Should you outsource social media or handle it in-house?

Each approach has pros and cons that vary according to the particulars of your business and target audience. Here are the key issues you should look at before deciding.

Back when social media was catching fire like a gas station in a Michael Bay movie, everybody wanted a piece of the action.

Thousands of “social media experts” showed up promising rainbows and unicorns to businesses seeking to connect with their target customers. Social media gave smaller businesses do-it-yourself marketing. Larger companies wondered whether in-house or outsourced social media was better for their business.

Fast-forward to today. Now that social media has gone mainstream and execs at those platforms have recognized there’s advertising money to be made, it’s not nearly as easy to succeed as it once was. Those early “social media experts” have mostly faded from view (although some are still lurking out there).

A prospective client told me he’s truly concerned about how to approach social media. Should he hire someone in-house or should he outsource? It’s been keeping him up at night. He’s tried a few things, and none has worked.

I chatted with him about his business and his goals. After learning about his business, I explained the positives and negatives to both in-house and outsourced social media marketing. He figured out what made the best sense for him and his business. I could sense his relief as we made plans to move forward.

There are probably many other business owners who have the same quandary: Should I conduct social media marketing in-house or should I outsource it? If you’re one of those business owners or managers, the following should help you decide:

In-house social media

The major predicament has to do with your business’ structure. Many small-business owners believe they don’t have the budget to hire someone. To that belief, I would say you should discuss your options, because it might not be true.

For owners and managers of larger businesses who have the budget but aren’t sure what’s best for them, again I say have that conversation about your options. Gather all the best information before you spend more time forcing yourself to decide. You have a finite amount of energy; spending any of it being frustrated is a killer.

Positives of in-house social media:

  • You can grow your own. Someone (or a group) who works within your organization, who knows your product, who interacts with fellow employees and customers is well suited to manage your social media marketing.
  • The hiring process uncovers a lot. There are certain talents and skills needed for social media marketing. There is support available to help you hire the right candidate. (We offer it, as do some other companies.)
  • You control the quality. High-quality content drives social media and the Web. Given those daily interactions with employees and customers, your content will be richer and more helpful and will dial right into customers’ questions, issues and concerns.
  • It saves you money in the long run. Social media, unlike traditional media, requires a lower cash outlay. The greatest costs of social media marketing lie in manpower. Paying for outside manpower costs more in the long run—and you’ve got less control.

Negatives of in-house social media:

The biggest negative is not knowing whether your social media manager is performing. If you’ve been contemplating hiring someone to handle your social media marketing in-house, these questions might sound familiar:

  • How do I know whether the person I hire will do the job?
  • What’s the job description?
  • Which goals do I set?
  • How much do I pay?
  • What am I getting for my money?
  • How will I know if they’re doing a good job if they know more than I do?

The remedy is to get expert advice from a veteran social media consultant and have him or her oversee things. You’ll spend money, and in return you get peace of mind knowing that your expense is bringing a return on investment.

Outsourced social media

The pieces to the puzzle that must fit here are whether your business, your brand and your goals are suited to outsourced social media.

Positives of outsourced social media:

  • You can have a presence on social media. Outsourced social media is a fine first step to take.
  • Facebook ads can be managed for you. Facebook advertising is essential to your success on the platform and, ultimately, to generating business through it. Facebook ad management requires great skill. You can outsource this portion of your marketing more easily than you can outsource content creation. It’s a more linear job (“If you do this, then you get that.”) than the highly creative job of producing content.

Negatives of outsourced social media:

  • Your content will suffer unless you designate someone inside your organization to collaborate with your provider on content strategy and creation.
  • No one watches your brand the way you do. No matter what the salesperson tells you, you and your employees are more connected to your customers. Outsourced providers are looking to scale services, which is difficult to do with social media marketing. The end product suffers.
  • Many providers who are interested in scaling their services won’t sit down with you to discuss, educate, set goals and define strategy. They take it all away from you with a promise to deliver, and that’s where things get murky.
  • For a provider with integrity and a high-quality product, it will be more expensive in the long run. You get what you pay for. Check references, and consider getting advice from an objective third-party social media consultant.

When it comes to in-house or outsourced social media, your decision is not easy. However, the more good information you get, the better you’ll feel about your decision. Salespeople can say many things and make it seem that their solution is the only one, but no one knows your business the way you do, so support from a trusted third party helps a lot.

Kathi Kruse is the founder and CEO of Kruse Control, where a version of this article first appeared.

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