As your business grows, so does the question of how to acquire new sales and leads. The search for new customers and potential business partners begins and that is usually the point where small businesses turn to social media based on promising stats like these:
- 81% of consumers research online before making big purchases.
- Social media is 57% of the modern sales funnel.
- Three in five small businesses say they’ve gained new customers through social media.
So, clearly if social media is important is not the question anymore. The questions that arise for most business owners are: How can I manage my social media presence most effectively? Can my marketing team handle it or should we hire a digital marketing agency? Truthfully, that depends on your goals. Once you’ve established those you can efficiently compare the advantages and disadvantages each option entails. For example, if you want to generate more leads but don’t know how to fully leverage your social media potential to achieve that, hiring an agency will likely get you the return on investment the quickest. In contrast, if your sole interest is to engage directly in conversations with your client base, you might be absolutely fine on your own. Let’s take a look at some important factors.
Social media management: in-house
You know best what is going on inside of your business and can communicate with your audience instantly if you are in control of your social presence. You also know what you want your brand to sound like which makes you your own most authentic spokesperson. If there are any customer inquiries, questions, or complaints coming through via social media, you have all the tools to address and solve them without any hurdles.
However, if you’re not a natural communicator who knows how to use hashtags effectively, keep up brand consistency, and has a good understanding of how to grow your audience beyond your closest friends, this might turn into a dreadful challenge. You’ll have to spend lots of time getting familiar with social media best practices, brush up on your content writing skills and invest into tools and programs that help you measure your results. Another detail to consider is that using social for business requires a well-thought-out overall strategy for audience growth, branding, sales and content marketing. Implementing such, plus preparing, creating, and executing your daily posts and engaging with your audience often simply becomes too much for one marketing person to handle successfully.
Social media management: agency
Did you know that a new social app was launched by the time you had finished the intro to this article? No? That’s okay, because digital marketing agencies do. Agencies prioritize staying-up-to-date with industry changes and trends emerging on social platforms, so your campaign always stays ahead of the pack. They have the brainpower and expert experience to leverage multiple social platforms to the fullest without you having to devote any thought to your next viral contest.
By hiring an agency your company gets a full-stack team of specialists at its disposal to execute any social media campaign from beginning to finish: strategy, planning, research, implementation, content writing, graphics, on-going nurturing and analytics.
Now, let’s assume that you manage to find that social media superhero that appears to have all of these traits and you could hire them for the same price you would need to pay an agency: It is still only one person. One person’s project experience, one person’s creative ideas, one person’s opinion. An important part of successful social media profiles is diversity and that is where a team of 10+ experts in their fields – designers, strategists, copywriters, bloggers, social enthusiasts, PR representatives, web developers, entrepreneurs – can bring a unique advantage to the table.
Social media management: in-house and agency
Depending on your social media goals and your company’s capability to take on social media tasks, I generally think that the best option lies right in the middle of the in-house versus agency dilemma. There’s no denying that no matter how cutting-edge your agency is, they’re not part of your day-to-day action. So, if you’re celebrating “Bring your kids to work” day and want to share some behind-the-scenes images and real-time videos, clearly that’s most efficiently done in-house – as long as you stick to your branding guidelines. When it’s the boss’ birthday and they’re rocking a ridiculous party hat, it just makes sense to be shared right there and then if you want to add that personal touch to your company’s online presence.
However, for the bigger picture things, an agency’s people power and social media experience trumps the in-house, real-time tweeting card. To build brand awareness, strategize your web content schedule, and run efficient contests, sales, and advertising campaigns, the agency team is equipped to do the heavy-lifting while your marketing representative can act as a valuable conduit for the project. Ideally, you or your marketing coordinator have clear goals – increase sales, improve customer engagement, grow email subscribers – and a basic understanding of the work that goes into managing your social accounts. That way you’ll be able judge whether or not the agency is delivering real value.
Even though you may be outsourcing to industry experts, the responsibility that progress is made and things get done ultimately lies with you. You should maintain a close relationship to your digital marketing agency and make sure to tick some crucial boxes when picking one in the first place. Approach hiring an agency the same way you would go about hiring a new employee. Shop around, compare qualifications and see which one fits your needs best. Here are three questions to cover your bases when looking for your perfect agency match:
Questions to ask your prospective social media agency:
Do you have experience with businesses in my industry?
There’s no one-size fits all formula when it comes to social media. Different industries, different goals, different target groups – they all require a unique strategy for every client. When your prospective agency suggests the same strategic approach for your downtown coffee shop as they did for the suburbian mechanic shack, you should run.
How will the success of our campaign be measured?
Measuring social media ROI is important. If an agency can’t explain to you in a few simple words how they go about it, that’s not a great sign. If they measure only based on one single key performance indicator (KPI), that’s not who you want to hire either. As this study by Bright Local shows, using the example of content marketing, there are a number of valuable metrics you need on your radar to get a full picture.
Which social media platform should we focus on to reach our goals?
Even if a digital agency has never worked with a client in your industry before they are experts for a reason. They should be able to apply their skills to any new project. So, assuming you’ve given them some basic info about your company, goals, and social media history in advance, by the time you ask this question they should have done their research and come up with a more tailored answer than “all of them.”
The silver lining of social media agency versus in-house management
Ultimately, you need to weigh out what’s best for your business in the stage you’re currently in. Whatever your budget, long-term and short-term goals you should consider all options carefully before jumping to a solution that seems convenient but doesn’t get you the best return on your investment. Social media marketing is vital to all businesses and you need to hire someone you feel confident in to take your business to the next digital level. Whether that may be an internal marketing manager, an intern, a freelancer, or a digital agency, put some time and research in it and you’ll find a good match.