As a social media manager, a huge struggle is dealing with explaining your day-to-day to everyone. To your parents or grandparents. To your curious neighbor. To the roommate who works in banking. To the friend of a friend of a friend who says everyone can do social and it’s not a real job. Oh, and there’s also the never-ending question of working in-house or for an agency.
If you expect me to say that one is better than the other, well… I can easily do that. But would that really help? This decision depends entirely on what you want out of a role. I’m quite sure I don’t know you and your professional aspirations (or do I?🕵️♀️). Jokes aside, I hope I can shed some light on the matter. I’ll point out the key factors to consider before making the best decision for you. As Backstreet Boys famously pointed out:
I don’t care who you are
Where you’re from
What you did
As long as… this article helps you make an informed decision.
In-house vs. agency — what’s the difference?
When working in-house, social media managers’ activities revolve around one brand only. Some companies choose to employ a social media marketer instead of outsourcing these services. It’s usually bigger brands with the money to build their own team to produce and distribute content.
Working for an agency is quite different. They typically specialize in a few services and sell them B2B. Sectors frequently working with agencies include marketing, PR, web design and event management. Agency social media managers produce marketing collateral for multiple clients in different industries.
Let’s take a look at two regular job posts on LinkedIn. First one is from a brand looking to hire an in-house social media manager. Second one is an agency interested in social media managers to handle multiple clients.
Role: Social Media Manager
Employer: Twitch Prime (a subsidiary of Amazon)
Location: Seattle, WA, US
Managing day to day campaign flow including creative, and social listening efforts
Build and execute campaigns that drive user engagement and growth on new and existing platforms
Serve as a social expert internally and liaison externally with social platforms on their direction, best practices, and new opportunities
Monitoring the effectiveness of campaigns and implement ongoing improvements to drive business impact
Reporting on progress against goals and relevant social marketing metrics for in-depth business reviews and reports for senior leadership
Oversee all deliverables and ensure they are qualitative, on time and align with campaign strategy
Collaborate with internal stakeholders and manage external agency resources
Role: Social Media Manager
Employer: Brafton Inc.
Location: Boston, MA, US
Creating, executing and reporting on social media strategies for assigned clients. This includes but is not limited to crafting, posting and tracking posts across various social media platforms, social listening, follower pushes, engaging with influencers etc.
Preparing and executing the research, proposals and call preparation for all assigned clients, as is necessary.
Troubleshooting client strategies, as necessary, when our work isn’t meeting their expectations or hitting KPIs. This may include collaborating with account managers or other team members to pitch alternative social products, services or strategies to improve results.
Preparing and delivering effective monthly reports for the client. These reports should prove ROI and/or the efforts of an effective social media strategy.
Presenting reports to clients with conviction and being able to prove ROI on the strategy or pitch recommendations.
As you can see, there’s no right or wrong when it comes to in-house or agency. Day-to-day tasks are often similar. Managing social media for one or multiple brands still involves creating, scheduling, and posting content, analyzing the results, and adapting the strategy.
Source: Planable blog
On the other hand, each option comes with a very different environment. It usually comes down to your preferences, aspirations, and personality. Let’s take a closer look at the challenges and perks of working in-house vs. for an agency.
Pros and cons of working in-house
I’ll start with the advantages, since we all need to focus on positivity these days, right?
You can focus on one brand only
And that’s awesome. When you get to work for a brand, you become accustomed to their tone of voice, best practices, and brand guidelines more quickly. Building a relationship with your target audience also becomes simpler. You get to interact with your potential clients every day. You’ll soon know their preferences and pain points, favorite content, channels, and how they react to everything you share. This leaves you with more time to test, dig deep, and come up with great marketing ideas.
You have more autonomy
As a social media manager, you will be responsible only for your brands’ audience. In an agency you need to report to different clients from various industries. This offers you more autonomy to experiment, make changes without consulting external stakeholders, and diversify strategies. Especially if you work in a small team. It doesn’t mean that it’s a comfortable position for everyone. The freedom to test and change the social media approach can be exciting for some people. Others may prefer working with multiple clients and having clear guidelines for each one.
You can specialize in a specific industry
Many social media managers with agency experience decided to switch to the client side. To specialize in the industry they liked most. I’ve seen many examples of successful transitions. One social media manager I personally know worked for more than 5 years in the same agency. They handled a variety of clients from food retailers to interior design companies. At first, he liked the idea of diversity. After a while, he noticed he’s more comfortable doing content for a retail group. He’s now working in-house at that company and doing great. Specialization can bring a lot of satisfaction when you’re certain of what suits you best.
It’s perfectly fine if you don’t identify with this particular story. People are different and that’s a good thing. Maybe the following cons of working in-house will guide you into the right decision.
You might miss diversity
Handling one brand only might make you lose interest in time. Yes, working in-house helps you stay focused and gain a better understanding of a brand’s needs. But boredom can knock at the door from time to time to check if you’re in for a challenge. You don’t have to open that door right away. Sometimes, though, a change of scenery is what you need. When you know everything about a brand, you may find yourself running on autopilot and missing the unknown. Keep in mind that social media management means different things to different brands.You might still enjoy working in-house, but for a different brand. Carefully analyze every option before making a decision.
You can feel lonely from time to time
Marketing teams working in-house are usually smaller than agency teams. Most people in the company know little about what you do as a social media manager and may have fewer professional common interests. Tim from Finance may not laugh at your collection of funny tweets, but you know he’s a good guy. Even if you’re part of a small marketing team with only one social media manager, don’t let that be a barrier in interacting with others. Explain what you do and how that helps the overall business strategy. Or just talk about other stuff. I don’t know about many friendships that started with “So the discount posted yesterday had over 10K impressions”.
Pros and cons of working for an agency