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It’s true. I manage a digital agency that makes money on running social media for our clients. I’m here to tell you that, as a brand, you should never completely outsource your social media operation to any agency, of any kind.
Why Should My Company, Large or Small, Manage our Own Social?
Before I cut off my nose to spite my face, let me say that digital agencies, social agencies, and advertising agencies can all have an incredibly valuable role to play in your social marketing. However, if you want – and you should want – social to be an integral and ongoing strategic part of your company’s marketing efforts… take it from me and hire someone good.
This individual or team, depending on the size of your company, will have your company’s DNA and culture ingrained within them. They will know your voice, your business objectives, your appetite for the more creative and unconventional social strategy you will need to have success. But, most importantly, they will be focused on your social business 365 days a year. No distractions, no exceptions.
Success in the social world for any business means taking your brand and turning it into a living, breathing, commenting, liking, retweeting, pinning, thoroughly engaging digital personality. This personality is committed to company mission, it loves the brand and most importantly loves your customers. This digital personality (and I know how this sounds) cares. It responds to a late night tweet or Facebook post, it recognizes trending topics on the web that require the brand’s attention. It has a sense of humor. It reacts in real time.
An agency can’t do these things effectively, efficiently, every day. Can an agency grow your audience? Improve your content? Run a campaign? Build a strategy? Yes, we can do all of these things and some of them you should want us to do. But, the day to day management of social media requires boots on the ground, often expertise in your marketplace, and a burning desire to build a social brand each and every day.
The Cost of Social Media
There is no denying, if you’ve shopped around for social consultants, content creators and agencies to manage your social platform, that the cost can be pretty heavy. Every client I’ve ever pitched, worked with, or consulted for has found, at times, our social management pricing system to be staggering – and we have worked to be an affordable agency. I bring up the cost factor not to rile you, but to say if you think about it you can start to understand why agencies cost so much when it comes to social. It’s simple. Time and profit. In-house marketing efforts aren’t marked up for profit. They are direct cost to your bottom line, but they are not part of a separate business that needs to profit to stay alive. Managing social media is, above all things, time consuming.
When you consider the fact that an agency, creating custom content for you as a client, managing the distribution and promotion of that content, creating the strategy behind it and on top of it all, monitoring, analyzing and then reporting the results to you – the client, you begin to see how the costs for a business can spiral out of control. For an agency, running a client’s social media platforms autonomously means they will have to draw on the design department, the copywriting folks, an account manager for you to speak with, strategy time from their most talented and expensive creative employees and often development resources to better integrate your whole digital platform with the social universe. We have to pay all those people to work and in the end still turn a profit to stay in business.
The Heart of the Problem
The problems with completely outsourcing your social media are myriad, but the most critical challenge facing any social agency is the limitations contracts demand. For “X” dollars you get “Y” posts and “Z” hours of monitoring and research. If the contract is limited, then your strategy is limited… and social strategies demand elasticity. They expand and shrink with trending events, company milestones, busy seasons, random acts of digital fate. Your team can meet these needs but your agency can only meet these needs as their contract allows or they will go out of business.
How to Use an Agency for Social Marketing
I couldn’t leave the agencies out in the cold. For starters I work for one. Not only do I work for one, I love it. As the Creative Director at Kaleidico, I love coming to work everyday to help manage the strategy and creative direction for all our clients, from the ones you can find on the Fortune 500 to the startups we’re helping grow from the ground up. With that in mind, here are the ways you can use the talent and power of agencies, big and small, to enhance and expand your social marketing.
Passion and Learning: Agencies, by their nature, are comprised of people who are passionate about marketing and in turn, are constantly learning to stay ahead of trends to bring you the best of what’s working and what’s new when it comes to strategy. This is an asset. Most agencies can’t afford to stay complacent and it’s because the client simply won’t allow it.
Strategy Creation: Come to an agency to help build you a strategy, train your team, and guide your efforts, but have the people in place to implement it yourself. The good news about this for the in-house marketing director or manager is that if the strategy doesn’t work you can always blame it on us. But seriously, a good agency should understand the powers of digital influence, the role SEO plays in social, and have the ability to put analytics and market research into a coherent and easy-to-execute social strategy. The agency brings a powerful and hopefully talented prospective. Want to know what I would do for your social strategy? Just ask!
Content Creation: A good agency’s bread and butter is their creative. You might have a grand idea for a social campaign but need top-notch creative like design, video, photography or even copywriting to bring it all together. An agency is a powerful content creation partner because the good ones pride themselves on building beautiful work. At Kaleidico, I believe we take it one step further by not only creating beautiful work, but always creating content that Works Beautifully.
Paid Media: Let’s face it, if you haven’t figured it out yet social platforms have finally figured out their true value and now the audience you want, if you want a large one, is going to cost you some dollars. This is another place agencies shine. Managing a paid social spend is not simple. Each channel requires separate approaches and they all require constant testing, tweaking, optimization and scaling. As a digital agency we can take your business objectives and translate that into a paid social strategy that targets the right users, on the right channels, with the right message. Paid social marketing, in comparison to let’s say… billboard advertising or television commercials… is a relatively new form of paid media. Working with an agency who does it for a lot of different companies brings experience that is very hard to find in this space.
In the End
I hope this has made some sense and that you have gleaned the essential difference between the role of the in-house social media manager and strategist and your agency, or potential agency. The one true thing everyone knows is that social marketing is essential to any business. Whether you like it or not, you are a digital business – even if you’re just a local mom and pop bakery. Just remember, agencies can be valuable and highly effective. However, like any asset to your business there is a time and place and purpose for all things, you just have to when and where to use each one.