April 1, 2012

Rachel Strella

Social Media Management: The In-House vs. Outsourced Debate

By Rachel Strella

One of the biggest debates in the social media management community is whether it’s better to manage social media in-house or outsource these efforts to an experienced third party.

I’ve found those who favor keeping social media in-house often believe that only company employees have the necessary knowledge to communicate effectively on behalf of the company. Those in favor of outsourcing argue that having a strong knowledge of and passion for social media are fundamental to making social media efforts successful. In other words, some companies don’t have the in-house knowledge or passion to make it work.

Both of these arguments make sense to me, so I would say that there is no absolute ‘right answer’ in this debate. It all depends on the type and size of the business, as well as its goals.

Take small businesses, for example. Many of them simply don’t have the time or resources to effectively manage social media in-house. Why should this exclude them from establishing a social media presence? An outsourced social media manager who can work overtime in a company is probably the best option in this case.

Larger businesses or corporations are more likely to have the resources for an in-house social media manager. They may already have an employee dedicated to it. However, I’ve seen some in-house managers who lack passion for social media and it often shows up in the form of content that is not engaging. I’ve also seen companies that lack of understanding about what social media is and what will get the best results. In these cases, managing social media in-house can be a waste of time.

In terms of expertise, it’s true that in-house employees have the business expertise and are more likely to understand the interworkings of a company. According to the best public relations Dubai has to offer, outsourced social media managers often have the passion and knowledge for social media to generate results, but they must have a good communication system in place with the company so their content is in-line with the company brand. Sometimes this is difficult to establish and maintain, especially with larger companies.

If your company understands social media, has the necessary manpower, and that manpower has passion for social media, then in-house social media management is probably the way to go. But, that’s a lot of “ifs.”

If you don’t have all these bases covered, I would argue that outsourcing social media is probably a good idea.

Later in the week,  I'll discuss another challenge: how social media professionals still have to sell the idea of social media as much as their individual credibility.

What you think about the in-house vs. outsourced social media management debate? Which do you or would you embrace and why?

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9 comments on “Social Media Management: The In-House vs. Outsourced Debate”

  1. Rachel, this is certainly a much-debated topic, with views on both sides. I agree that it's largely a matter of the available bandwidth and interest of a company in applying internal resources to social media outreach. Sometimes the sweet spot is for an outside agency to provide the necessary kick-start or ongoing coaching for a social media program and/or assist the client in identifying or hiring a resource to continue the effort. On a purely outsourced basis, my question is how does a PR and marketing budget scale for what essentially would be 24/7 vigilance and engagement (to do it right)?

    1. Joel,

      You hit the nail on the head. The sweet spot is indeed coaching/training from an outside agency. I recommend it to folks who are just starting out, so they have an effective plan going forward. I also find, with coaching, the accountability helps!

      I'm not sure I understand the question re: outsourcing and the budget. Are you asking the 'cost' of outsourcing for the 24/7 brand monitoring and engagement?


      1. Monitoring and posting to Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, etc. plus tracking blog posts & comments can take several hours a day, depending on client requirements for volume of engagement and vigilance. Since agencies bill by time (even with a flat retainer you have to track hours to calc business metrics), outside support might be pricey for small and medium-sized businesses. Do you find greater cost efficiencies with an in-house resource doing the heavy lifting, or have you devised a budget approach that enables you to provide those SM services so that there is budget for other PR & marketing activities, such as traditional media relations, content development, design, collateral creation, measurement, etc.?

        1. Joel,
          Just an overview on how my company handles management operations…

          All clients have social media content timed to run on software except for: when promoting a blog link, Pinterest pinning, Google+ messages, or LinkedIn Company profile messages. I adjust my pricing to reflect any work that needs done manually on those channels. Right now, we only have two clients who have Google+ messages and they are not as frequent as other channels such as Facebook or Twitter. We have several that use Pinterest and LinkedIn Company Profiles.

          In terms of monitoring and engagement, I receive email notifications for all Facebook fan page and Pinterest interactions. We check LinkedIn and Twitter accounts at least once daily and interact, accordingly. At any time, I can log into my software and see all notifications for all clients instantly. All of our clients are signed up for Google alerts and social mentions, which are sent to my email if there is any interaction. Most blogs also allow for email notifications. Clients choose whether they would like me to be notified or if they would prefer the notification. If the notification goes to me, I coordinate with the client appropriately.

          What takes the most time is the content development. Unless otherwise requested, we write all of the content for the social sites and blogs. This involves a great deal of planning and coordinating. It also requires a good relationship and communication system with the client.

          All that being said, every client has different needs and different levels of management. I offer packages based on the strategy we develop. Sometimes, I spend more time than planned, but I would never nickel and dime them for that time.

          The non-financial advantages of hiring someone like me: consistency, creativity, and knowledge of social media. The financial advantages: the cost is still way below the cost of an employee. Taxes, payroll costs and insurance alone can equate to more than what they would pay an outside party.

          Regarding your last question, we take a look at everything when meeting with prospects for the first time. We learn their goals, challenges, resources, finances and current marketing initiatives. It's important that we devise a plan that will a) meet their online goals b) enhance or integrate with current marketing and/or advertising, PR, or communications efforts c) give them the best value for their budget (again, integrating/working with not necessarily 'taking from' other marketing avenues), d) minimize the time the client needs to spend on their efforts by establishing a communication system that works best for them and e) measure and evaluate so can benchmark but also remain flexible to shift efforts based on these results and/or changes in new media.

          If the client would like to do the heavy-lifting, the cost is always less, especially if they prefer to develop the content. Overall, I find if clients wish to manage social media in-house, they hire someone like me for consulting/training/coaching. I find I become a resource, accountability partner, and consultant to these efforts.


          1. We're battling this one as well. We hear "wow! $130/hr is really expensive." Is it? Or is it an insurance policy that enables us (an interactive marketing group of 2) to do other things.

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