Social Media Community Management: Outsource or keep in-house?

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Social Media Community Management - Outsource to Agency or keep in-house?


In my opinion and I think most people will agree, that in an ideal world… your social media, community management is something you should always try to have in-house. Unfortunately, we don’t all live in that world but here are some things to think about no matter what your decision is.

Some benefits of keeping it in-house: -

Brand Reputation

No one knows or cares about your brand like you or your employees. Employees who are closest all best execute your brand values, principles or general business strategy.


With the plethora of Social medial solutions available now, a small, well-organised team can use a suite of automated tools to listen, publish, engage, analyse and produce reports on your community. Some solutions provide all of these in one package like Adobe Social (part of the Adobe Marketing Cloud) for example but unless you have a significant budget for this, I’d advise hiring an intern or task an exec to trial some recommended cheaper alternatives and report back on the findings that suit you and the community you're going to manage.

Response times.

Anything that needs to be handled in terms of escalation or reaction in the event crisis, can be dealt with quickly and comprehensively without filter or the fear of dilution by the time the messages gets across to your customers/clients. A lot of today’s community management is directly related to customer service and it's likely your customer service team is going to be based in your office not at your agency. The difference between you and your competitors is often very slim so don’t let a slow response time be the reason they choose the competition over you.

It's likely to cost you less in the long run.

While the average salary for a Social Media manager in London is approx. £30k. You can hire an exec for about 5-10K less. For the amount any agency worth their corn, will charge you per month, you are still probably better off making the hire and invest in the individual by training them or enrolling into a Social Media qualifications. That qualified individual can then pass on knowledge internally to other relevant staff within the business and potentially grow their own team. The caveat here is that if you need results fast then you may need to use an agency while they get up to speed.

Train your team.

If you already have a team in house who are underperforming, ask yourself a few things before you throw the baby out with the bathwater and hire an agency:

Are they trained? I.e. are they qualified in Social/Digital? If they are, how long ago was it that they did that course/qualification? Do they need a refresher? If they’re not trained, The IDM provide a great 2 day certificate to bring them up to speed. If they’re not open to being trained. Is that the kind of person you want in the business? Personally, I wouldn’t.

Check out the new IDM Catalogue for the latest courses and qualifications.

Alignment with the business strategy/goals.

Do they understand the business strategy and what you’re trying to achieve? Its general good practise to make sure of this on a regular basis. It’s for the team to lose focus on what you’re trying to achieve if they’re not reminded what the plan is.


Its an age old marketing approach but its one of the most important. Test, test and then test again! Are they testing different approaches? Like frequency and what times to publish or type of content to serve. i.e. Blog’s vs direct product/service content. Small tweaks can make a significant impact.

In saying this there ARE some very good reasons to go with an agency for this if you're ill equipped to handle in house.

Trained and Experienced.

You have the opportunity to select an agency that are trained and experienced in delivering this service to other clients. Most of the top agencies have in house or external training processes to keep up or stay ahead with their own competitors.

They are likely to be experienced in delivering this service to other clients. This includes being trained in tech/automation solutions that you may not be aware of. You can gain from this experience indirectly. Get your in house Social Media manager (client side contact) or exec to absorb as much as they can from the agency where possible. They have tried and tested different approaches with other clients prior to your brief so they are likely to have learned from the results and you can potentially benefit from those.

Creative Freedom.

Your creative ideas you have for your social can come to life sooner. Depending on your circumstances of course. If you don’t have an in house creative designer for example, having an agency at your disposal means you may be able to try new ideas you have wanted to test.

Fewer Issues with HR.

If you're not happy with results of agency, you can decommission the agency and brief in another without the HR issues you might have with doing so with an employee who is under performing.

If you do decide to go with an agency, there are a few things to consider when making a decision to outsource your community management.

  1. Does the agency understand my brand (i.e. have they worked with similar clients in our industry)?
  2. Are they going to help us prepare to take this in-house once we are ready to?
  3. What technology solution(s) are they using or proposing to manage your online community? Is it new to them or is it tried and tested? The latter is the probably the answer you want to hear.
  4. What processes do they have in place to communicate with you on a regular basis and do they suit your way of working?
  5. Agree regular catch-ups and make sure they can report weekly. Why weekly? Because by the time you’ve received that report you’ve lost the opportunity to react on any insights. Being agile and having the flexibility to pivot your content/responses based on last week’s insights is likely to keep you in touch with your competitors, if not ahead of them
  6. Can they commit work in your offices once a week? I think the willingness to do so, shows they care and want to understand your brand better.
  7. Do we have a suitable contact at our business that can project manage the relationship? I.e. Social Media Exec, Manager or Marketing/PR professional.
  8. How many other clients are they working on? You want to make sure they have dedicated time for your account. Are they working with a competitor? Is there a conflict in interest?
  9. Do the individuals working on our account have training or qualifications in social community management or customer service from a reputable provider like the IDM?
  10. Make sure you've been introduced to the key contact at any technology solution they're using on your community. This is important for 2 reasons, 1, that they fully understand your objectives and values first hand, 2, that should you ever decide to part company with the agency, you can engage directly should you wish to continue using that chosen tech/service.
  11. Set and agree some realistic KPI’s. Things like conversions, response, growth and engagement rates. Benchmark with competitors and have a target in mind for all 4 of these. Review monthly to track progress towards your goals.

To summarise, yes you should always try to have your social/community management in-house (nobody cares about your brand more than you) but it’s all relative to your situation.

If this isn’t viable due to internal restraints or you’re not getting the results you desire, invest in training for the team or individual. Parallel to this you can instruct a well briefed and experienced agency who understand your landscape and the type of community you have to serve. Make it clear in the brief that you’d like there to help bringing it in-house further down the line. Demand regular reporting and favour an agency who have invested time and their own money Social Media Tech.

I hope this helps. Make the right choice for you!


  1. To insource, outsource or a bit of both?
  2. Should you manage customer service through social media in-house, externally or through a combination of both?
  3. Can an agency ever really GET my brand as well as me?
  4. Insourcing or outsourcing social media customer services: Do you have the legal expertise to keep it in-house?
  5. Should you outsource the evaluation of your paid social content?
  6. Should a brand keep content production in house, outsource or hybrid the model for optimised customer engagement?
  7. What skills are needed to create valuable content for your brand?
  8. In-house or outsource: How does a brand decide the best way to grow its community with paid media?
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