You’re a CMO, chief content officer, digital media director, or maybe even a PR specialist and you’re in charge of your brand’s communication via social media channels. You’ve got a lean internal team, but a rugged, mission-driven marketing strategy with lofty objectives.
You know you need to move fast. You know you do not have the internal team in place to support a full-fledged social media marketing plan that supports your integrated advertising campaign, while at the same time maintaining evergreen content generation in support of your brand’s content pillars. Nor do you have a team in place to intercept and facilitate real-time conversation at or about your brand on social media channels or other online destinations.
So, you consult the experts. You interview and hire an agency. You might even select one just like re:group.
For years, things are picture-perfect. You build a relationship with your agency. You trust them to act in the best interest of your brand. You consider your agency team to be your partners. They drive results with beautiful, thought-provoking creative. They analyze performance and make strategic recommendations to keep your marketing program charging ahead. They ask the hard questions that challenge how it’s always been with what it could be. You’re happy; your boss is satisfied; your brand is healthy.
Then a switch flips. And not always in the same way:
- You’re feeling confident: “I’ve been watching my agency do its thing for years. I think I’ve got this down. I can do this!”
- Your boss reveals next year’s budget: “We need to streamline workflow and create efficiencies. You need to trim 20% of your budget for the next fiscal year.”
- You hire an entry-level employee (or an intern).
There’s a constant nagging. There’s another option. You can do this alone.
So, you do. You thank your agency for all of the team’s hard work and you take social media in-house.
A Change in Direction
Reflecting on my six years at re:group, we’ve been privileged to work with many social media clients in a variety of industries, from franchise to health care to consumer packaged goods. Though we have heard nothing but positive regard for the quality of our work and dedication to our clients’ business, 80% of non-project, multi-year work has gone internal, or client-side.
It’s happened for all of the above reasons, and probably for a variety of legitimate others. We understand; we know that clients have to do what is best for their businesses at that particular moment in time. And we are so grateful to have been able to help them forge a path as strategic, hearty, attentive, rich brands online.
The Risk Factors
We’ve also witnessed the implications of those decisions. Sometimes the switch is seamless, but more often than not, there are bumps in the road — some that never get filled.
If you decide to take social media in-house, there are several risk factors you need to consider:
The Availability of Your Time
Your time is a fixed asset. You only have so much of it. Do you have time to take on another job responsibility?
Social Media Examiner uncovered that 64% of marketers are spending more than six hours per week on social media. This number increases for marketers with more years of experience as they begin to witness firsthand the benefits of an active and fruitful social media presence, such as greater awareness, more leads and referral traffic.
This time also scales with the breadth of the social media program and size of the brand. Large national consumer brands, such as those in retail, food and hospitality, have high consumer engagement, and therefore require more manpower to manage the inflow of brand conversation alone.
The Breadth of Your Team’s Skills
Social media marketing is a dynamic discipline. In order to be successful, your team will need skills in everything from:
- Customer service
- Public relations
Your Team’s Self-Discipline
After creating a social media program, and then pressing, “Start,” it’s easy to run on autopilot, but will your team have the self-discipline and proactivity to:
- Be on call all day and into the night for real-time social media brand, competitive and industry keyword monitoring and community management?
- Establish and evolve content strategy?
- Facilitate internal approvals and uphold publishing timelines?
- Ask what’s next?
The following are some of the real repercussions we’ve witnessed after clients have taken social media in-house before the right team was in place to be able to skillfully and dedicatedly manage it:
- Spelling, grammatical and style guide errors
- Ad hoc posting versus guidance by a content strategy
- Lack of creativity
- Loss of storytelling, and a transition to poorly-performing sales language
- Data agnosticism
- Unmanaged reviews
- Unattended customers
Why do these things matter?
A customer’s exposure to your social media post is a representation of your overall brand. A Market Force study found that 78% of consumers report that companies’ social media posts affect their purchasing decisions.
Customer care is important. Ask Your Target Market found that 75% of consumers consider online reviews to be an important part of their purchasing decision. A Lithium study found that if a brand promptly responds to a negative tweet, 34% are more likely to buy from that company, and 43% are likely to encourage friends and family to buy.
Advantages of Agency Social Media
When you hire an agency, you’re not hiring a budget line item — you’re handpicking your team.
You’re choosing them for their knowledge, their years of experience. You’re enlisting their ability to consider a customer journey holistically, their expertise in strategizing, conceptualizing, creating, distributing, analyzing and optimizing pieces of communication. You’re hiring them to do this within the context of an ever-changing technology-driven world, where the rules change almost daily.
You’re selecting an agency for their ability to create efficiencies. For their knowledge, for their internal processes that streamline the creation, distribution and routing of work. You’re hiring them for their media and influencer relationships, some which have taken years to develop and nurture, and some that yield value-adds well beyond your fixed marketing budget.
And, finally, you need their technology. Agencies have access to expensive tools that facilitate media buying and planning, creative development, social media management and analytics, among others, often offered at a lower rate to agencies.
That being said, all agencies were not created equally. Some boast technology for automated content creation and publishing. Others, social customer service led by chatbots. This makes managing a large system, like a franchise, much more cost effective, but often at the expense of unique, locally driven messaging and one-to-one customer interaction. For this, you’re probably looking for a boutique agency that offers custom solutions for clients.
Advantages of In-House Social Media
That all being said, there are times when it makes sense to bring all or some of your social media work in-house.
Expedited Workflow for Customer Care
When you work on the client-side, there is often immediate access to the right people needed to solve a customer problem. For example, was a customer complaining about a botched in-store experience? The director of operations may be just a couple seats away from the person charged with managing your brand’s social channels. That means the problem could get solved faster, and therefore the customer happier, more quickly.
When you work with an agency, though workflows and response strategies are recommended to expedite issue remediation, there is an often an extra step in that process. For instance, in the same scenario as above, the agency might first have to contact the digital marketing manager, who then would contact the direction of operations, etc. That extra step adds time and money to the equation.
Quicker Content Approvals
Though agencies can take your deliverables to the finish line, we always need client approval to cross it. When social media assets are created internally, there is a quicker route to approval. There’s also the byproduct of a team that is more emotionally invested in a deliverable they had a hand in creating.
If you look at the price tag of retaining an agency for social media services, that might be reason itself to consider making the switch. But be careful! These types of bottom line decisions must be made within the context of quality and value provided.
Please also keep in mind that cost savings might not be as good as they look. If you are solely looking at your line item for agency services versus the salary of a new employee, there are some other factors to consider:
- Overhead: Each time you bring on a new employee, that person requires additional administrative, facility and technology fees (among others) to successfully perform his or her job duties.
- Benefits: The cost of an employee’s salary is only part of the equation. Putting a monetary value to the cost of benefits, such as health insurance, dental insurance, vacation and sick time, can add up to more than you were anticipating.
- Training: In part, consulting agencies are successful because they are paid to be at the top of their game. This requires ongoing education and training to make sure they’re providing clients with the best service. These costs should be added when calculating the cost of taking social media inside.
One or all of these could be game-changers. It really comes to down to evaluating the opportunity cost of running an internal team for your organization.
Should You Take Social Media In-House?
This decision is not one to make lightly, but we hope this article has provided you with some helpful questions to ask to steer you on the right path.
Whether you’re working with an agency or coaching a team of your own, we look forward to connecting with you on social media!
Want to chat further? Please reach out to our social media director, Taylor Hulyksmith, at firstname.lastname@example.org.