How a Combination of In-House Talent and an Outside Agency Makes for the Best Social Media Strategy

Finding the Balance: In-House or Outside Agency? Why Not Both?

According to a new study just released by LinkedIn, 81% of small to medium-sized businesses use social media. It’s no big secret that social media has become an integral part of online marketing, by generating new leads for businesses and connecting customers with the brands they love.

If you’re a small to medium-sized business, you may already know how vital building an online presence can be for your brand. The real question is: how do you run a successful social media campaign? Do you keep all of your social media in-house or do you hire an outside agency? There are pros and cons to both choices in terms of cost and campaign performance. And, there are certainly a LOT of blog posts and articles that weigh the two options against each other. But, might we suggest another alternative? Why not try a combination of in-house talent and outside agencies?Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 12.26.26 PM

A survey conducted by Ad Age and Steampunkt Collaborative, in conjunction with Wildfire, a division of Google, found that “companies with successful social initiatives use a combination of in-house talent and outside agencies.” Most participating companies that ran their own social media campaigns with solely in-house talent, either needed improvement or maintained ineffective social initiatives.

In-House Talent – The Good and the Bad.

If you look at the Wildfire survey results, you’ll notice that 57% of companies with ineffective social initiatives used in-house talent only. While keeping social media in-house may not be the best strategy, having an employee that’s tuned-in to your social media strategy is paramount to an effective social initiative. Why? Well, it boils down to this: people like your page or profile, because they like your brand. Simple. That funny picture of Jim getting a face full of cake during the company birthday party? Brand gold. People who like your page want to see moments like that! An outside agency can’t be present for every major company event; they can’t magically appear out of the woodworks and start snapping pictures that’ll receive upwards 20 likes on your page.

So, why doesn’t your company just keep all of your social media in-house, if a funny cake picture is all it takes? Unfortunately, running a social media campaign takes a lot more than just tweeting a golden brand moment. It involves measuring results and monitoring social media accounts daily. On top of that, brands have to maintain content consistency in order to keep up fan engagement. Phew. That’s a lot. Here are some additional reasons why in-house talent falls short of an outside agency, or a combination of both.

Cost: The cost of hiring an outside agency to monitor and curate your social media accounts would be significantly less than hiring a full-time social media specialist. While hiring a full-time social media specialist would be ideal, most small to medium size businesses simply can’t afford it. Here’s a recent look at the average social media manager salaries across the country.

Experience: When most businesses can’t afford to hire a full-time employee to run their social media accounts, they turn to another employee and say: “You can Facebook, right?” Sure! Everyone can Facebook, right? Well, when you hire a outside agency to help run your social media campaign, you’re also paying for their 10+ years of marketing experience that comes with it. Also, they’ve probably run a few successful social media campaigns over the years, and with that comes valuable knowledge an in-house employee might not have. Lastly, outside agencies employee people who love social media. After all, it is their job! You can be guaranteed these people are on top of the latest trends within the industry, and will have a good grasp on what works well and what doesn’t.

Time: When you assign social media to an employee, you’re taking time away from things they should be doing or were hired to do. I know from experience running a social media campaign can be very time consuming and tedious. After all, I do it for a living. Unfortunately, the social world never sleeps and demands constant attention. Don’t spread your employees too thin by expecting them to run a successful campaign and complete all of their assigned work.

Outside Agency – They can’t do it alone.

Outside agencies do a great job of creating and curating content that’s industry relevant, measuring campaign results, thinking up new promotional ideas, connecting with your fan base, and managing your page. But, remember how we said people like your page or profile, because they like your brand? Unless you’re providing an outside agency special, insider content, your social media profiles will only paint a half picture of your brand.

If it helps, think of a brand like a person. Outside agencies can show people what you’re all about, but in-house employees can help give your brand a personality. Brands without personalities have trouble connecting with their fans. Outside agencies know this all too well, and work to encourage brand transparency.

The Best of Both Worlds

So, what’s the best strategy? We’re inclined to agree with the Wildfire survey results and say a combination of both in-house talent and an outside agency.

What does this collaboration look like? Honestly, the way a business works with an outside agency differs from company to company. You may have to find out what works best for you.

Our big tip? Have an in-house social media liaison. This person should be a company representative and a sole communicator with the outside agency. Also, this person doesn’t necessarily have to be a social media expert. He or she could be the head of marketing or your go-to PR person. A social media liaison should consistently send new promotional content to the outside agency and make themselves available to answer any questions. If any employee has content they’d like to share on the company’s social media sites (i.e. that picture of Jim covered in cake), they just have to forward it to the social media liaison, and he/she will make sure it gets to the right people as soon as possible.

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