Should you hire a social media agency or keep it in house?

Understanding hidden costs, contingency plans, and the benefits of brainstorming could sway your decision.

A few months ago at a marketing conference in Miami, someone asked me a crucial question.

Given that I was “the social guy” in the room, of course, I was asked all of the questions related to social media, from, ” What should I do on Twitter?” all the way to, “Does anybody even use Google Plus?”

I answered all the questions based on my experiences, and each answer elicited a follow-up question.

Then came a question from a man who apparently wasn’t convinced:

“I understand social media is beneficial to any business, but seriously, no one in their right mind would hire a social media agency when they can just hire someone in house. Am I right, or am I right?”

Here was my answer:

Employees cost too much

No matter the company, there comes a time when every CEO decides to take his or her product or service to the next level. For this example, we’ll call this CEO Ray. Ray notices that all of his competitors are using social networks to engage with their fans and customers, so he decides to join in. He hires a social media manager (Chris) to handle his company’s social marketing and pays him an annual salary of $60,000.

Now, hiring a full-time employee costs a lot more than it seems. There are payroll taxes, health benefits, equipment needs, office space, training, and paid time off. You see where I’m going with this?

Alternatively, what if Ray used his $60,000 budget to hire a social media agency. For starters, that agency won’t require health and other benefits that Ray would have to offer to Chris. Ray can also be certain that his $60,000 annual budget will be stretched to encompass a full social media marketing campaign including research, planning, strategy/execution, and, in most cases, design, video production, public relations, social community management, short-term and long-term campaigns and promotions, social aggregation, analytics and reporting, and more.

This brings me to my next point.

Agencies have more brain power

A successful social campaign includes design, video production, PR, strategy, and everything else I mentioned before. So, unless Chris is Superman himself, we can’t really be too certain that he will have all the skills required to handle all aspects of the campaign. In most cases, Chris is probably a very talented writer with strong communication and presentational skills. He’s a very organized person who loves planning and is very optimistic.

Still, he cannot do it all. I mean, “He’s not Superman, you know!”

Hiring an agency, on the other hand, is like hiring a team of 10-plus people for the price of one. Most agencies are made up of executives, designers and illustrators, strategists, copywriters, bloggers, social enthusiasts, PR representatives, Web developers, even entrepreneurs—all of whom live their own lives and have their own experiences that they bring to the table. So when they’re all included in the social strategy meetings or the brainstorming session, Ray can rest assured that his campaign strategy will be looked at from every angle.

Also, what happens when Chris is on vacation or out sick? Questions aren’t answered, fans aren’t updated, campaigns aren’t being managed, etc. An agency can have someone else pick up where the other person left off, and it has the tools and know-how to schedule posts as needed.

Having a great agency relationship is also beneficial for growing companies. The higher your marketing budget, the more capabilities the agency can provide for you.

Agencies breed social nerds

Did you know that there are headphones that you can use to listen to online conversations—conversations (both good and bad) about your company? If that isn’t enough, did you know that you can use those headphones to listen to people who might need your company?

Those headphones are actually a very cool tool/platform that we know as Twitter.

Twitter has an advanced search feature that agencies use to monitor and join conversations about their client’s brand. The agency can then engage with satisfied customers, not-so-happy customers, and curious potential customers in the most appropriate manner.

Did you also know that some new social tool was launched in the time it took you to read this article? The social world is always evolving.

Agencies make it their priority to learn all about the emerging social media tools and tactics, either from agency colleagues or from outside sources. Agency pros challenge themselves to evolve and modify social campaigns as alternative tools and tactics appear on the scene.

So, there’s my answer

It’s your decision whether to hire a social media manager or a social media agency. Keep in mind that not all agencies are the same, so it’s important to do thorough research before choosing to hire one.

@JacquesHBastien is the CEO + Creative Director of @weareboogie, a rapidly growing design-driven social media and creative agency in New York. A version of this article first appeared on Social Media Today.

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