James Marshall Head of Product Marketing; In-house or Outsourced? It’s a question that has puzzled people for millennia… “should we outsource our social media or should we do it in house?” Over the course of my career this issue has come up a lot more often than I would have ever imagined, as to me the answer always seemed obvious until I actually moved into the digital sector back in 2013. As a bright eyed, and woefully cynical, marketing assistant back in 2009 I completely dismissed the idea of social media being done by anyone outside of the company, my logic being that how could anyone else who isn’t experiencing the day to day activity of the company tweet/post anything of relevance? My prejudice was backed up when I first joined Indiespring and one of my clients was complaining to me about how much they pay for their social media and that all they do is just post videos of people falling off ladders. This of course was an exaggeration on their part based on a specific post that had annoyed them, but the point was that the agency in question didn’t know enough about their client to post meaningful content so they were just going for “viral” hits in order to make their stats look good each month. “There’s your proof,” I said, “you need someone who understands the company to manage your social media, otherwise an agency just tries to spend the budget to make them look good rather than generating business for you. What you need is to assign someone in the company to manage it all”. The problem there of course was that it’s a big job, not necessarily just the posting of social articles and tweeting but the research required to produce something that is: a) Relevant to your company b) Current and popular c) Something people actually want to read It hit home even harder when I looked at the state of our own social media. As the company had grown, our staff had taken on more and more responsibility and as a result our social presence had dropped almost entirely off the map. Or in other words, when things got busy, it was the first casualty. In addition to that, it also dawned on me that we’re a digital agency, we know how to write good social media but that doesn’t mean that our clients, who have greatly varying technical ability would have the first clue how to deal with their own social media. We now have a full time social media expert working for us and as you would expect, our social presence has improved massively. We now get the best of both worlds, someone who understands the company and the industry, and someone who specialises in social media but I know that not every company has this luxury so I will offer this advice. First of all you have to think about what you want to achieve from social media. There are a lot of people out there who will say you have to be on facebook or twitter to get anywhere these days and that isn’t necessarily true. For example, if you’re a small local business or a highly specialised company, your customers will most likely already know where you are, or not really gain anything from viewing your social media. If however you’re selling a product or service online, social media is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal which you ignore at your peril. The next step is to think about who will handle it for you. If you have someone in the company who has the time to research and stay abreast of current affairs and trends but can also produce engaging content about your company then you should 100% be using them. If however you’re like most small-medium sized companies out there, you don’t have this luxury then you need to think about what you would gain by going through an agency. Agencies of course charge for the privilege of using their expertise. What you need to remember is that although they can take the load off your shoulders, you still only get out what you put into them. An agency will most likely produce a report for you every month/quarter showing how they are doing. The problem here is that if you’re not very technical yourself they can make a report look as good as they want it to, and you get a situation like the “falling off ladder” viral chasing scenario mentioned earlier. If you work with an agency and really help them understand the message you want to send to your customers it can be a match made in heaven. My recommendation would actually be to trial working with an agency if you think your company can afford it. It’s just important to remember to weigh up your social media spend against the amount of business that you generate from it and to not get caught in the trap of thinking that because you’re getting more hits, that it’s actually helping you achieve your goals.