Pros and Cons of Hiring a Social Media Agency
If you are a business executive trying to decide if you should hire a social media agency or staff these roles in-house, you may feel there is no clear answer. Oftentimes this back and forth process can create analysis-paralysis and cause the social channels to stay stagnant.
As an entrepreneur who has been in this same predicament and now lives in the agency world, I have experience and perspective on both the pros and cons of going with an agency vs. in-house. There are some serious considerations to both and much of it depends on your organization, the industry you are in, the talent you have in-house, your budget, and what you are trying to accomplish through social media marketing.
Understanding How Social Media Can Impact Your Business
If you are a B2C business that is going to be relying heavily on social media as an acquisition channel to reach customers and drive business, you need to be sure you do social the right way. Maybe this can be accomplished with an in-house team, but more often than not an agency team will be needed to augment the talent you have in-house.
If you are a B2B business or a business that needs to have a credible social media presence, but will not be using social as a lead generation tool, you have a much better chance to own this in-house and make those programs very successful. You may still want to seek some professional help in certain capacities, or may even find it more cost efficient to outsource to an agency or contractor, but it is not nearly as critical that you get this marketing channel 100% right.
More likely than not, you fit somewhere in between these two situations. If that is the case, I would be happy to jump on a 15-minute call with you to share my experience on the pros and cons of each, and discuss how you can craft a successful approach in-house or whether an agency may be a better fit. I do this daily and promise to provide a completely unbiased opinion.
Before I jump into the pros and cons of working with a social agency vs. managing social media in-house, it is important to clarify the various moving parts that are included in a fully optimized Social Media Marketing Program. I have found that these moving parts require very different skill sets and to find that unicorn social marketer that has all of them is difficult.
If I ever run across that person, I will do everything I can to hire them on the spot and they will likely cost a pretty penny with lots of incentives. One of the challenges for brands trying to hire these types of marketers is they often get bored working on only one brand and prefer working in an agency or consulting environment where they get to experiment across several brands and audiences.
Core Components and Skill Sets to a Successful Social Strategy
Social Content Pro - This person needs to be creative and have a keen understanding of audiences and customer personas. They need to be a strong graphic designer and have the copywriting skills to match. This can be a major undertaking in itself as it often takes a highly skilled social media manager 10-30 hours per month to do the base content calendar and custom post creation—think of a highly creative person who gets what makes different audiences tick.
Social Community Manager - This person is a bit of a customer service representative for your business. They are in charge of engaging with your customers online and taking care of complaints, reviews, questions, and feedback that your audience has. If this person is highly skilled, they will also come up with creative ways to proactively reach out to new audiences and organically grow your social media presence and following.
In my experience, this is the easiest part of the job and often works well to staff in-house. For large brands with sizable established audiences, this job can be very time intensive due to the volume of engagement. For smaller growing brands, this job is usually not nearly as critical or time intensive simply because the audience engaging with the brand is pretty small and the volume of inquiries is much lower.
Social Influencer Outreach Role - This person is basically a PR pro wearing a social media hat. They build lists of influencers that have highly engaged audiences that fit within the target market that your business serves. As they build these lists and conduct this research, they reach out to these individuals with a sales pitch to become an ambassador for your brand.
From that point on, there is usually a lot of back and forth and this person needs to be a pro at managing mini-partnerships with your brand and ensuring these partners position your brand in the way you want it positioned. Some companies integrate this role with that of the Social Content Pro.
However, doing both is a handful for one highly-skilled person to manage. Though many companies do both in-house with great success, I have also seen many that outsource this role to agencies like Power Digital and quadruple the coverage and influencer partnerships they were previously getting. These partnerships can be big revenue drivers for the right type of business, as well as great sources of fresh content. So, really weigh out whether to start off using an in-house person with experience or enlist the support of an agency to get it off the ground.
To get a better feel for this role check out this article on Getting Started with Social Influencer Outreach and this article that helps you understand what goes into Mastering the Art of Instagram Influencer Outreach.
Social Advertising Manager Role - This role requires a blend of three key strengths—understanding audiences and client personas, data analysis, and technical marketing—and finding these skill sets in a single candidate is tough to come by. It is in this space that I think most businesses should engage with a skilled social advertising agency as it is generally the top way to monetize this channel and drive ROI through social media.
It is also critical to understand that, when it comes to social advertising, there are major contrasts between a great eCommerce advertiser and a great lead generator (funnel advertiser). Here are those core differences in very simple terms:
eCommerce Advertiser - generally more data driven and about putting the right product in front of the right audience. Often times these campaigns are heavily focused on highly targeted retargeting campaigns and leveraging a brand's existing list to increase LTV (lifetime value) of the client.
Funnel / Lead Generation Advertiser - has to be much more in touch with the audience and their evaluation process. Usually this advertiser is going to have a really strong understanding of traditional sales prospecting and how to warm up leads until they are marketing ready.
At Power Digital, we have found that the personas of these two teammates are pretty different and generally an advertiser will be much stronger in one of these two types of campaigns.
Now that you have a clear understanding of the core parts and roles in a successful social media campaign, let's move on to the pros and cons of working with an agency.
Pros to Working with a Social Media Marketing Agency
- They will have the most advanced tools that can make all the difference in growing and monetizing your audience. These tools are very expensive and the agencies have the scale to afford them.
- You will have the right players in the right seats as the social media agency should have a team with the unique skill sets mentioned above. This will make all parts work to their maximum potential.
- Your reporting and analytics will be at a higher level due to the agency’s experience in social data analysis and formalized reporting process.
- The agency will be able to provide outside perspective for ways to engage your audience that often gets lost with in-house teams who are so close to the business they can struggle to come up with new outside-the-box ideas or feel they know their audience so well that they don’t truly analyze the evolution of their audience.
- They will provide larger cross-channel experience on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, SnapChat and more. They all vary from a content and advertising perspective and many social media marketing agencies have teams with unique skill sets in these various platforms.
- They bring experience and learnings from testing strategies across many clients to your brand which often allows for more rapid strategy innovation on your account and less trial and error.
Cons to Working with a Social Media Marketing Agency
- There are often times a lot of things that happen inside the doors of your office that they may miss or aren’t able to take advantage of. This is usually more relevant for B2B businesses who use social media for recruitment and credibility and not as relevant for B2C businesses who use it to connect with consumers.
- Your agency team’s knowledge and understanding of your brand voice and audience can take some training time and may not be at the level you would like in the early months of your partnership.
- There is potential the agency will lack critical industry specific knowledge.
- Costs can be higher and you may feel you can have an inhouse team member do parts of this role part time while also fulfilling other roles in your organization.
- Response time can be slower on the community management as the resource is usually not fully dedicated to this one account.
- You will have to develop a good process for content approvals to be sure you have quality control and all things are on brand.
Different Engagement Levels of Social Media Management Offered by Agencies
I hope this outline of the roles of a social media team and list of pros and cons was valuable for you. It’s important to understand that the level in which you can engage a social media agency or consultant really varies. Some options to consider are as follows:
Consulting Role - helping with strategy and certain parts of the program to guide your in-house team.
Partial Role - having them fill the gaps where your team lacks skill sets. Oftentimes, the in-house team may handle community management or content and the agency team handles influencer outreach or social advertising campaigns and reporting.
Full Ownership Capacity - have a high-quality agency run your campaigns from A-to-Z. If you hire a great agency that really gets social media, this route can net you the most cohesive and highest results when it comes to ROI. They are fully accountable and there is never any finger pointing about which part of the campaign is causing the breakdown in results.
For many organizations it falls somewhere in the middle and the first step is talking with a social agency and having them conduct an assessment of your current strategy and state. Many agencies like us will do this at no cost if you are a serious potential customer who aligns with their core target clientele.