There’s been a lot of talk lately about whether or not an external agency should (or even can) manage the social media efforts for a client’s company.  Debates abound over efficiency, ethics, customer service and business strategy.  To us, the answers are simple: yes, no and maybe.

Let’s say there’s a company — we’ll call it Goldilocks, Inc. — that wants to incorporate social media into their marketing process.  But how?  Goldilocks knows it has three options:

  • Manage social media internally
  • Outsource social media externally
  • Collaborate with an external agency

And, unlike the fable, all three of these options have rewards — and complications.

  • If Goldilocks wants to handle all social media internally, it needs to either hire someone to manage those duties, or it needs to find the most socially adept of its existing employees and train them on using SM tools.  The upside for personal interaction with customers is huge, but the learning curve can be time-consuming and expensive.
  • If Goldilocks wants to outsource its entire social media strategy, it won’t have to invest in a new internal culture.  On the other hand, it’ll be forced to rely on the expertise and social skill of contractors it doesn’t directly control — which means customers may or may not be receiving the information and experience they expect.
  • If Goldilocks works hand-in-hand with an external agency, Goldilocks can oversee and direct the outgoing communication, while the agency can provide guidance and tackle the technical aspects.  While this arrangement ensures the proper expertise is allocated to the proper roles, it also requires the greatest investment of time and understanding to facilitate communication among all three participants: Goldilocks, the agency and the customers.

To say there’s only one way to structure your company’s social media strategy is to say that there’s only one way to interact with your customers.  The needs of every company — and every consumer — are different.  What’s more important than insisting on one strategy is finding the strategy that best suits your particular situation.  And the more bowls of digital porridge you taste-test along the way, the more educated you’ll be when making your next decision.