A few months ago, I attended a marketing conference in Miami, FL. Being that I was the 'social guy' in the room, of course, I was asked all of the questions related to social media. From what should I do on Twitter to does anybody even use Google plus? . . . I answered all of the questions based on my experiences and each question that I answered, was followed by another (related) question. Then came Craig (I think that was his name) who apparently wasn’t convinced.

[Ahem] “I understand social media is beneficial to any businesses, but seriously, no one in their right mind would hire a social media agency when they can just hire someone in-house. . . am I right or am I right?”

Interestingly enough, I’ve answered this question a billion times and I usually try to give a quick overview of the benefits of hiring an agency but since the gentlemen was so direct (rude) about it, I decided to answer him. . . directly.

Let’s explore my answers:

Cost: Employees Cost Too Much

No matter the company, there comes a time when every CEO decides to take his (or her) product or service to the next level. For this example, we’ll call this CEO, Ray. Ray notices that all of his competitors are using social networks to engage with their fans and customers so he decides to finally join in. He hires a social media manager (named Chris) to handle his company’s social marketing and pays him an annual salary of $60,000.

Now, it’s a known fact that hiring a full-time employee costs a lot more than it seems. There are payroll taxes, health benefits, equipment needs, office space, training, paid time-off. . . you see where I’m going with this?

Alternatively, what if Ray used his $60,000 budget to hire a social media agency. For starters, that agency won’t require health and other benefits that Ray would have to offer to Chris (his social media manager). In addition, Ray can also be certain that his $60,000 annual budget will be stretched to encompass a full social media marketing campaign including: research, planning, strategy + execution and in most cases will include various services such as design, video production, public relations, social community management, short-term and long-term campaigns + promotions, social aggregation, analytics + reporting, and more.

This brings me directly to my next point-

People: Agencies Have More Brain Power

A successful social campaign includes design, video production, PR, strategy, and everything else I mentioned before. So, unless Chris is superman himself, we can’t really be too certain that he will have all of the skill sets required to handle all aspects of the campaign. In most cases, Chris is probably a very talented writer with strong communication and presentational skills. He’s a very organized person who loves planning and is very optimistic.

Still. . . unfortunately, he cannot do it all. I mean... “he’s not superman, you know!”

Hiring an agency, on the other hand, is like hiring a team of 10+ people for the price of one. Most agencies are made up of executives, designers + illustrators, strategists, copywriters, bloggers, social enthusiasts, PR representatives, web developers, even entrepreneurs; all of whom live their own lives and have their own experiences that they bring to the table. So when they’re all included in the social strategy meetings or the brainstorm session, Ray can rest assured that his campaign strategy will be looked at from every angle.

Oh. . . and what happens when Chris is out on vacation (or worst, sick)? . . . We’ll tell you: questions aren’t answered, fans aren’t updated, campaigns aren’t being managed, and etc. But, as an agency, not only can someone else pick up where the other person left off, we have the tools and know-how to pre-plan/schedule posts when needed.

Having a great agency relationship is also beneficial for companies as they grow. The higher your marketing budget, the more capabilities the agency can provide for you.

Tactics: Agencies Breed Social Nerds

Did you know that there are a pair of headphones out there that you can use to listen to any conversation happening at anytime. If so, then did you know you can use those headphones to listen to the people who are talking about your company (both good and bad)? And if that isn’t enough, did you know that you can also use those headphones to listen to people that might potentially need your company?

That headphone, my friend, is a very cool tool/platform that we’ve all grown to know as Twitter.

Twitter has an amazing advanced search feature that agencies use to control and join conversations happening around their client’s brand. The agency can then engage with satisfied customers, not-so-happy customers, and curious potential customers in the most appropriate form.

Like I said: agencies breed social nerds.

Did you also know that a new social tool was launched by the time you began reading this article? The social world is always evolving.

Agencies make it their top priority to stay-up-to-date with and learn all about the new tools and tactics emerging in our social world; either from each other inside the agency or from outside sources. In other words, an agency will challenge themselves to evolve and modify social campaigns as new (& better) alternative tools and tactics appear on the scene.

So, there’s my answer. . .

The decision is yours as to whether you’re going to hire a social media manager or a social media agency. Keep in mind that not all agencies are the same so it’s important to do thorough research before choosing to hire one.

One last thing. . .

I’ve also known certain companies for hiring both an agency and an individual, like Chris. In this case, Chris acts as the marketing representative on behalf of the company to provide all necessary information, as well as collaborate with the agency on some projects.

But again, it’s whatever floats your boat.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on hiring an agency vs. in-house, feel free to comment below or tweet me @JacquesHBastien.