Kate is a social media specialist with over five years of dynamic experience. She lives for snowboarding and loves 90s jams, so next time you see a girl tearing up the mountain and signing backstreet boys, you'll know who it is. Kate is driven to grow your business through the power social media and produces nothing but top notch strategy.

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Social Media Showdown: Agency vs. In-House

Boxing Image final.001In This Corner…

Embracing social media is essential to every digital marketing strategy. As we enter into 2014, Facebook is now home to more than 1 billion active users and more than 60% of social media time is spent on a mobile device or tablet. If you don’t have a social media presence, it’s time to take the plunge!

When developing a social media strategy, one of the biggest questions is whether to hire an in-house employee or to outsource to a social media agency. As a social media marketer who has been on both sides of the fence, I wanted to review the pros and cons of each option to help you make the right decision.

Agency Pros:

Agencies make sure you get the most bang for your buck. This means your budget can be stretched across services like: strategy development, implementation, video production, content creation and platform management. Plus, an agency doesn’t require you to cover health benefits, vacation time, office equipment, training or any other costs associated with hiring a full-time employee.

Agencies also pride themselves on hiring the best of the best in the areas that they specialize in, so you can skip the heavy (and costly) training period. Agency geeks who eat, sleep, and breathe social media are always on the forefront of the industry; learning all the new tricks and trends to knock your social strategy out of the park. Going this route is like hiring a number of highly skilled people for the price of one.

Agency Cons:

Even though the higher cost of an agency will pay for itself in the long run, the initial investment can be a barrier to entry for many companies. Also, even though agencies are dedicated to learning the client’s industry, it’s unlikely that they will acquire the same depth of knowledge as someone who has been working in the industry for years. This can be a deciding factor for some, as social is a direct extension of your brand and should be baked into your company culture.

In-house Pros:

This is often an effective route if you have a small budget or lack of company buy-in. When faced with a small budget, it’s typical to weave a “social media coordinator” role into an existing position. This, unfortunately, often results in a poorly executed social strategy as the employee is stretched too thin or is not given adequate time to work on it.

Another option is to hire a dedicated social media contractor to join your team. They tend to be fairly experienced and typically charge less than an agency. Still, an inside employee will have greater product knowledge and more brand loyalty, which is an integral part of your social strategy. You can address this with training for the most part, but no one will ever do your brand better than you.

In-house Cons:

Hiring a full-time employee to manage and implement your social strategy will cost you roughly $40,000 – $60,000 a year. Then, add on health benefits, vacation time, office equipment and training not to mention the time spent finding the right person. Also, after the initial investment, the employee is still essentially on their own. Two brains are always better than one. When you have single employee or contractor managing your social media, they just don’t have the breadth of knowledge that comes with hiring an agency of experienced professionals.

A Little Bit of Both:

If you have the budget, pursuing the best of both worlds is very effective and highly recommended. This way, you can hire a skilled agency to build a strategy that is tailored to you, and work with your in-house team to implement it. Many agencies also offer support services such as social coaching and best practice research to assist your internal team. If you’re serious about social media marketing, then this is definitely the way to go.

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Winner and Still Champion…

The decision on whether to hire an agency or an in-house employee is highly dependant on internal factors. It should be based on your business goals, your allocated budget, and industry specific needs.

Have you been faced with this decision? What method worked best for you? Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments below.