potential danger is brand damage.

**Sidebar #2: many of the centers we've worked with find branding a worthwhile expenditure, and admits a "second priority". That's great, and Facebook is a fantastic platform for it. Just be sure you and your agency are on the same page. If you're expecting admits, and they're getting you "likes", it's a mismatch.

Question 3: How Will You Safeguard Our Brand?

If a vague "branding" strategy that doesn't translate into actual admits is one way agencies can go wrong, heavy-handed, spammy campaigns are another.

Screen Shot 2017-11-04 at 6.10.01 PM 2.png

If you've been on Facebook since September of 17, you've probably seen a "Scorched Earth" campaign. You know the signs:

  • Photo of a junkie
  • Pushy judgmental headline
  • Brand insignia of a treatment center

If you see a campaign like this, you can be almost completely sure: it's not working.

As I've written elsewhere, potential treatment clients are very often successful, driven, and responsible. They know they have a problem, and they know what's at stake.

But they don't want to be depicted as junkies, or be judged.

And instead of earning trust as a sensible alternative to a court-mandated 12-step program, these centers are appearing tone-deaf, and damaging their reputations.

Here's just an excerpt of what one addict posted on Reddit:

Screen Shot 2017-11-05 at 8.53.50 AM.png

How well do you think the "junkie-with-needles" theme is going to go over with this guy?

At the same time he knows he needs help. And the centers who figure out how to reach out to people like this and earn their trust by being transparent, and providing value, are going to win.

How to Go One Better

Whomever you might be considering hiring to help you implement a social strategy, remember:

Get on the same page about the results: "will you help me reach potential (and clinically appropriate) clients, to admit and help them, or are we just going for "likes" and branding?"

Get on the same page about the strategy: "are we going to be researching the most clinically appropriate potential clients, speaking to them in their own language, and fine-tuning the strategy, or are we going to be sharing recovery memes, hoping something 'goes viral', with no strategy for making an offer to the potential web visitors?"

Get on the same page about branding: "will you represent my center reputably, and help us be seen as a resource people can rely on, or will we be using spammy, judgmental tactics likely to turn potential clients off?"

Finally, don't just "get a quote".

If a marketer is truly interested in getting results for you, put them on the spot. Ask them how they would craft a strategy for your specific center, in your specific market.

Assembly lines are great for Twinkies, and not-so-great for marketing

Assembly lines are great for Twinkies, and not-so-great for marketing

If they're not asking questions about your specialties and your best clients - and quite frankly "vetting" you to make sure you're ethical/good at what you do - that's a red flag.

And anybody who offers a quote without finding out those things (most of the agencies we've spoken to - and certainly all those we'd recommend - do do a "due diligence" interview), is likely trying to shoehorn you into the same generic strategy they use for everybody else, and, more concerning...

...isn't particularly concerned that you're ethical.

If you'd like to learn more what we do - and how we do it - at Admit Scout, just click here.