Has your company decided it wants to embrace the huge potential of social media and then wondered if you have the resources internally to deliver a successful and effective strategy.
With serious social media campaigns taking a large amount of planning, content creation, syndication, monitoring and analytics, is your company better to deal with this in-house or would it be much wiser to outsource?
Read on and digest some of our own informed thoughts on this area:1
Expertise | Marketing, Research and Sales:
When hiring skills such as a Social Media Manager you are looking at a professional service that buttresses a number of hugely valuable areas to businesses of all sizes and industries, namely; marketing, PR, research and sales.
While many firms have hugely talented marketing departments and PR staff, this does not translate into an effective social media team, though admittedly they are a much closer family than a team of accountants!
Having an active marketing department can however work very well as communication between a social media company and an existing marketing department can be fluid and meaningful due to the common language shared.
At Aim Social we use upward of 10 highly niche paid software solutions to analyse and implement social media strategies more effectively and in some cases more efficiently. Would your marketing department even be aware of the names of these services never mind knowing how to use them effectively?
This is very much a specialised and relatively new industry. Having a sound understanding and knowledge of SEO, useabilty, design and layout, internet marketing, video production, content syndication/aggregation, copy writing and market research would stand you in better stead to implement social media campaigns rather than being traditionally trained in PR and marketing…it is a brave and exciting new world after all.
In all honesty, most firms simply do not have the depth of staff to be able to dedicate a small team of highly skilled professionals who fully understand social media and have the ability to find relevant conversations and effectively take part in these on your companies behalf. On top of this, would they be able to create compelling content, (graphics, web design, microsite design, email marketing, video production, scripting, copy writing) and on top of all that, then have the ability to get that content out to people on mass and in certain niche areas in highly specific channels?
It is doubtful, unless your company name begins with a C and ends with OLA.2
Costs | In-house v Outsource:
I can think of very few industries that are not currently feeling the pinch with a global downturn in most economies and industries still biting. The great news is that social media is a fantastic means of creating value and being able to engage with your new and old audience, and it is affordable.
“But agencies are expensive, I am much better off sending some of my staff away on a short training day and doing it all in house.”
I fear a huge mistake in almost all cases, here are a few warning signs:
- Are your staff really passionate about social media?
This is difficult to assess.
- Will your company all of a sudden have the depth of knowledge, resources and continuing professional development that an agency offer?
Almost a guaranteed, no.
- Will the cost of your team of “newbies” end up costing more or the same as an agency?
Probably, and they could also be terrible at implementing what they are supposed to have learnt. On the flip side, if they prove to be excellent they could end up moving to a specialist agency as a result of your companies training expense, effort and time.
True value of social media often lost:
There is a real danger that people miss the value of social media, and here is why, a lot of emphasis is placed on listening. This involves finding groups of people, tribes of like minds and thought leaders within niches and geographical locations and building relationships up with these over time.
It is both an art and a science, and one that is very hard to put a monetary value on. But if it is not done right it is quite easy to say that it is probably money down the drain.
We use high end analytical tools to help us do this work and once we have information to report we pass this on to your company and then go about implementing social media marketing campaigns that are fully informed by this kind of research, it is not easy work, but done right it is very powerful.3
Control | In-house v Outsource:
I have heard many seemingly valid reasons to keep social media work in house:
- Vested interests
I would like to examine these closer, one by one.
This point states that a person already working for a firm is better suited to talk about that firm with prior knowledge and understanding shining through as a result.
It makes no sense whatsoever that a member of your own staff is going to be any more authentic while writing content for your business than someone who is employed as an experienced copywriter working on your behalf for a social media agency. In the early stages of working with companies, an agency will always take the time to learn about their new clients and this will continue to grow, what is more, our job will be to listen and learn at even deeper levels than is previously done by sheer virtue of the role a social media agency will undertake.
If there is any validity to this point, I believe that this would be mitigated in a very short period of time and by the fact you have a new arm to your company that allows authenticity to shine in more ways and to more people.
There is also an argument that trusting your social media campaign to people who are not properly trained and experienced to properly listen could lead to staff moral issues and huge masses of wasted time, as the business of social media is not all about numbers, this can easily be overlooked.
Trust me, real social media agencies understand the value of authenticity and strive for this in every possible avenue they pursue on your behalf, or at least they should!
The main argument here is that a company in control of their own social media campaign is better positioned to make sure that processes are in place internally that will stop the occasional tweet that causes a nuisance (Chryslers case) getting out. This is ridiculous, and here is why.
Firstly the problem was a mistake made by a person, and they work for your company and agencies.
This aside, if you want to stay in more control, why let your own staff take the reigns of your companies social media work? There is a greater chance that you are likely to offend one another within a company than staff at an agency who you can hire and fire at will via contractual obligations.
For instance, is lil Miss Annoyed or Mr Vendetta (who both have access to your companies twitter and facebook account) really the best choice of people to have control of your audience and your companies secrets? It is surely more likely that one of the firms begrudged will do something untoward than an agency who have an arguably more “professional” relationship with your firm. Of course many firms are lovely happy places where everyone gets along just fine, but a point made nonetheless.
Loose tweets sink corps:
It is not only the spiteful that can make a mess of your firms online presence, the inexperienced or careless ones are also to be watched:
Peter Castle an insurance broker at Bluefin insurance services has been quoted saying:
“As social media has become increasingly popular, there has also been a sharp rise in cases of employee misuse of this technology, in particular, many businesses and employees are not clear about the rules governing when and where employees can use social media which can lead to a number of problems.”
Using a social media agency mitigates a lot of these issues as the technology is not new and the work they undergo will be process lead anyway. Should mistakes happen, which of course they do in every walk of life, then with an agency you have a means of recourse through referring to your contract and can take things from there, this could be a get out clause, an amendment to the contract or a monetary penalty, either way, it is better than the limited options you have with an employee who makes a huge “mistake”, especially a disgruntled one!
This is another reason some say keeping social media services in-house makes more sense, though actually, it makes no sense.
The point made states that a member of your own staff will want to do the best they can to stay in gainful employment, especially in these tough times and will therefore work better for your firm. It is equally important to an agency to make sure that their clients are happy with work and an agency worth their salt will become an extension to your firm anyway and will have the same passion to deliver as a “normal” employee, this argument as such is pretty much pointless. Also there is a huge difference between boxing clever through experience and slogging away despite looking admirably tired in the process.4
Resources | In-house v Agency:
Here at Aim Social we collaborate with other social media practitioners from the US, Australia, and Ireland, (this list is growing) and it is part of our nature to professionally develop and network in these ways, and as a result it always keeps us up to date with what is new.
An example of this outreach is our access to bloggers globally, it is in our interest to offer fresh content and resources to bloggers and news websites that help them differentiate their own content from their competitors. Working with clients a network naturally forms related to the clients sphere of influence (current and desired) that creates win-win situations for all concerned. Usually in the form of relevant traffic paid off with quality content.
As many will tell you, in the online world content is king…still.
And here is another list to help demonstrate why a quality (note not about size) agency will be better fixed to deliver than in house teams of newly trained social media managers:
- Access to professional software to create content (video editing, post production, design software, coding tools)
- Staff with proven skill sets related to social media service provision and the use of software outlined above
- Use of high end analytic software and reporting
- Contacts for PR and online news aggregation
It simply makes more sense to outsource work of this nature to a team of professionals. They really do not have to be a huge firm at all, but efficient and knowledgeable about their sector.
Imagine the heartache a small firm would face if they spent thousands training staff on all aspects of delivering social media to then find they were leaving with their new found skills for employment in an agency or in a related field. Or perhaps even worse that they could not do their job to its fullest and you had wasted time, effort and money on the project and people involved, only to go back to the drawing board.
It is blatantly much safer to get a social media agency involved who will guide you and work with you straight away, probably a lot cheaper and much less worry surely!5
Measurement and Flexibility | In-house v Agency:
Having the ability to measure campaigns is crucial to most companies and brands. It both informs and validates the work that is being undertaken. It is also easy to misinterpret results of data and draw incorrect conclusions from this, using a professional social media agency with experience of working with statistical data programs is another huge bonus to partnering with an agency who will base their advice and work on this data.
When it comes to acting on the results of data, how quickly would your in-house team be able to act?
Imagine if you will that a major national newspaper or television broadcaster had picked up on an article or story that we had created and submitted or simply had news related to your company that brought a huge increase in traffic to your website.
To capitalise you may need to create a quick video production to tell another side to a potentially negative story that had emerged, or it could be a great opportunity to get more customers as the coverage was positive, so a new microsite is needed. The ability to act quickly in these times is crucial.
So very quickly I hope this article has answered some question that managers of companies and brands ask themselves when considering there own social media strategy, I also hope it has bee useful to interested people in general as to the real value of a dedicated social media arm that works with your company, it makes much more sense to me and I hope you can see why from the above points.
Your thoughts as always are very welcome, and I will do my best to answer comments raised.