The early 2000s were big for marketers, though they didn’t know it yet. LinkedIn launched in 2003. Reddit went live in 2005. Facebook and Twitter both emerged in 2006. Tumblr was born in 2007.
These five sites are the greats of social media, and over the years companies have taken notice and made marketing to social media users a growing priority in their campaigns. However, actually accomplishing this task is much more complicated – it’s one of the first jobs where the less experience you have as a professional marketer, the better. The more experience you have with the sites – and their unique and highly varied cultures and etiquette – the more you’re equipped to write ads that will actually be noticed.
So now we’re in 2016 and your brand is wondering how to approach social media. Should you have someone in house do it? What about tasking your marketing or PR agency with it? How about a specialized agency that only does social media?
It’s enough to make anyone’s head spin, but we’ve taken the liberty of sorting through each option and evaluating which one is best for your situation.
Recognizing Your Priorities
Before you consider any of the following options, it’s critical that you recognize what your real priorities are – why are you interested in having a social media presence? If you’re like many companies, you may first want one because you feel you’re supposed to have one. If you don’t get beyond this, then you’ll likely end up wasting your money – just like any campaign, if there’s no goal, there’s no plan.
So what is social media marketing good for? It’s great at brand awareness and engagement. It can be helpful with loyalty. If done right it can boost conversions. That list is in order of difficulty.
In-House Social Media Management
The first step in evaluating if you want to have a current member of your staff in charge of social media is to evaluate how much time they can spare. Social media management takes considerable time – between finding great things to post, to responding to other members, to evaluating analytics. Your social media manager should have at least two hours a day devoted to the task.
The ideal candidate for this role would be someone who has an interest in marketing – either already in the department or looking to make a lateral move – and has a solid handle on brand messaging and company policy on a wide range of industry issues. This person will essentially represent your brand online, so it’s ill-advised to task a new hire with this job; the best results would be a bland personality that does not garner much reaction, the worst result would be a negative brand personality. If you decide to go the do-it-yourself (DIY) route, there’s a wide range of social media management tools that can help you to automate and manage the posting, monitoring and analytics processes.
If you opt to have an agency handle your social media accounts, you can either take the task to a general digital marketing agency, or you can hire an agency that specializes in social media marketing exclusively.
If you’d like to hire outside help and you already work with an agency, they are likely your best option. They’re already familiar with your branding and will likely require little to no time starting up your accounts.
If you’re shopping around for an agency, or if you want social media to be the key focus of your marketing efforts, it’s worth considering a specialist firm. They will likely require the highest investment on your part, but are also likely to produce the best results. A specialist agency will have the most experience and will be able to pinpoint a social media strategy that is likely to achieve your goals in the shortest amount of time possible.
How to Decide? Cost vs. Control vs. Expertise
At the end of the day, this decision comes down to a simple equation – how important is it to you to keep costs down vs. how much control you want over the campaign vs. how important it is that the campaign be executed flawlessly by experts.
If you have a simple message and a low budget, you’ll probably want to stick with in-house social media. If you’re part of a slightly less accessible industry and a medium budget, you’ll likely want to either hire an expert or use a general agency. If you’re part of a very complex and nuanced industry, and have a larger budget, you’ll want to pick a social media marketing company.
As with any vendor conversation, I urge you to compare and contrast your options. This should not be a rash decision made in one meeting – weigh your options within each category, especially when evaluating agencies. It’s a good idea to pick at least five, possibly up to ten, and request proposals from them so that you can get a better idea of their skills and weaknesses, as well as what costs you can expect to incur.
Lastly, keep in mind that social media is so prevalent because it’s fun! It’s how people stay connected with those they would have otherwise lost touch with – make sure your brand respects that need. It’s a place to be as casual as you’re comfortable with. Done right, it’s the stage where your brand’s personality will shine the brightest.