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Hiring a Social Media Agency vs an In-House Person

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.

Join The Conversation

  • JacquesHBastien's picture
    Sep 14 Posted 2 years ago JacquesHBastien

    I've created a QUIZ version of this article to help with the decision as to whether an agency or the in-house route is a better option.

    Here it is boogiedo.es/_socialquiz

  • Luvnish's picture
    Aug 18 Posted 2 years ago Luvnish


    As an in-house SEO, I would like to point the numerous flaws with working with agencies, which I believe many have failed to point out here. I am aware of these facts because I actually have to work closely with the management team, and hence I am right in the middle of the "action".

    1. You have no idea what they're doing, but the bill keeps coming every month. The weekly reports will always paint you a silky white smooth progress of the way the fan-base is progressing, as well as fan-engagement.

    2. The blame game. If something goes wrong, it's always a new guy that happened to be here, or the other guy from a never-heard-of department.

    3. No follow-up. If you happen to end your partnership with them, then god save you; i hope you had your facebook, twitter and pinterest account password saved well beforehand, else you will have to go through serious "procedures" to retrieve them - it includes dozens of mails. Not to mention that, critical questions about the state/health of your fan page would be left unanswered, and you might be left with 10,000 "fake" fans in your hands - good luck cleaning that up.

    4. Someone still needs to devote some of their time to provide the agency with updates about the company's products or status. Usually, that involves time off the in-house graphic designer's time and 1 or several managers' time.

    These are but a few I could remember right away, but, of course, this in no way means that all agencies work that way.

    I'm playing the devil's advocate here.

    I'll conclude by saying that if an entrepreneur/CEO does find an honest agency, then the advantages outlined by Jacques far outweighs the risks of hiring one.

    Thank you for your time.

    Luvnish A.T

  • Aug 14 Posted 2 years ago bossinc1

    Totally Agree. Is exactly what I do with my clients.

  • Aug 8 Posted 2 years ago jodieallen

    Brillant piece! I couldn't agree more, Jaceque.  Working for small Digital Marketing Agency we get this a lot. Companies are under the impression that if they bring someone on full-time they will get 40+ hours a week out of them. But hire an Agency, even a small one and you're getting 5 or 6 people working on your account, whilst potentially outsourcing to other bloggers, link builders etc.

  • Jul 26 Posted 2 years ago viralinnature

    Great article Jacques.  One other point to note is when you hire that $60,000/year Social Media Manager, they are probably only working 5 days a week for 40 hours.  However, social media of course doesn't sleep.  Many agencies will manage your social media seven days a week, 365 days a year without having to pay for overtime.

  • JacquesHBastien's picture
    Jun 12 Posted 3 years ago JacquesHBastien

    Sara, can you shoot me an email? me@jacquesbastien.com . I'd love to answer your questions.

  • Apr 12 Posted 3 years ago sars

    I personally own a cosmetic buseniss and I found this artical very interesting . I was just confused which roud to go. I met agencies but do you a list of questions I should ask in order to believe they are the right company not just a company which want to hold 1000 account and they have burley enough stuff to do 10 accounts and I just lose money every month.

    Also do you recommend agencies for all type of business indeed but not based on the size of buseniss! Exmple I have one product to market do I hire agency! What I have 3 brands! The agency idea based on the size of business or the high quality they will provide required for all type of business...


    I have big thank for you I am from Egypt and live in Kuwait if you can provide me with your email I would be thankful.


    Best regards

    Sara abaza

  • giselleaguiar's picture
    Feb 20 Posted 3 years ago giselleaguiar

    I suggest to small business owners not to hire a person to just do social media marketing but to train existing staff members on how to properly market the company they work for. My philosophy is that no one can know their business like they know their business.

    Hiring an outside agency to engage and interact with their potential customers is like hiring a sales person to talk to potential customers with out training them on what they're selling.

    There are tons of free tools to automate, manage, monitor and easily engage with potential customers. The idea is to get to know your customers as they get to know your business.

    Giselle Aguiar


  • JacquesHBastien's picture
    Jan 25 Posted 3 years ago JacquesHBastien

    Thanks Beth! It's great to see industry professionals understand where I'm coming from.

    And yes sometimes agencies take advantage of the power given while they're representing brands, but for the most part people like you and I take it as an ability to genuinely further the companies mission and goals while using our knowledge and experience to help business owners reach their target audience where they are.

    Thanks for the well wishes. I wish you the best as well.

    Please feel free to connect with me on Twitter (@JacquesHBastien) and LinkedIn.

  • JacquesHBastien's picture
    Jan 25 Posted 3 years ago JacquesHBastien


    While your point is valid, we must look at this from a risk point of view. Most agencies are born out of someone's passion to help people and for that person, it's extremely important for them to do great work. There is a greater risk for an agency to invest so many people on one client than it is for that in-house employee to invest his/her time. That's why agencies go above and beyond to do the necessary research to learn as much as they can about that client-- becoming passionate about the comapny's products, mission, and goals.

    Although it's true that an the in-house employee knows the daily operations of the company, when it comes to preparation for a social campaign, I have to say that the agency wins again. Unless the in-house person is one of the partners of a company, that job sometimes is just a job, so when that individual leaves the office (weekends, holidays, etc.) they are not as dedicated to responding and/or maintaining the social campaign. Whereas, agencies have a responsibility to see things through from beginning to end.

    In addition, there is less pressure to do well for the in-house person because in most cases, the in-house person doesn't necessarily have a supervisor and if he/she does, then the supervisor doesn't even know enough about social media. For an agency, standards are set and the pressure lies in producing unsatisfactory work or worse-- losing the client.

    I hope this explains my POV a bit more. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

  • BethNeibert's picture
    Jan 24 Posted 3 years ago BethNeibert

    I can't agree more Jacques, with what you're article covers. Many of my clients fear they are going to loose control and, unfortunately, there are some social media agencies that take advantage of the power given to them to represent their clients. However, more often than not, I'll add that it's wonderful to come alongside the business owners allowing them to do what they're good at and let us "techies" assist them in their success. My clients pay us waaay less than they would ever pay for an employee and they don't have to worry about my company's down-time.

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

    ~ Beth

  • Angelique Robbertse's picture
    Jan 21 Posted 3 years ago Angelique Robbertse

    While I agree with some points there is however one area that in-house  will always win hands down and that is that the in -house staff know the product inside out , they have passion and loyalty of the product and to the company while with an agency the company will always be just another client.

    It's about brand ambassador ship and who better than your own staff.

  • JacquesHBastien's picture
    Jan 20 Posted 3 years ago JacquesHBastien

    Happy to clarify ;)

    Follow me on Twitter, I'll do the same @JacquesHBastien

  • Jan 20 Posted 3 years ago Martinus Romanus

    Dear Jacques,

    Many thanks for your reply and sorry for misundestanding :)!

    Kindest regards & looking forward reading your next articles

    PS: Its DO OBVIOUS you do know what you are speaking about!

  • JacquesHBastien's picture
    Jan 20 Posted 3 years ago JacquesHBastien

    Hey Martinus, thanks for your comment.

    To clarify a bit, when I was characterizing the "in-house" person I was referring to people who are salaried (or hourly) but are employees of said company.

    On the other hand, freelancers (like yourself) make up the agencies that I spoke about in this article-- people who have experience outside the realm of one discipline. The people who work at my agency and also manage and strategize for multiple accounts are just like you: they are versatile with experience in journalism, PR, design, video production, etc. And in most cases, people with those ranges of experience are employed by agencies where they are able to use their skills across the board OR they're like you (self-emplyed) and able to do great work for multiple companies at once.

    It is duly noted that not all agencies are willing to work 24/7 for their clients but speaking from my experience, most of the ones I've encountered (including my own) are willing to do that and more to get the best results.

    So although you "totally disagree" with my article, I do believe that we've come to some of the same conclusions:

    • You're not the "in-house" person who I described in the article
    • You have a wide range of experience which would place you more closely to the experience of the agency I've described
    • We can all be superman :)
  • JacquesHBastien's picture
    Jan 20 Posted 3 years ago JacquesHBastien

    Thanks for commenting, Christian. This article is purely self interest :) ... It was written based on my experiences and opinions.

    I agree that an in-house person is dedicated and focused-- there are definitely talented people out there who can do the job effectively in-house. However, in my experience, agencies have dedicated employees as well who assimilate into the company they're working for in order to provide the best results while staying on-brand. Like I said in the article: a lot of times having an outside agency means having the contributions of more than one person's ideas/experiences.

  • JacquesHBastien's picture
    Jan 20 Posted 3 years ago JacquesHBastien

    Thanks for taking the time to comment, Tom! You're absolutely right. There are many talented individuals out there and some companies can highly benefit from having them in-house. In this article specifically, I try to point out the versatility that agencies can provide especially for a growing companies with larger audiences and budgets. 

  • Jan 20 Posted 3 years ago Christian Guthier

    There is obviouosly no self-interest in this article...

    In my experience and inhouse person can be more dedicated, more focused and on-brand - and above all can respond faster (and stay on-brand) than any outside agency could.

  • Jan 19 Posted 3 years ago Martinus Romanus

    Hi Jacques,

    Your article forced me to make registration on this site.

    I totally disagree with your article. I'm currently social media freelancer managing different profiles for companies from how home - Nissan, Warner Bros... And I'm asking you am I Superman for you?

    "design, video production, public relations, social community management, short-term and long-term campaigns + promotions, social aggregation, analytics + reporting, and more."


    I can work in both illustrator and photoshop, I've skills from PR, I can design and execute both the strategy and campaigns for new likes or anything else and I can work with analytics and come with the results. You were speaking I'm not replaceable when on holidays. I have both my tablet all the time with me I've my phone as well. No matter the holidays. Above all I've the content calendar for the whole month is it really that hard to schedule those posts?

    Agencies don't work over weekends, agencies are much more expensible and not flexible. I'm willing to answer no matter the time or the day....

    I'm very much looking forward to your reply...

    BTW: I've the best results from the CEE region comparing to guys from agencies



  • Jan 18 Posted 3 years ago tom.simpson

    Well, 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. Companies that are just starting out or have a limited budget for social media should still consider in-house employees. An in-house employee can have a better grasp on the company, and communication can be much easier. I think one challenge for an in-house individual is time. New social media management tools however are making it easier and more effective to run successfully.

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