Does your company currently outsource marketing services to an agency? A common route for most mid-market companies is to seek outside agency help with their marketing strategy and implementation of the many varied but specific marketing niches that have become essential components of an organization’s integrated marketing plan. An organization may look to outsource marketing to any of the following: the building of new websites, search-engine optimization (SEO), media planning and buying services to monitor and optimize company spend on TV, online, newspaper or magazine ad space. Most mid-market companies and many large enterprise companies are better off not attempting to build their own in-house team to accomplish these highly specific marketing tasks. In our experience, mid-market companies are always riding the fence as to whether or not to outsource marketing to a social media agency or build an internal team of their own.
Being a social media agency that specializes in producing an array of customized social media content that we utilize on a daily basis to produce real business results for our clients, the choice seems like a no-brainer to us. There are far and few companies out there with an internal team credible enough and loaded with the right talent to accomplish what we do for our clients on social media. With that being said, we completely understand their apprehension and reluctance to outsource social media marketing. For starters, there are unfortunately a large number of marketing companies out there selling social media services that produce very little value for a brand and deliver little to no actual business results. They’re simply not build to produce sophisticated brand storytelling for social media which might include a slew of strategic brand videos that require experienced production crews and that level of creative brand photography one should expect from an agency. Social media audiences have come to expect this.
In this blog, we want to go over some of the key differences between brands which outsource marketing to a social media agency and those that make the choice to keep social within the walls of their organization.
Brands That Outsource Marketing Inherit a Passionate Team/
While we can’t speak on behalf of all social media agencies, we can say with certainty that here at ImagiBrand we have a high standard for brand storytelling and high expectation for the social media marketing strategy we develop for our clients. We are driven by our strong desire to help the brands that choose to outsource marketing to an agency so they can finally reach their full online potential. For some clients, their primary business objective is to grow their B2C revenue and/or B2B partnerships. For other clients, the driving force might be to extend the overall reach of their brand story and strengthen of relationship their brand has with their social media community. Whichever the marketing initiative, agencies are highly motivated to please their clients and exceed any and all expectations of senior leadership.
The same is not always the case when it comes to internal social media marketing teams. Unlike the agency world where marketers and content creators are continually engaged by the variety of clients, industries, and marketing challenges they encounter on a daily basis, internal social media staff is at risk of complacency and simply maintaining the status quo. Rather than pushing the boundaries of what can be possible each year, internal teams can become uninspired and only motivated by those end of month social media reports that senior leadership only gives a cursory glance at best.
The brand story for a company is always evolving. The excitement for any agency is being able to attribute brand growth to their creative and strategic efforts. The brand/agency relationship should be the ultimate partnership. The success of a brand is success for the agency. We’re all in this together.
Results are Achieved Sooner When Brands Outsource Marketing/
When an organization makes the decision to outsource marketing and work with a social media agency, there is an inherent expectation for results of some kind. That is, at least we certainly hope that is the case. Why else would any company of any size outsource marketing? In most cases, an agency will have the team, strategic business consultants, access to market research and analytical tools, creative talent to execute content creation, and a plethora of experience. This type of agency infrastructure will, in many cases, achieve a company’s desired results sooner than an in-house social media team. Why is this the case? There are several factors why an in-house social media team sometimes takes longer to achieve actual results:
Company Leadership + HR Department Don’t Understand Social to Hire For Social
We’re not suggesting that designing and executing a social media marketing strategy is anything close to rocket science. It certainly is not. The issue is an understandable lack of knowledge by the C-suite with regards to the ins-and-outs of building brands and using data to market and remarket a line of products and services on various social media channels and then having a strategy to integrate social with the rest of a company’s marketing and overall business strategy. If the leadership in charge of hiring an in-house social team doesn’t know the right questions to ask or know what to screen for in hiring in-house social media experts, there is a great chance that a company is wasting time, money, and quite possibly, their brand reputation by hiring the wrong personnel.
Too Much Trial and Error Occurring on the Brand’s Social Channels
Believe it or not, many in-house social media teams have little to no actual experience marketing through social media. Maybe they were moved into the position from another department or possibly sold the company based on their passion and experience with their PERSONAL social media presence. There is a huge difference between business social media and personal social media. One requires only a cell phone and a bunch of trivial posting for friends, family and whomever your personal brand attracts while the other actual requires a combination of business expertise, social media expertise for brands in various industries, and high-end content creation capabilities. If a company is serious about capitalizing on the power of social media marketing from a B2B and B2C growth perspective and a PR/reputation management perspective, they should not risk an inexperienced in-house team to risk their online brand reputation and/or waste years using company time and resources to figure out how to actually be effective for the company which employs them. To be candid, many inexperienced social teams have a few years before company leadership actually begins to question whether or not they know what they’re doing. Show the C-suite a few meaningless charts and graphs which reflect growth in likes and followers on their social pages, and the team has probably bought themselves the time to try certain tactics, make mistakes and hopefully learn from those mistakes until they stumble upon some real strategies that benefit their employers.
The In-House Social Team is Not Actually a Dedicated Social Media Team
We come across this scenario at some very large companies all too often. The “social media team” is made up of a collection of administrative assistants at the organization whose primary responsibilities are not to manage social media. This situation arises from C-Suite ignorance about the need to dedicate resources and the necessary percentage of the annual marketing budget on their brand story on social media. The results are inconsistency in the quality of content posted, brand messaging, responsiveness to a social media community, and ultimately, the publishing of social posts. In our opinion, if a company is not ready to make a commitment to their social media presence, their brand is better off waiting until they are ready.
In-House Social Teams Struggle with Creating Original Branded Content/
It is not uncommon for in-house social media teams at organizations to struggle with creating high-quality branded content to consistently fill their company’s social streams. Many of these social media managers and social media assistants might have a technical writing, communications and/or public relations background. However, it is rare that these same professionals have a background in video production, photography and graphic design to publish original, brand-specific content. This is not to say that a company cannot recruit a multi-talented team within the walls of their organization. The larger the brand and the deeper the pockets, the chances for building a team with the right blend of skills obviously increases. Recruiting this level of talent is challenging and might feel like trying to locate that needle in a haystack. Most highly skilled brand storytellers in the visual arts are typically not the office-type spending their day in front of a computer managing the strategy on a company’s social media streams. Sometimes these skills are polar opposites that a company is best to not force them together in one person. A company will always optimize results when they place their staff in positions where they can be successful. Would it be wise to assign your CFO to be in charge of the creative rebrand of your company? Of course not. Then why would you expect a social media manager educated and skilled in written communications be just as knowledgeable, passionate, and proficient with video gear, photography equipment and the full Adobe suite of graphics programs? You shouldn’t.
That is not to say that all social media agencies are skilled at producing high-quality, original content for the brands they represent. Some agencies are only staffed with writers and administrators, not content creators. They will share any existing creative assets your company can supply or they’ll simply fill your social streams with random curation of content from other sources. In small doses, content curation from other publishers is fine. However, sending traffic away from your social pages to the websites of other entities on a regular basis doesn’t make a lot of business sense. If your company is looking to outsource marketing and has been speaking with a social media agency about the possibility of taking over the management of your social streams, it is imperative that you understand what their plan is for your brand’s content. If any agency you reach out to starts by inquiring about the number of social media channels you’d like to have managed and the number of social media posts per day you should expect per day, and not talking about creating original social media CONTENT, our advice is simply – RUN LIKE THE WIND! These agencies will not be helping your brand accomplish anything on social media.
Greater Access to Competitive Data When Brands Outsource Marketing/
Most organizations don’t have access to market research databases and online tools used in the agency world. First, many of these research and tools are expensive and don’t make sense for a single company to invest in their access. Second, most organizations don’t know the differences between tools, nor which ones they actually need to drive brand strategy. Believe us, every year brings forth new analytical tool, new databases, and updates to existing tools that it’s challenging enough to keep agency staff updated. This is a huge benefit for brands deciding to outsource marketing to an agency.
If an organization is new to social media, are launching new products to the market, and/or simply lack internal knowledge about social media marketing, we always highly recommend starting out with a social media audit. This extensive quantitative and qualitative analysis of a company, its competitive landscape and market results in an integrated social media marketing strategy across multiple touchpoints. Unlike some more traditional marketing channels in an organization’s marketing mix, social media creates rich data that every brand should be utilizing. Business social media is all about strategy and using the data that’s out there to learn from the competition, thereby positioning your brand for success with its marketing efforts.
Stop the Turnover Headache When Brands Outsource Marketing/
It’s tough enough to recruit talent. It’s even tougher these days to retain this talent from jumping at the next opportunity at another company. Today’s workforce does not share the same loyalty and commitment that once existed in previous generations. That’s not always a bad thing, but this turnover headache does put immense stress on a company, its process, and its morale. Some roles at certain companies are difficult to replace. This all depends on whether or not your organization has a good process for knowledge transfer from one employee to another, regardless if the departing employee is able to provide training to the incoming one. One of the worst things that can happen to any company is when they invest a few years in a particular member of the staff to learn social media marketing, accumulate knowledge, and develop expertise that is somewhat specific to this company, its products, and its industry, only to have them abruptly quit or get fired, leaving the company no choice but to start all over again. This type of setback for a brand can be especially hard on its ongoing social media process and strategy, assuming they had one.
When brands outsource marketing to a social media agency, they can avoid the disruption caused by in-house employee turnover. Agency staff stick around longer, due in large part to their exposure to marketing more brands in more industries compared to only being exposed to the same company day-in, day-out. Simply put, agency work is fun, exciting and always evolving. Agency staff develop a professional family which extends farther out than just the agency staff themselves, but also to all the accounts and relationships developed with their client partners. Turnover at agencies become less frequent and therefore less disruptive.
Most important is of the utmost importance at agencies. Most agencies have a documented process and multiple staff for performing any duty affecting clients and have full awareness of the relationships and status of client accounts. In the event that someone leaves their post at an agency, there is always someone else that can step right in and take over. The client will not experience the same disruption that they might at their own organization.
Inherit a Team of Creative Specialists at a Social Media Agency/
Many companies already have an in-house graphic designer. If not, they have a branding agency or access to some trusted freelance graphic artists they’ve used in the past for designing website assets or marketing collateral. Most companies at some point in time have hired a freelance photographer to create a look book or to document a company event. Some companies have hired a video production company to create a company promotional video or television commercial. Far fewer have hired these same creative professionals for their social media content. Why? Your guess is as good as ours. It makes little to no sense that any company would place less of a priority on the professionalism and branding of the content that more than likely receive more consistent and targeted eyeballs on social media than many of their other marketing channels.
Hopefully, the social media agency that your brand chooses to outsource marketing to has an in-house creative team to support everything they do for your brand. Brand storytelling should be at the core of anything an agency does. Brand photography and social media graphics should be strategic and tasteful. Corporate video production for social media should be a top priority no matter which channels your brand builds its presence. You’ve heard it time and time again – content is king. Without content, a company has no brand on social media.
Time for Your Brand to Outsource Marketing to a Social Media Agency?/
There always comes that point in time when the C-Suite ponders the question, “Can we do better?” Of course, you can. There always exists a better solution for everything. You can always find a cheaper way to do things, but as the saying goes, you get what you pay for in this life. If brand reputation is important to your organization, then finding the right social media partner to outsource marketing to should be at the top of your list of priorities. Social media marketing has come a long, long way since the early days of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. Don’t allow more time to go by while your competitors have been upping their game and their social media presence. It might finally be time for your brand to outsource marketing to a social media agency.