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More than ever before, your customers today are online and spending more time on social media platforms. To reach them, you may need to establish, expand, or improve your social media team.

To hire and whom to hire? That is the question.

With social media marketing now decades into existence, various options in talent and resources are available to you.

But what solution is best for your company: an in-house social media manager, an agency partner, or a consultant or freelance partner?

Five Considerations

Before making any decision, consider these five key points:

  1. Goals. Quite simply, what are your social media goals? Having a clear understanding of exactly where you'd like your social media to be, or what will define success, is the most important first step.
  2. Needs. Now knowing what you're hoping your social channels will achieve, what will it take to get there? Production of fresh creative assets, more robust tools, more manpower, a new perspective or experience, or something else?
  3. Expertise. Who would have the appropriate level of experience to manage the workload? Would it be a junior, midlevel, or expert individual or team? Or a team with a combination of differing levels?
  4. Internal resources for training and compliance. How hands-on do you want to be in managing this individual or team? More realistically, how much bandwidth do your department or your company have? Is your team equipped to take on employer responsibilities?
  5. Budget. Finally, what is the available budget? Having a firm understanding of the budget available to achieve your social media goals and bring on the help you need will play a significant role in finding the appropriate fit.

Internal Hire

Pros

  • Brand knowledge and familiarity—this person will know and understand your brand inside and out.
  • Employees are a dedicated resource with dependable hours.
  • Employees' work can be directly overseen, and they can be tasked with carrying out the exact duties you are looking for.
  • Companies can most easily know what the impact on budget, in the form of an agreed-upon salary or determined hours and rate.

Cons

  • Hiring employees comes with additional costs: taxes, insurance, and often benefits related to health, dental, retirement, and more.
  • Hiring employees also comes with additional time required for training, managing, and fulfilling employee compliance requirements.
  • Hiring employees is typically the least flexible option if you end up realizing your company has other needs or an employee is not working out.
  • You may be limited by the employee's skillset or expertise.
  • If you need tools, you will be responsible for providing them to the employee to learn and use, rather than gaining access to them and trained talent via a third-party partner (like an agency).

Agency

Pros

  • Agencies often bring fresh ideas, high levels of creativity, and a breadth of experience and backgrounds.
  • If you don't have access to (or don't want to enter into long-term contracts to obtain) robust tools, working with an agency might give you access to the tools you need (or the resulting benefit they provide, such as data.)
  • Though you may work and meet with your agency team regularly, agency partners require the least amount of time or bandwidth on your end. You should not need to train, manage, or carry any employer responsibilities.
  • There is some flexibility in your partnership, depending on your contract terms and the length of your partnership. For example, if it's just not working out, it's generally simpler to end an agency relationship than to fire an employee.

Cons

  • Companies may have limited control over the work quality, execution strategy, and results.
  • Third parties (such as agencies and consultants) typically won't know your brand as well as you or your employees do.
  • Your agency partner may not feel as dedicated to your success (though good ones will).
  • Agency employees often work on several accounts, so they may be spread thin and not giving your account the attention it deserves.
  • Typically (not always) agency partners are the most expensive option.

Pro or Con

Your account team may regularly change. If you like a rotation of individuals for flexibility and fresh ideas, that might be ideal. If you like knowing your team members well and having them deeply understand your brand, it may be a negative experience.

Consultant or Freelancer

Pros

  • A wide variety of consultants/freelancers from junior to expert level are available in the market and can fill in resource or experience gaps on your team, or bring new insights and ideas.
  • As with an agency partner, they should not require any bandwidth on your part for training or managing, nor any employer responsibilities or costs.
  • If you prefer having some input and insight into how things are done, some consultant/freelancer may be willing to work like an external team member.
  • Consultant partnerships typically offer the most flexibility, depending on your contract terms and the length of your partnership. (It may also be the most flexible option in terms of budget.)
  • Consultants/freelancers are generally nimble and assessible, and you know exactly who you are working with.

Cons

  • If you like the idea of having access to a lot of tools, a consultant or freelancer may not offer what you are looking for.
  • Like agencies, consultants typically won't know your brand as well as you or your employees do. (Though, often, they will be eager to learn, as your success is their success.)
  • Consultants have to manage their time carefully; if they don't, they may become spread thin across multiple clients in the same way as an agency.
  • Consultants may bring in fresh ideas and creative insights, but they won't bring the brainpower of an entire agency team.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Devon Gardner

Devon Gardner is the founder and CEO of Devon Victoria Communications, a Denver-based boutique social media consultancy helping businesses reach their ideal audience online.

LinkedIn: Devon Gardner

Twitter: @MsDevonVictoria