The conversation surrounding social media has changed drastically over the course of my career. Seven years ago, sales calls centred around whether or not social media was worth the investment. Now, the conversation isn’t about if we should do it (we all know it’s a must), but who should be tasked with it. The three primary options I see exercised are hiring an in-house team, hiring an external agency, or giving it to the intern. When it comes to handling social media, there’s no one size fits all solution. Let’s take a closer look at each option and when they are most appropriate.
An in-house team
For many businesses, hiring someone (likely multiple people) to manage your social media makes a lot of sense. They’re on payroll. They’re sitting in the middle of the office. They’re immersed in the business, and can answer questions about it easily. They’re on-site and ready to create content and share it live, and can access the rest of the team to help support that effort easily. This is a particularly good solution for businesses that have a brick and mortar location where all or most of the content would need to be captured, or for businesses with a large customer service function operating through social media. The challenge with hiring in house, however, are the costs. Employees take time (and money!) to hire, train and manage, as well as taking up costs in space, equipment, salaries and benefits. With that being said, if your business is big enough to afford this and it is the most productive way to address social media, it can be incredibly effective.
Many businesses can’t afford a full-time employee (or more) to manage just their social. They often will, instead, have someone in marketing manage this as a part of their overall role. What happens often in these scenarios is… social media falls by the wayside. (I know—this is the kick off pain point to most of my sales calls.) Social media is marketing, of course, however it’s very unique in execution. It requires relentless focus as it’s ever changing, and it requires uniquely optimized content across channels. It’s part marketing, part customer service, part relationship management, part A/B testing. Now, we’ve all read the Good To Great philosophy written by Jim Collins: hire the best people and get the h*** out of their way. That’s what you get to do when you bring on an agency. Save money on the ergonomic chairs and vacation leave, and pay a team of laser-focused experts who live and breathe social media marketing daily to ensure social is never forgotten. A good social media marketing agency will plug directly into your marketing team, taking a seat at the table, ensuring social efforts amplify and align with your overall marketing strategy.
For small businesses just getting started or solo-preneurs, managing your own social media can be the most effective solution. Not only is it cost effective and saves you time on training someone else, it allows your audience to connect with you directly, which they’ll love. Showing up authentically on social media is of paramount importance for all businesses, but is particularly crucial for small businesses and start-ups. You want to spend time building a relationship with your audience so they get to know you, trust you, and then eventually, buy from you! The one caveat to note is to pay close attention to the opportunity cost as your business grows. You’ll likely reach a point where your time will be better spent developing other areas of the business and you should delegate this responsibility. It can be hard to let go of the reins, but once you do, you’ll never look back!
Handing social media off to the intern is common among businesses. They think: they’re young, they’ve grown up on social media, they must know it better than anyone else. That may be true, but do they know marketing? Do they know your business? Your target market? Are they the ideal person to act as the first point of contact for anyone encountering your business? Consider that. I’m not saying utilizing an intern is never the right strategy. This can be a great way to support a founder who is just starting to delegate pieces of it, and who can be easily accessed for content approvals and to escalate questions. Just don’t make the mistake of going this route without seriously considering whether it’s the right choice for your business.
However you choose to solve for social, don’t let it go without considerable thought and an integrated strategy that aligns with your overall business goals. Social media is not new anymore, so you have no excuses not to be utilizing it as part of your marketing mix (your competitors certainly are!). It’s another limb in your marketing strategy that should be handled with the utmost care and attention to detail. Find the right solution for your business!