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Blog Digital Agency vs In-House Team: 9 Experts Weigh In

Digital Agency vs In-House Team: 9 Experts Weigh In

Social media is no longer a simple game. For anyone. We’ve been saying this for a while, after all, it’s why we started Planable. Because it’s no longer about one person pushing pretty pictures on Facebook. It’s a team effort that can sometimes make or break companies.

Lots of companies are failing on social media due to multiple reasons, like

  • Not developing a strategy from the very beginning
  • Posting random posts with no purpose
  • Have no clear goals in mind
  • Spending time on counting likes & comments instead of working on better content
  • Working hard, but aiming in the dark without a clear audience targeting
  • Spamming all over the internet
  • Buying followers
  • Automating social media

That is why slowly but surely every business reaches the conclusion that social media has to be managed by a team – internally or externally. Which is where the dilemma comes in. Scroll down to find out more OR watch this on our Youtube channel at People of Marketing.

Digital Agency, or in-house?

The truth is that there’s no universal answer. The choice depends on each particular case.

When analyzing what’s best for you, you’ll have to answer a few basic questions

These answers should come in easily.

Think about budgets, people management, expertise, and time spent.

To ease your decision process, I talked to 9 professionals, all of whom are or have been in the past employees, freelancers, and social media agencies.

Again, I stress the fact that both agency and an in-house team will always work; what’s important is what’s more time efficient and money-wise better for you. It’s all about stepping up your social media game.

Make sure to get a thorough portfolio and proposal from the agency or candidates to make sure they know what they are doing – have a plan of action, understand social media marketing as it relates to your industry and know the best ways to optimize your social media marketing efforts” says Samantha Savory at Savory PR.

Why Should You Hire a Digital Agency To Manage Your Social Media Efforts

An agency can jump right into the social media conversation and start building your brand, as they’ve already seen thousands of companies like you and know the best way to start.

Agencies will easily get on your side with expertise and no need for training. Instead of starting the hiring process for an employee in the team – waiting for CVs, organizing interview, onboarding the first 3 months, talking to HR and managing fees is a full hassle. In-house teams may even cost you much more than getting someone from the outside to fully help you.

Corri from Black Wednesday

A new vision of your brand

Agencies will always have a fresh view. They come with a new perspective and it might be an amazing chance to get new ideas. It will help you expand the vision and opportunities for your own brand by creating new digital campaigns, brand engagement events, and increasing visibility on social media.

PRO TIP: See what companies grew their social media teams in 2020, against all odds.


Agencies have more knowledge of how to use social media to accomplish clear marketing goals, but employees have more knowledge about the company. In terms of time, it’s always more efficient to hire an external agency. Employee training and turnover become the organizations’ additional responsibility to keep the social media savvy.

Sometimes, employees feel overwhelmed with too many tasks whereas a social media agency is more results-oriented and even incorporates the required resources and tools in bulk to complete the daily track. Moreover, the agency’s consistent experience with versatile projects assists in implementing newer ways to a brand’s social media marketing.

Less hassle, more work

Hire a freelancer or agency. You don’t have to invest in a workstation or go through the tedious HR process. The fee that you are going to pay a freelancer or agency would be a lot cheaper than what you are going to pay an in-house team. This will be the ideal preference for small businesses or start-ups.

Savitha, from Tacitkey.


It depends a lot on what you’re ready to spend, if it’s less than $1500/month then it’s a freelancer. If you’re looking for a budget between $1500 and $5000/month – it’s an agency or in-house team. Also, if you’re ready to spend more than $5000/month on your social media efforts, then getting both employees and an agency will help you make sure everyone is on the same page.

As about the pricing for agencies & freelancers, you may find the following depending on the region you’re in:

  • Starting (0-3 years experience): $15-$50/hr
  • Intermediate (3-5 years experience): $50-$100/hr
  • Expert (5-10+ years experience): $120+/hr

If you opt to go hourly, newer social media freelancer rates can hover around $15-$50 per hour. For more intermediate social media marketers, they can make $50-100 per hour. And an experienced social media manager can make $120+ or much higher.

A hybrid approach is a great choice, which means having an employee and work with an agency where your team member will communicate to them directly, representing your best interests, make sure projects are on track and ensure the quality of work product by the agency. You’ll get the best of both and employee will have a chance to learn from the agency as well.

Syed Ajmal @ Ridester

On the other side when asking what’s better money-wise 

In my opinion, 90% of small to medium-sized businesses that choose to do things in-house or with a freelancer to save money actually end up losing money. Marketing is a service that, when done properly, will have huge marginal impacts on your KPIs. It’s common for business owners to say that they can’t afford an agency to do the work. The reality is, they can’t afford to not hire an agency. Spending an extra 50% to get the job done by great talent will save you much more money than the marginal cost, so long as you have a decent-sized budget.

Stacy Caprio 

It’s hard to think that just one person will manage all your social media channels at the same time and also be time-efficient. With all that responsibility you’ll probably want to pay them up to $45k – $50k. Now the more you need, the more you have to give. Based on 103 responses from LinkedIn members, the average salary for a social media strategist is $59,000 per year. Hiring the wrong person that won’t help your brand may cost you a big mistake. That’s why agencies are more beneficial for your brand.

Team effort

Facebook marketing is a channel, not a strategy. The most important thing is to understand that no one person can have every skill necessary for online advertising. Some may claim it, but that is a big sign that maybe they don’t know what they are doing.

Brandon Bateman.

Agencies have a team of experts and professionals ready to help right away with expertise in fields such as copywriting, design, social media management, analytics, data tracking, and performance optimization. It’s hard to find one employee that will do all of it.

Expert level

I’ve spoken to Tracy Julien to find out more about what’s better in terms of expertise? Let’s see what she has to say.

Using an agency who specializes in social media and digital marketing can make life much easier. Let experts focus on what they do best. If your business is finance based, your main priority should be to grow that part of the company. The social media/digital marketing side can help give your company the boost it needs. If you have the budget to outsource social media/digital marketing, I highly suggest it!

Sarah Greeley also weighed in:

If you are a decision maker, the number one recommendation I have is to invest. Invest the funds, the time, and the team in your social media efforts—and that goes for whether you hire inside the company or out. For companies just getting their feet wet, I would recommend either hiring an experienced agency or in-house team. Don’t choose to spend $30k per year on an inexperienced intern instead of spending $60k on an agency. You might spend less up front, but chances are the money you do spend will be wasted rather than an investment. And if you hire an agency and by working with them closely to ensure you’re getting your money’s worth – you’ll have the best chance at success.

Result oriented

Now, if you care about the results – hire a digital agency, says Xavier from Medspa Advertising.

Let’s see for comparison, for $3K a month, you can get some of the top social media marketing firms (our agency fee is approx that), and my experience includes growing an audience of over 50M on social media. For $3K in LA, you’ll get an entry-level employee whose social media experiences comprises of them running their “insta” and thinking about their “Aesthetic”. As about things like social media posting and replying to DMs, that can be managed by an in-house employee.

However, if you want results i.e. sales, you should hire an expert.

Agencies spend dozens on software and ads in their niche to understand what works or doesn’t. Agencies are actively tracking results to make sure their clients are making money. Pressuring an employee to complete all the tasks with a quick deadline may end badly. The work will be poor or the employee will be interested in joining other opportunities. Not being able to publish the right content at the right time may turn out as a missed opportunity. Agencies are often motivated by success stories and want to be recommended by their clients.

Questions to Ask When Looking for a Digital Agency

When looking for a social media agency or freelancer, it’s best to ask them a series of questions to understand what’s their biggest value. I would suggest the following

  • What does your agency specialize in? You’re looking for something specific, so make sure you narrow 
  • Who will be working on the account? Find out more about the team and how many people will take care of your account. Ideally, you want to have an account director who will be your go-to person and also experts on creative, management, copywriting etc.
  • What will you focus on in developing the social media strategy? You want to understand what’s their plan for the next 3, 6, or 12 months.
  • What do you think other companies do well on social media? Find out more about what are their recommendations and directions they want to take.
  • What social media platforms should we be on? Gauge their expertise by their answer. 
  • What are you using to measure data? You want to understand the workflow, process, and tools.
  • What campaign(s) are you most proud of? Agency will show their portfolio and best client.

Freelancers – Alternative of Agencies

Let’s examine the case of a freelancer vs hiring an agency. When speaking about freelancers, you have the following benefits:

  1. They are efficient and advanced in their tactics and know what
  2. Freelancers adapt to your brand’s own personality, or help leads you to find your own style.
  3. Have experience in your industry
  4. Understand the nuances, and may even find reciprocal partners

I like what Joe Robinson says in the end.

A social media freelancer can either be a huge boost for your brand if they know what they’re doing – or a big time and money sink. Vet and interview them just like you’d hire a full-time employee, and pick the best one possible for you!

If you need more heavy work to be done and have dozens of ideas or campaigns to execute – I believe an agency is your best bet. With an agency, you’re working with a professional team that already has a process in place. Workload will be distributed and can be done ultra-efficiently with high quality. Whereas a single freelancer may burnout or face an overwhelming workflow.

Freelancers are a good option for small businesses that don’t have a lot of funds or won’t rely heavily on SMM. Some of them are very experienced and provide great results. Working as a freelancer, I had great success with a lot of my clients. There were, however, some clients that I didn’t have as much success with: clients that didn’t have it together. It is important to note that a freelancer may have a skill, but the skill that they have fits into your overall marketing strategy.

The truth is that an agency comes with a lot of advantages. But keep in mind that plenty of companies choose to go with an internal team. The reasoning is usually that an employee might be easier to manage because they’ll be in the same office. This will allow them to jump in every opportunity to make great social media content: more real-time, more relevant. They’re also more committed to the brand and the company’s goals.

And one final counter-argument:

Social media is the voice of the company – it’s part of a company’s brand. You don’t want to outsource that.You want someone internally who really understands how the company works and speaks. Employees may also be easier to manage because they’re here in the office next to the other teammates. With social media you need to be fast and agile, engage with customers directly and that speed comes only when there’s a war room in your company of actually someone doing this day to day. 

Sid Sibharath.

That’s a wrap

I hope these pieces of advice will help you decide on what your company needs and what the best choice is to make social media marketing great. 

One last piece of advice, internally or externally – a team needs an efficient workflow and a visual way to plan social media, so make sure you provide that through Planable.

If you’re interested in reading more, check out these awesome resources

Vlad Calus

Vlad Calus

Dropped out of college, moved to another country with 2 of my friends and built Planable (Techstars London ’17), social media collaboration platform, at 19 y. o. Forbes 30 under 30

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