So, you’ve got yourself a successful business and want to promote it online. You know that social media is important but you’re not sure about the best way to use it. You want to hire a dedicated expert but can’t decide between an agency and an in-house solution – what do you do?
There are certainly arguments for both choices. Social media in many ways provides the public personality of your business so whoever manages it will need to have a genuine understanding of your organisation. An in-house social media ‘guru’, ‘wiz’ or, less narcissistically, specialist would be well placed to develop this understanding simply because they will spend a lot of time with your business.
But what you get with an agency is immediate experience. The best agencies have people working on successful projects across multiple sectors and they can apply this breadth of knowledge to your business. You will also have access to a wide range of services without having to spend time training someone.
How can social media help your business?
The above debate is, however, somewhat misleading because it approaches the issue from the wrong angle. The first question is not ‘is it worth hiring a dedicated social expert?’ but ‘how can social media help our business?’ Your response to the former should always be guided by your response to the latter.
If your response is “it can’t” then there is absolutely no need to hire a dedicated expert. You should regard social media as a marketing tool and a means to an end - it is not an end in itself. Just because certain companies are using it to great effect it doesn’t mean that you should automatically consider it a priority. If it won’t do anything for you then don’t be afraid to channel your resources elsewhere.
If you’re a worldwide drinks brand then hiring a specialist to post witty updates on your Twitter page probably isn’t enough. But if you’re a 2-person law firm in Aylesbury then this might even be too much (while getting an agency to produce you a state-of-the-art, 4D Facebook game is almost certainly overkill). You have to think about your market before you make your decision.
This is extremely relevant at a digital recruitment agency like Propel, for example.
From a brand awareness perspective it makes sense to prioritise social media: a cutting edge campaign has the potential to put us at the forefront of the digital market we service. But from a candidate sourcing perspective it may make sense to concentrate our efforts elsewhere: many jobseekers are currently employed and therefore wary of publicly interacting with recruiters.
This dual experience illustrates the importance of understanding exactly how social media can and can’t help your business. You don’t want to find yourself devoting significant resources to a strategy which ultimately brings little benefit.
Even if you are confident that social media can help you there are alternatives to bringing in a dedicated expert. If you only need to maintain a simple but respectable online presence then perhaps you already employ someone with the required ability. If not then perhaps you should consider hiring a more general marketer instead, who can provide skills in addition to social media. Regardless of budget it would be wise to consider these options first.
Realistically a few key variables– budget, target market and scope – should guide your decision. If you have a large budget available and a large, relevant target market then an expert will probably be the best solution.
There are, of course, situations in which you will have little choice: large, one-off, national campaigns are likely to require an agency, for example. But there is no magic formula for social media success, unfortunately, and different businesses and situations require different approaches.
Hiring an expert will always be an expensive choice and you should only go down this route if you are absolutely certain what you need them for. It may even be worth approaching a variety of agencies just to see what they suggest, even if you end up hiring in-house.
But whatever you do, make sure you have considered all of your options thoroughly. Ultimately, it’s worth remembering that hiring the wrong expert, or any expert for the wrong reasons, is worse than hiring no expert at all.