One of the questions I get from time to time from friends and colleagues is “Who would you recommend for a social media agency in Minneapolis?”

Good question, right? I mean, there aren’t that many “social media agencies.” But, many ad, PR and digital agencies claim to offer social media marketing services. So, there’s definitely no shortage of options.

However, while options aren’t in short supply, exceptional options seem to be.

Why do I say that? A few reasons:

1 – Personal experience

As a solo social media consultant (and one who’s been at it for 12+ years now), I get the calls from clients saying “we don’t think our existing agency is doing a good job with social, can you help?” And, I get a fair amount of those each year. Even if I don’t get that call, when I work with clients, I can see what their agency partners are doing for them in social, and it’s rarely what I would call exceptional work.

2 – Listening to industry conversations

Another friend recently made a post on LinkedIn about looking for different kinds of agencies for her clients who have needs. Many types of agencies were mentioned in the comments–digital, ad, PR, etc. However, I didn’t see ONE mentioned in the same breath as “social media marketing.” And, that’s not the first time I’ve seen that situation play out on LinkedIn.

3 – I keep getting that question!

I got that question a few times in Q4 last year but it comes up often. I’d say I probably get people asking me that question 8-10 times a year.

Now, here’s the difficult part for me: I don’t have experience working with or for a lot of these agencies. I do partner with agencies from time-to-time, so I do get a chance to see some shops’ work here and there. And some of my opinions are based on that. However, the rest is based on what I’m hearing at the virtual office cooler. I hear from client-side folks. I hear from other agency-side folks. I hear from a lot of different people.

And what I’m hearing (and seeing) is that there’s a pretty big hole in our market when it comes to social media marketing on the agency side.

Let’s break this down a bit.

First, you do have a few agencies who are more focused on social media marketing. The one that stands out the most in that way is The Social Lights. They are, to my knowledge, maybe the only agency that has really planted a flag in the ground around social media marketing. And, they seem to be a growing agency. They seem to have some talent (I think I only know one person who works there now outside of Emily!). But I have no direct experience with them. So, don’t really have enough to form a solid opinion either way, which makes it tough to recommend them.

Then you have a slew of digital marketing agencies that claim to offer social media services. Shops like Collective Measures come to mind. Now, here’s an agency I have heard good things about. I’ve had direct experience with them before. And, although I wouldn’t say social is their top strength (they seem exceptional at paid media), they seem more than capable of playing in that space. Some of the other digital agencies in town? Maybe not so much. They focus more on web, SEO/SEM and app development. Social seems like an add-on. So, most (outside of Collective Measures and maybe 1-2 others, aren’t a great option).

You also have an outlier in Brandpoint who gets into social media marketing a bit by way of content marketing. Full disclosure: They’re a sponsor of the Hanson & Hunt Podcast, and I’ve known Scott Severson for years (used to be a shared client), so I do have an affinity for this team. They’re another good option, but again, not laser-focused on social.

Finally you have everyone else. And by “everyone else” I mean more traditional PR and ad shops like Weber Shandwick and Fallon. These agencies also offer social media marketing services but in my view, it all depends on who’s on the team. For example, Fallon. Because Greg Swan was there (just left) leading the way, I’d say they have a pretty darn strong team and I’d have no problem sending a client that way (although I hope they have a healthy budget!). On the other hand, some of the PR shops in town may not have the best (and deepest) social media teams. Sure they have people–but not people with the right experiences and background to really dig into social deep. So, most in this group may not be your best option either.

See what I’m saying? I just don’t see a ton of options. Collective Measures is the one that keeps bubbling up to the top for me. Bigger shops with specific social talent like Fallon are great, if you have a monster budget most likely. Otherwise, I’m not sure where else to send people.

Maybe I’m wrong. I’d love to hear other options. Where are all the social media agencies?