Social Media Marketing: Should You Hire an Agency or Keep it In-House?

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Social Media Marketing: Should You Hire an Agency or Keep it In-House?

Having a presence on top social media sites has become a necessity, as opposed to a luxury, for businesses in most industries. In addition to simply generating leads, social networks keep businesses connected with their audience and help nurture relationships. When launching a social media marketing campaign, there are two main paths to choose when it comes to sourcing management talent.

The first is to hire a professional agency to handle the campaign. The second is to do it in-house, where one or more employees are responsible for performing tasks. Below, I’ll outline the pros and cons of each option.

Social Media Agency: Advantages

The extensive knowledge and experience that agencies bring to the table is perhaps their biggest advantage. Agency employees eat, sleep, and breathe social media, and they have an array of experience across numerous industries. They have an understanding of which networks your company would most benefit from, and they know the ideal approach for execution of your campaign.

For instance, most businesses will typically use Facebook and Twitter, but an agency might recommend and know how to extract value from sites like Tumblr, Pinterest, and Instagram, depending on your industry or product.

Since they’re an outside party, a social media agency can make an objective assessment of your business and implement a strategy that gives you the greatest chance of success. In many cases, they can also ensure the quickest results because they know what works and what doesn’t. Due to the learning curve associated with social media marketing, partnering with an agency can prevent typical newbie mistakes. Rather than spending time experimenting with different possibilities, a concrete plan can be put into action right away so you can get a quicker return on investment.

As your campaign progresses, an agency can also use analytics and other tools to optimize various aspects of the campaign. For instance, they may use software like HootSuite, SproutSocial, or Google Analytics to monitor each social media channel. Knowing which software to use and how to use it takes time to master. Luckily, the skill set of an agency will help unearth a wealth of information over time, which will translate into more followers, more shares, and ultimately, increased sales.

Social Media Agency: Disadvantages

When it comes to drawbacks of hiring an agency, one of the most obvious is the immediate cost of an agency. While pricing will vary, it’s easy to rack up a bill when hiring an outside party. Even though the revenue generated from sales should, in theory, exceed the cost of an agency in the long run, the initial cost can be a barrier to entry for many companies with a limited marketing budget. This is especially true for smaller companies and startups that have yet to gain real momentum.

Another issue is that outsiders don’t always have a full understanding of your industry. Since the content created for a campaign is based around niche-specific information, it can be difficult for an outsider to gain the trust of an audience. Although an agency can spend time researching and learning about an industry, it’s unlikely to match the knowledge of a company representative who has been in the industry for years.

In addition, you may find yourself at a loss when you and your agency part ways. If your business is completely reliant upon a partner, and never learns the fundamentals of campaign management, it can make things challenging down the road.

In House: Advantages

By using team members from within your company, you’re much more likely to have specific industry knowledge and insight. This can be valuable when it comes to creating content in which your audience is interested. Choosing the in-house approach is also an effective way to lay down solid social media foundations and maintain a level of stability.

You can also expect to save a considerable amount of money with this option. According to Mashable, “Handling all social media efforts in-house is often the most affordable route for small business owners. Per hour, an agency’s time or a consultant’s time is going to be much more expensive than a full or part-time employee.” When you don’t have a big marketing budget, using the talents of in-house employees can allow you to achieve results without breaking the bank.

Having team members who understand how to run a social media campaign can have definite long-term benefits. Although there will be a learning curve—and you won’t experience results overnight—your company will eventually gain the knowledge and experience to thrive in the social media space. You won’t be at the mercy of a single agency, and there will be added sustainability.

In House: Disadvantages

In terms of drawbacks, you may not have adequate human resources to effectively run a proper social media marketing campaign. If employees already have their hands full with other tasks, it may simply be asking too much to spend hours each week on social media. In some cases, this can spread team members too thin, leaving other areas of your business to suffer.

It may also be a matter of limited abilities and/or enthusiasm. Sometimes, employees just aren’t interested in this type of marketing and don’t want to take the time to learn how it works. Without everyone on board and collaborating with one another, a social media campaign can do more harm than good.

There’s also the issue of the length of time it takes to see tangible results. Before you gain a serious following and build a name for yourself, you’re likely to experience some growing pains. Rather than getting a large amount of exposure in weeks, it could take months or even years. This can be demoralizing to some companies who are hoping to see results right away.

Finally, it’s possible to make the same mistakes with an in-house approach. Since team members might not know about all the resources for analyzing data, they can end up using the same technique even when it’s ineffective. There is also the problem that in-house employees lack the objectivity of an agency. They may convince themselves that something is working when it really isn’t, just to appease management.


In conclusion, when choosing your approach to social media marketing, there are several factors to take into account. Some businesses opt for hiring an agency for every single detail of a campaign, while others prefer to do everything themselves. Whatever your preference, there are pros and cons to each method.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Jayson DeMers
Jayson DeMers is the founder & CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based content marketing & social media agency. You can contact him on LinkedIn, Google+, or... Read Full Bio
Jayson DeMers
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  • Dean Murphy

    Nice piece.
    Key to the success of using an agency is the agency’s ability to understand the client’s products, services, ethos and markets, especially in the B2B world.
    Another factor worthy of consideration in the decision to use an agency, or not, is how image savvy in-house contributors might be. A slip of a tongue (or finger on the keyboard), or ill-thought comment or article which might appear humorous can have drastic effects on a company’s image. An agency is less likely to make such mistakes, as they are laying their reputations on the line as well.

  • Roam Business

    A well written and balanced article. We cannot speak for all agencies, however, our policy – and it is an integral part of our contracts – is that every business we represent have a permanent, company designated, “business development” person, or liason that will assure that all SM content is in conformity with the client company’s mission statement.and ethics.
    Another aspect of our technique is that we plan our exit from the contract with the client by familiarizing our clients with every application and SM platform we use in cultivating a campaign. No agency should have a client “at their mercy”, it just stinks of extortion.
    Educating businesses in the proper and profitable use of Social Media is far more profitable for any respectable agency and in the long run, will lead to a multitude of quality referrals.
    Any small or medium sized business with the intention of using an agency for Social Media Marketing should look for these qualities prior to signing a contract. Any agency worth its salt should be willing to fully explain its methodology at length prior to any agreement being signed.
    Roam Business
    Montreal, Canada

  • Tommy

    Great post!
    I totally agree with the pro’s & con’s as you have said. I would suggest that if working with an agency then getting trained on the ins and outs of what they do, how they do it and how to do it yourself is paramount, just in case you have a parting of ways for any reason. It pays to have an understanding of what a companies suppliers are doing for lots of reasons and becoming trained will also allow for the choice of bringing it in house at a later date.
    Keep up the good work.

  • David Weightman

    Thanks Jayson for sharing this. I am taking to a lot of consideration lately whether it’s a wise move to hire an agency for social media marketing or to just work it out myself. Good thing you’ve been able to point it out since I’m having a hard time weighing such factors. If I were to hire an agency, the first apprehension that i have in my mind is the idea of how to monitor the progress of the site. It is crucial for me to be updated 24/7 on how my business goes along the internet, and the manner of how it is marketed to people. More power to you and see you in your future post! =)

  • Steve Moore

    How do I go about finding the right agency for a social media campaign? Are there associations, etc?

  • Monika Rathi

    Hi.. Jayson,
    Again i found this as a fab post, this includes both advantages & disadvantages of agency
    and in-house..
    but i think in-house is better than agency, because in-house is more compatible and can acquire more knowledge about your business pattern in depth.

  • presta

    its better to hire a agency i think,which have some valid credentials of past to show…as agency have a plan and resource to execute which can meet our deadlines soon….Thanks for good resource

  • Neuron Softech LLC

    Hello Jayson,

    Great post! Thanks for sharing this knowledgeable article with us.
    I do agree with some of your points. At the same time, I do think there are talented individuals out there that can run social media for a company.

    Nicely done!! Wishing you continued success and I look forward to more of your posts.