Being in transition, I try to join relevant and interesting webinars. Social media is a particularly popular industry today.
I heard a webinar conducted by Social Media Today and they brought up some good points when considering hiring a social media vendor or agency. They mentioned that the vendor should be an established marketing and communications specialist, truly know the business strategy of the organization as well as the company culture. Being established means credibility and a proven track record. Do they have a good reputation on Facebook, Twitter and Linked In? Do they ask detailed questions about your organization and can they answer detailed questions?
The product or service that you have needs to be a good one and social media can only enhance its greatness. The agency should be cutting edge and keep apprised of what's new.
The client doesn't need a lot of knowledge in social media but should be committed to developing a social media strategy with the agency. Trust is also a big determining factor in the relationship. The client should do some research on their own so that they can educate themselves on what their marketing plans and goals are. For example, will the client take on some social media monitoring or will the agency strictly handle this? You want results and don't want an agency that makes big promises and offers a quick fix.
Agencies need to use the social media tools that they themselves are offering to clients. For example, how are the agencies marketing themselves?
Pricing will depend upon the industry, geographic location and the level of impact. Most often it is based upon a retainer and the project type.