There’s a piece in today’s campaign that asks the question “should social media be handled in-house or outsourced to agencies” which I’ve been interviewed for and as it usually happens with these cases people are looking for conclusive black n’ white answers where there’s none so I just wanted to expand on a very narrow statement I am quoted for.
First, there is no such one thing as social media to relate to so any categorical question/answer/statement related to social media is very problematic. This point applies to the question “should social media be handled in-house or outsourced to agencies”. There are so many aspects to social media so there simply cannot be a black or white yes or no answer to this question.
Generally speaking still, you can narrow down ‘social media’ to three key areas for which you can ask the outsource vs. in-house question:
This is the most relevant area for the question above. Managing your permanent presence online (your company blog, facebook page, Twitter account etc). There are 3 possible solutions here:
a) Done completely in-house – this is personally my preferred solution and there are enough examples out there from the awesome innocent people, Yorkshire Tea, Zappos and Dell, when a business takes the digital and social culture seriously and invest in internal resources it is much more cost effective but more importantly it says something about your brand. Being hands-on is always a good thing.
b) But sometimes internal processes, knowledge, structure and personnel simply wouldn’t allow for an in-house team. In this case a dedicated community manager(s) work along side the brand team but with ongoing guidance and direction from the agency that helped recruit and train this person. so it’s a 50-50 ownership and direction. I’ve done it with few clients and in many cases this is the only feasible solution and as close as you get to in-house.
c) In some cases brands are simply either too busy or too lazy to even care about social and for all they care as long as the job is done it can be a cleaning company that handle their spaces. They are happy with an intern in a social media agency to be their voice online. The results of this solution are usually (but not always) lame. Not my cuppa.
This is the area that brand will need the help of their agencies just as they need them for any other creative direction whether it’s ATL, BTL or digital. For your social media oriented campaigns and so called ‘conversation starters’ clients with no in-house creative team definitely need a great creative agency to help them in this area.
And BTW on this point the Lean Mean Fighting / Coke case comes under this category and was just an unfortunate incident. It was a super awesome campaign that very very few brands could pull out in-house. Coke and others reaction was completely out of proportion IMHO
Monitoring, measurement and reporting
Again, no black and white answer. Some clients prefer to be hands-on, trained on the ongoing monitoring dashboard while some will want to pay for this service like they pay for any other research brief – both are completely reasonable and legitimate. Similarly campaign tracking and reporting will normally be done by the agency but can be shared by the client.