In-house or outsourced? It really is the age-old dilemma that applies to a whole range of business functions. But while some decisions are quite easy to make, for example outsourcing your accounting, at least in the early days, some choices are not quite so straightforward.
Social media marketing is one example of a decision that’s more difficult. While there are few benefits to outsourcing the management of your social media presence, there are also a number of pretty compelling advantages to keeping it in-house.
So how do you know which option is right for you? Let’s frame the argument for each to help you consider the most suitable approach for your business.
Keeping it in-house
Most business owners want to keep as many functions in-house as they possibly can. The reason for that is simple: control. Business owners want as much control as possible because understandably, they are protective of all their work. However, keeping social media in-house solely for that reason may not actually be a good thing.
The major driver behind the decision to outsource social media is the cost of employing a specialist in-house. Although extremely important, social media marketing is rarely a core business function, so it drops down the priority list behind completing projects and fulfilling customer orders.
However, if you do have the resources to employ an in-house specialist, or already have an employee who could double-up and manage the company’s social media presence on your behalf, then there are a number of benefits associated with keeping it in-house. That includes:
· You understand the customer – Regular interactions with customers should improve your understanding of their concerns and issues and the type of content they’re likely to value.
· There’s inbuilt quality control – Anyone can set themselves up as a social media expert, but until they start posting it’s difficult to know just how expert they are. By keeping it in-house, you can quality check everything that’s posted.
· Authenticity matters – Even if your social media presence is a little rough around the edges while someone in-house gets up to speed, that authenticity is exactly what draws people in. Businesses benefit most from having a story that’s personalised and true to their nature, rather than creating content just to have something to post.
· It’s cost effective – A few years ago Digiday looked at the respective costs of in-house and outsourced social media marketing and found that over the longer-term, in-house could be more cost effective.
Unfortunately, there are also a number of downsides to consider:
· Accountability – One challenge for small businesses is knowing whether their social media manager is performing well. If they are the only person in the team who really understands social media, it can be difficult to set goals or know whether they’re getting results.
· Expense – It’s not just the cost of an in-house specialist’s salary to consider. The costs of recruitment can also be high. While the in-house option may be cost effective in the long run, it will eat up your cash-flow over the shorter-term.
· Spreading employees too thin – If you plan to use existing employees then other areas of the business may suffer.
· Limited abilities – Existing staff may not have the enthusiasm or the ability to use social media marketing effectively.
Outsourcing to an agency
If you’re planning to outsource your social media marketing to an agency then you should expect to see some results. The extensive knowledge and expertise an agency has, with a whole team who do this stuff every day, should be a considerable benefit to your business. But what are those benefits likely to be?
· Consistency and speed – You will have a consistent and regular online presence that ensures a quick response to customer queries.
· Experience – An agency team such as those at John Cammidge will know what platforms typically deliver the best results for businesses in your sector.
· You can try paid ads – Paid social media ads are an art form in themselves. Working with an outsourced team will give you this option should you need it.
· Results – An outsourced team will report to you regularly to show you what they’re doing for their money. If they’re not getting results, you can find someone who will.
· Expertise – Specialists that do the job every day will know what tactics to use to get results.
But outsourcing is not all viral campaigns and conversions. You may also experience some negatives, which are likely to include:
· Lack of knowledge – An outsourced team will not have the same level of knowledge about your offering or be able to respond to customers in the most helpful way.
· Less care – No one loves your business as much as you do. With multiple social media campaigns to manage, it could be that mistakes are made which damage your brand.
· Cost – Social media marketing expertise does not come cheap. It may be more cost effective to handle it in-house.
· There’s no transparency – It’s not always easy to know exactly what an outsourced team is doing for their money. They may say their spending 8 hours a week managing your account, but can you really be sure?
Food for thought
Hopefully I’ve given you plenty to think about when making your decision and not scared you away from social media marketing completely. The more information you can get, the better you’ll feel about your choice.
Most importantly, it’s your business, so never agree to something you’re not completely happy with. We’ve all met salespeople that make their agencies seem like they’re the only solution, but there are lots of options out there, whatever you choose. There are also other social media management options you could explore.