Should We Hire A Social Media Agency?

socialSince many companies are now clamoring to “do” social media (see recent Struming, We Should Do Social Media) today’s Struming deals with the question about how best to “do” it. Obviously I continue to emphasize the critically important issue of strategy before execution. Therefore you should be asking yourself the following questions, and more:

1. What are the overall objectives and how can social media help you achieve them?

2. How can social media be integrated into the overall marketing program?

3. How will results of your social media efforts be measured? What metrics will be used?

4. Who internally, or externally, will be responsible for the execution and analysis? What are the costs of the resources devoted to this effort as measured against the return.

In answering #4 I am not 100% convinced that social media should be always outsourced to a social media agency. There are several ways to look at social media:

1. There is no one closer to an organization’s goals and its activities than the organization itself. Particularly if engaging consumers is the #1 objective, there is no faster way of responding than internal dedicated resources rather than outsourcing to an agency.

Social media is not voodoo that only social media “gurus” understand. There is no real reason social media can’t be brought in-house IF (big if) it is treated seriously, handled by a marketing pro, not delegated to the intern, and is part of the overall marketing strategy. There are those who truly understand social media at a deeper level. If they exist internally, then keep it inside, but if not, go outside to pros.

2. Social Media as PR—One of the strengths of social media is the ability to reinforce the brand’s image as an important part of an integrated public relations program.

It would be natural to have your internal PR staff (or external PR agency) handle social media as part of their responsibilities. However, I have found that not all PR agencies are created equal in their embrace of social media. Almost all have come to the realization (surprisingly, some slowly) that social media is an effective PR tool and they need to understand its use. However there are those who added social media as a discipline grudgingly because they felt they needed to, and others who strategize at higher levels and have a track record for excellence.

3. Consideration of a social media agency.

I find that those firms who really specialize in a marketing discipline have stronger expertise that those which merely added on a new discipline with little passion. But if one hires a social media agency there are many questions you should ask before hiring. This topic was recently explored in a smart article, 9 Critical Questions to Ask When Hiring a Social Media Agency.The article makes good sense and of the 9 questions they site, I believe these are the 5 critical questions that rise above all others:

1. Why do you think that Social Media is important to this organization?

2. Can you walk us through the steps for creating our social media strategy and tactics?

3. How will you handle content creation?

4. How will you coordinate social media with our other communication functions?

5. How will you track our program’s performance?

I believe more every day that social media is the new marketing frontier. It is not a silo in itself but integrated into an overall marketing program. The concept that social media is merely a niche marketing tool largely targeted to youth is last decade’s thinking. The question is how should social media be best used on your company’s behalf, and who should be responsible for doing so. Not easy questions. Worthy of lots of discussion.

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