Social media agencies: How do you know when you need one?
It’s a vital question that makes even the toughest marketing managers squirm: agency or in house? Without meaning to sound too dramatic, it could decide the future of your business. On the one hand, getting a top agency has plenty of advantages. Any decent social agency will offer you a specialized creative team who have already delivered enviable results for other clients. They’ll have an attractive track record of turning digital duds into social stallions by building leads, customers, and positive ROI through their campaigns. With 42% of brands looking to outsource their digital marketing, there’s every possibility that your competitor could be getting in a top pro to socially squash everything in their way. Are you up to the challenge or do you need a bit of help?
Alternatively, you could look to take things in-house and either do it yourself or hire your own person to look after your social channels. Agencies come at a price, and could you trust one of your major marketing pillars in the hands of someone else? Your knowledge of your brand, its history, and its needs are all strong cards to play in your social strategies. Plus, having someone covering social in-house means they’re in the office and able to respond in-line with other departments’ wishes. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. SocialBro is here to help you weigh up your options and decide what’s right for your brand.
PRO: They’ve Been There, Done That, And Done It Good!
Brands work with agencies to get access to things they can’t always do in-house. When you work with a partner that has multiple teams with designers, videographers, social media analysts in them, a brand has instant access to those – and the experience and expertise that comes with it.”
Vikki Chowney, Head Of Social, TMW Agency
A social agency has in-depth, specialist knowledge and is bang up to date with the many and regular developments of all social channels – enabling the client to be a step ahead their competitors, testing new product functions and advertising opportunities.”
Jarred Abrahams, Nexus Digital Marketing
This is a key factor that agencies can bring to the table, as 70% of marketers said that specific expertise is what they looked for when choosing a new agency. Integrating social media into your wider marketing campaign in a unique way takes a variety of skills, some socially related and some are more tangential. A good agency will be stacked with people who have spent time building a wealth of knowledge on all things social. Having experts in each field on hand to deliver top-drawer results means agencies can provide you with a wide range of skills on tap.
CON: You May Know Your Niche Better Than They Do
Agencies will know social, but they might not know your trade. If you’re in a particularly specialized industry, it’s probably important to have a social presence that is informative, accurate with terminology, and sharing nuanced insights. You might also need to provide timely customer support on complex issues. There are some agencies out there that are experts in social for specific fields, but if there’s not one for yours then it may be better to train someone up in house.
PRO: What’s Better Than A Creative Person? A Creative Team!
Even if you have a cracking social pro, getting an agency on board instantly brings a collection of sharp minds packed with ideas to your team. It will hopefully bring out the best in everyone. You now have a group of talented, imaginative people on hand who can conceive strategies and angles that you may never have dreamed of. This injection of vibrancy can shake up your social profiles in new and exciting ways.
For example, when TMW were taken on to help with Durex’s social campaign they bought in the idea to use social media to turn people briefly away from technology (including social media) in order to focus on their sex life. The bold twist in the #TurnOffToTurnOn campaign produced a response that ended up reaching over 1.5 billion people worldwide.
Will you reinvent FaceTime this #EarthHour? Give it a try and #TurnOffToTurnOn! pic.twitter.com/ZIUf1AA6qC— Durex UK (@durexuk) March 26, 2014
PRO: You Can Look Before You Leap
When choosing which agency to use, you don’t have to go in blindly. Most agencies will have a list of previous clients, a selection of case studies, and will be proud of any awards or achievements. But you don’t just have to take their word for it, you can often see the campaigns they’ve worked on and look them up on social media to see how their campaigns were received on the ground. What’s more, a lot of agencies are likely to pitch ideas to you so you can get a feel for what they would do with your brand before you’ve signed a contract.
PRO: Like A Big Bit Of Lego, They’re Well Connected
Close relationships with the right influencers and press contacts can be everything, they can be the difference between your campaign being the talk of the town or another forgotten press release. It can take years to build up an effective little black book, and you might not have that much time. A good agency will have a list of contacts that can help to rapidly improve your social reach and reputation.
CON: Communication Breakdown
Without having your social media manager in the office, it’s harder to see what they’re working on or to give them direct feedback. Sure, you can call or email but that’s not the same as instant face-to-face communication. If the agency you’ve hired isn’t doing the job how you expected them to, it may be more difficult to change the campaign on the fly. Also, if a sudden event happens within your industry then it may be difficult to respond in real time. This could mean you’re paying for a failing campaign and your input into how it can be changed is weakened.
PRO: By Spending Money, You Might Be Saving Money...
Even the cheapest of agencies will cost you money, but that doesn’t mean they’re always the most expensive option. It depends what you need them for, but it might be cheaper to use an agency to do an effective part-time or short-term campaign than to hire someone specifically to cover social full-time.
PRO: Tick-Tock! They Save You Time
When other deadlines are pressing, social marketing is often the first to drop off the ‘to do’ list. Communication needs to be regular, consistent and engaging, and without all three a client will not use the channels to their best advantage. Used properly, social media needs thought, planning and time – and the majority of clients find the latter the most difficult to commit to.”
Jarred Abrahams, Bespoke Leads
Effective social media can take serious time, especially if you’re not 100% sure what you’re doing. Agencies will take most of that load off your hands. You and your staff will then be able to focus on the jobs you were hired to do.
PRO: They Know What Works And What Doesn’t
Not only do they save time for you to do other work, but they have the added bonus of knowing tactics that already lead to success. The time you’d use experimenting with potentially poor techniques that make you look socially poor will hopefully be eliminated by learned social experts implementing tried and tested strategies that will work.
CON: You Need To Take Them To The School Of You
While agencies save you time on social, to get them to do an effective job you will need to spend time teaching them about your business. They’ll need to know your history, your plans, where you are in your industry, your rivals, your audience, and more. Some agencies might not be willing to put in the hard hours to find out all that they need to know about your business.
PRO: They Have The Best Tools, And They Know How To Use Them
Social analytics, monitoring, and scheduling tools can help with posting, researching your audience, and reporting your performance. Used correctly they can unlock some seriously powerful marketing potential. You can use them yourself, but many social media agencies already have paid accounts with top analytical tools that can help to provide you with data, leads, and results. Agencies can use them to show you where and how your campaigns are having the biggest social impact.
PRO: They Can Improve Your Team Even After They’ve Left
A good agency partner should be proactively seeding clients with best practice guidance around new and developing platforms, and will also be able to share (even if anonymously) cross-industry learnings.”
Vikki Chowney, Head Of Social, TMW Agency
By having full-time social experts taking charge of your social activity, you can see what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. This gives you the chance to soak up some key takeaways that your brand can use in the future. But there’s more than that. Say you want some help with social, but aren’t sure if you can pay an agency full time? Many offer training services where they will offer your allocated member of staff one-to-one training tailored to suit your needs.
We are delivering social media training for @godigitalNCL on 8 & 20 October & 11 Nov. Book up via http://t.co/woCMj5CiL0— MINT Business Club (@mintbizclub) October 2, 2014
To Sum Up...
So, after all of our research and brainstorming we found more pros for hiring an agency than cons. If you find the right agency for your brand, and can afford their services, then the benefits can be huge. A social presence that your target audience positively responds to can be an absolute dream for a company, and anything that helps you achieve that is worth serious consideration. For some, social stardom could be possible with in-house staff and for some an agency would provide it instead.
A lot of the cons we have found point out the need to research your agency beforehand, as there are issues that can be avoided if the agency is a good match for your brand. It’s also important to communicate clearly about what you need and what they can deliver, if you don’t start on the same page with clear goals then both parties are likely to be disappointed.
Ultimately, the answer depends on your business and you need to weigh up the options for yourself. At what point did you decide that you wanted to use an agency for your social media, or did you prefer to go it alone? How was it for you? Let us know in the comments below.