Let’s get two things straight:

  1. You either think social media is nonsense
  2. Or you use it like your life depends on it

Regardless of where you sit on the spectrum of approval – because, quite frankly, digital content continues to boom regardless of what your opinion is – there’s no denying platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and TikTok have rightfully earned their places at the marketing table.

As the cornerstones of brand building, omni-channel engagement, and business growth, social media is the ultimate attention-grabbers for audiences today, whether they like to admit it or not. And those who fail to jump on the bandwagon will quickly fall behind.

With the option to manage social media in-house or externally, marketing managers can be forgiven for feeling like they’re at a crossroads on how best to bite the bullet.  The reality is, most businesses shouldn’t outsource. Coming from the managing director of a social media agency, that might even be a bigger controversy than Boris Johnson’s Partygate last year. 

BUT…. read on..

You need to be a semi-specialist first

Before you so much as an utter of the word ‘agency’ – for any business requirement, not just social media – you need to understand how the task in hand should be done properly first. 

While this might sound counter-intuitive, it could actually save you precious pounds in the long-term. And in today’s climate of economic uncertainty, that pays dividends. After all, if you don’t understand what you’re getting yourself into, how do you know what you’re being sold?

And while we’re right to give kudos to the rise of social media – not least for providing greater job satisfaction and wider opportunities for freelancers and small agencies – this unfortunately means that some people don’t have your best interests at heart. They need your income to pay their mortgage – so of course they’ll pay lip service to their expertise. The bottom line is, if an agency doesn’t know as much as you, they’re not the one. Don’t let naivety cloud your judgement.

Not everyone needs the full works

While a social media agency undeniably brings a rich history of experience to the fore, it’s always worth evaluating whether the need is actually there by upskilling your internal teams first.

Free and low-budget resources can help you understand the mechanics of different platforms – including where to find must-know metrics and how to adjust your paid and organic media content accordingly. After all, no one values your customers more than you do.

That’s not to say outsourcing your social media function can’t be a holy grail to help boost your ROI, though. If the budget is there, you could think, ‘wow, if a novice can drive such great results, imagine what an expert could do’. 

Using referrals is a must

When you do go out to market and start to have conversations, make sure they’re with referrals from your own network who have seen results – and for a prolonged amount of time.

If a social media agency has worked with a connection for two weeks and they’ve driven significant value in that time, great – but who’s to say that trajectory will continue?

And ask to see the proof to back it up too. Anyone could say they’ve been a practicing cosmetic surgeon for 30 years, but no doubt you wouldn’t go under the knife without seeing a portfolio of previous results.

Understand the budget you’re working with

There are great agencies out there, but they cost money. Obviously. Think set-up fees, strategy days, copy, content creation, ad management review, and more. Before you even consider how much ad spend you’re paying out – which needs to be at least the same amount again – you’re looking at £20,000 per year minimum.

And funnily enough, remortgaging the house isn’t on the cards for most people.

While freelancers offer a less costly entry point into the agency markets, the downside is that they could just sail off into the sunset at any given moment. Nothing’s stopping them.

An agency needs to work as an extension of your team

Anything outsourced needs to be looked at in a commercial sense, so you know if you’re getting a return from your expenditure – otherwise it will inevitably be turned off at some stage and you’ll only end up at square one.

Finding a social media agency that not only meets budget requirements and trumps your own expertise, but is also an excellent cultural fit for your organization, is the ultimate recipe for marketing success.