WRITTEN BY KATIE STECKLY
As you’re growing your business, chances are you will eventually reach a point where you realize you need help with your social media management. Even if you started off as a solopreneur who ran everything from your bookkeeping to the business TikTok, eventually there will come a point where you just simply don’t have the time anymore. For entrepreneurs passionate about social media, this can be a hard transition, but a very important one. When it comes to succeeding and scaling your business further, you’ve really got to focus your time in your areas of genius – the parts of your business that only you can move the needle on. And, most likely, social media will not fall into that category.
So, you need help with your social media management, you’re ready to delegate, and you find yourself at a fork in the road. Should you outsource, maybe to an agency or a freelancer? Or, should you hire internally, and add either a full-time or part-time social media manager to your team? Both choices have advantages, and disadvantages, and in this article we’re going to walk you through the three main categories of consideration, and how both options stack up. These categories are: systems, expertise, and cost – in my view, these are the three main areas where outsourcing and hiring differ. When it comes down to it, both of these options can be great and offer wonderful results for your business, but it’s important to understand how they can offer a different experience and to figure out which experience is going to work the best with your style as an entrepreneur.
And finally, before we dive into the comparisons, as a personal disclaimer: obviously, I am the owner of a social media content creation agency. So, I’m going to be a bit biased in my recommendations – however, I have also have had experiences with clients where I knew that hiring internally probably would have been a better option for them, and so we parted ways because of that. Yes, of course, I would love for you to hire Creatorly Media to produce your Instagram content and beyond – but if you’re truly in a position where hiring a social media manager internally would be the better choice for you, I’m going, to be honest with you and tell you that’s the case. So with that being said, let’s get into the discussion: when you’re looking for social media help should you hire internally, or outsource?
The differences between outsourcing and hiring a social media manager
Before I became a full-time entrepreneur, I had many jobs and internships in the social media and marketing fields. In these various jobs, I came across varying levels of set-in-stone systems for social media management. For example, in one of my first corporate world experiences as an editorial intern at a fashion magazine in Toronto, Canada, I remember scheduling Pins on an exact schedule, established by I’m not even sure who, with an exact structure for captions, and even the file names of the images. We would crop and re-size the images in Photoshop, and rename them with this exact file structure including the title of the article they were associated with, the designer of the clothing, and the season or collection the item was from. It was regimented, and there wasn’t a lot of room for me to make changes or suggestions. On the other end of the spectrum, during another one of my internships working on campus during University, I found myself creating an entire marketing program from scratch, making suggestions about how much to post on Facebook (yes this was 2016 and Facebook was still relevant), what kinds of videos we could make to promote our events, and when to post them.
Through these experiences, I’ve learned that different businesses and organizations have different levels of complexity and structure in the systems they have in place – maybe, they don’t even have a system for their online marketing at all. This difference, in established (or non-existent) systems, is the first determining factor in whether you should outsource, or hire a social media manager.
Question 1: What systems do you have in place?
When to hire:
you want to establish your own custom systems, and have close control over the process
When to outsource:
you want proven, tried and tested systems that you don’t have to build yourself
The first question to ask yourself when you’re considering outsourcing vs hiring, is what systems do you have in place for social media marketing? Are you attached to those systems? Do they need to be improved, or would it be beneficial to create new ones entirely?
When it comes to outsourcing, one of the major benefits of working with a social media marketing agency is that we have proven, tried and tested systems that we’ve been using for ourselves, for our clients, and we know that they will work for you, too. This is perfect for small to medium size businesses that haven’t yet established their own systems for social media marketing, and would be happy to follow the production cycle and workflow that an agency has established.
Honestly, in my experience with Creatorly Media, this is actually one of the key reasons a lot of business owners want to hire an agency. When you come to work with us, we have a regimented system for developing a strategy, creating a content calendar, and producing content. We have built-in checkpoints for revisions, so the client is always involved in the creative direction, but doesn’t have to oversee the day-to-day operations, or worry about ensuring that the creation is staying on track.
So, who doesn’t think work for? Some businesses, particularly if the founder is interested in social media strategy themselves, already have pre-established systems or strategies that they want to continue using. And if the business owner is set on doing things the way they have laid out, then chances are, an agency is not going to be the best bet. When you decide to work with an agency, you’re choosing from an existing menu of offerings, and so you’re going to be working within their systems, not yours. If the agency tells you that their revisions period is open for 48 hours after content is submitted, and revisions will be accepted via Google Document comments only – but you are dead-set on sending feedback 5 days later via Instagram voice DM – that relationship is not going to work well for either of you. Think about it this way: you wouldn’t go to a pizza restaurant and tell them you’re so excited to eat there, and once the waiter comes to your table, you’re demanding sushi. Business doesn’t work that way – and I’m sure you probably already know that. But it is worth mentioning for the uninitiated, that social media marketing agencies do have structure and systems for a reason. It’s so that we’re able to produce high-quality results for many clients, all at once (it’s all about the batch working, baby)
So, if you’re really attached to your current systems, or you want to create your own, then hiring internally might be the best option for you. If you’re the kind of business owner that wants to be able to Slack message memes to your social media manager to be included in an Instagram post tomorrow – you’re going to need to hire someone at least part-time. The same is true if you feel strongly about a certain format or method of feedback, content planning, or communication. Generally, agencies, or at least Creatorly because I can speak from experience, are going to be able to accommodate a lot of your individual preferences, like your branding, your voice, your preference for video over still images, your love of stop-motion, etc. That’s our job, to make content that you’re going to feel proud of. However, what agencies will not be as able to accommodate is changes to their systems, because their systems for efficiency in content creation is what makes them profitable. But, on the other end of the spectrum, a newly hired social media manager will be more than happy to fit into your current systems, join your Slack channels, and will be prepared to fit into your current processes however you see fit.
In conclusion, when it comes to systems in your social media marketing, if you want to establish your own custom systems, and have close control over the process then hiring might be right for you. But, if you want proven, tried, and tested systems that you don’t have to build yourself and that you can rely on, then outsourcing will be your best bet.
Question 2: What kind of expertise is most important to you?
When to hire:
you want someone who is fully immersed in the culture of your company – they might not have the broad social media industry knowledge, but they know everything there is to know about your product or service
When to outsource:
you want expertise from a team that has experience and data across a number of different clients that they can bring to your strategy and content creation
Both social media marketing agencies, and full-time social media marketers have a lot to offer when it comes to expertise. However, in my opinion, the slight difference here is actually where the majority of that expertise falls – I want to be clear, both of these kinds of knowledge are super valuable to any business when it comes to their marketing efforts, they’re just a bit different, and so depending on the type of business you’re in, one might be more useful to you than the other.
Let me start by telling you a bit about what the expertise of an internal social media manager looks like. One of my past jobs in social media was for a tech start-up incubator run by the university I attended – this was an intern position, but unlike some other internships I did, this organization was structured and they had onboarding students down to a science. So within just a few weeks I was up and running creating content, writing email newsletters, and more. Part of my job as well was actually giving tours of the space – back in the day when we worked in offices and not in our homes, folks from other universities or donors or whatever would come into the space to see what this start-up incubator looked like. It was actually in an old Google office, so there was a slide, a basketball court, the whole works. I would give tours of the space sometimes and so it was my job to have a ton of information about the space, the program, and the start-ups that were working there memorized so I could repeat it to guests, and answer their questions that came up. Over the four months that I did this job, I got to know a ton of info about the organization that I worked for, which of course translated from giving good tours, to creating good content as well.
I think this story is really exemplary of the benefit of an internal social media manager. When someone works full-time for your company, whether they also act as a part-time tour guide or not, they are going to learn about your business, it’s culture, and it’s offerings, in a super detailed and intimate way. They will have a ton of expertise in your brand.
This is a highly valuable expertise especially when it comes to community engagement, and generating content ideas that fit well with your brand. But now let’s talk about the kind of expertise that agencies can bring. Social media marketing agencies, by the nature of their business model, will be working with multiple clients, likely across different industries and niches. Through this work, we gather data, insights, and strategies that work well on the platforms we’re creating content from. Essentially, we’re not just creating content, we’re also basically running research studies on which social media content works best when, and for whom. This means that we’re able to bring this high level of expertise in social media strategy to the content and plans we’re making for our clients.
Through our strategy meetings and research, we’ll get to know your brand and offerings, and especially the longer we work together, the more we’ll be able to do that. But, the biggest value I think that agencies bring in terms of expertise is all of our experience from doing this work over and over for a lot of different accounts. This is the kind of breadth of knowledge that is hard for full-time or part-time social media managers to access because they are soley focused on one brand. But, an agency is a team that collaborates across clients and therefore has a huge wealth of knowledge of what works well, and what would be worth experimenting on with your content.
So, when it comes to making this decision, there really isn’t a wrong way to go – both of these forms of expertise are highly valuable. But, to try to help make your decision, you can ask yourself: do I need someone who will be an expert in my brand, or an expert in social media strategy? Which area are you more prepared to fill in the gaps?
While I do think this is a valid differentiation between the options of outsourcing and hiring, I will say that some agencies, at least here at Creatorly Media, we make up for that lesser brand knowledge by having monthly, one-hour long strategy meetings where we get to know our clients, understand their voice, and learn everything we can about who they are and who their brand is, so that we’re able to combine our wealth of industry knowledge with our understanding of our clients brand, to really offer the best of both worlds when it comes to expertise.
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Question 3: What is your budget?
When to hire:
You’re a larger company with the budget for a full-time hire, including a salary of $54,000 USD (average for social media managers in the US, according to Glassdoor) or about $4500 a month, plus any costs for benefits, etc
When to outsource:
You’re a small to medium-size business with a budget of $1000-$2000 a month
Cost is obviously going to be a major consideration when making the decision between outsourcing and hiring, but there’s a reason I included it as our third question for consideration. I think too often, business owners just assume outsourcing will be cheaper (spoiler alert, it is, but more on that later) and immediately go with that option without considering the other differences. Outsourcing to an agency is not just a cheaper alternative to a full-time hire, it’s a completely different experience that has different benefits and advantages. So, I wanted to go over the other major differences first, to give you a sense of what you’re really deciding between. Now that you’re aware of the more nuanced differences between the two options, let’s talk about cost.
Generally, (though it depends on the exact services you’re looking for) outsourcing will be a more affordable option. This is mostly due to the efficiency and batch working systems that can be achieved when an agency is performing the same task for many clients simultaneously (at least, that’s how we’re able to do it at Creatorly). We offer packages for Instagram content creation around the $1200/month price point, which is a lot less than you would pay a full-time employee to do the same work. Of course, this depends a lot on the salary that you’re offering; whether you’re trying to hire a part-time intern or whether you’re trying to hire a Director of Marketing type role.
When deciding what kind of help you need with your social media management, start by considering what sort of systems and type of expertise is going to be most beneficial to you, and finally take a look at the numbers and determine what budget makes the most sense for your business. Both options can be a great decision, it just depends on your working style, and what kind of setting you would work best under. If this post helped you decide and an agency seems to be what’s best for you, check out the services we offer at Creatorly Media, and reach out! I would love to hop on a discovery call with you to discuss how we can help your brand grow online.