How To Hire a Social Media Expert: Weighing The Pros, Cons & Perks of In-House Versus Outsourced

How To Hire a Social Media Expert: Weighing The Pros, Cons & Perks of In-House Versus Outsourced

If you’ve tried to find or hire a social media expert before, you know it’s like dating. It can take a few bad ones and a little bit of heartbreak before you can find the right one.

After consulting some bonafide social media experts in the field, we’ve got all the hiring secrets you need to guarantee social media success. We’ve laid out the pros and cons of hiring in-house versus outsourcing, ways to test their knowledge before you offer them the job and why you need to take the reigns in knowing your own social media audience and goals.

You’re just a few steps away from hiring a social media expert! Consider yourself #blessed.

Set Your Own Social Media Goal Before You Find The Right Person To Implement It.

You’ve probably been through this rigamarole before. It can be tricky to determine if you need 5 hours of social media help each week or 40 hours of help each week. And how do you know if the hours of week you’ve devoted to it is enough?

Here’s an easy solution. Don’t quantify it in hours at all.

“If you’re hiring an agency or consultant for help, you should always consider project based fees, not hourly rates,” suggests Josh Spector, a Digital Marketing Expert and Founder of For The Interested. And for a salaried in-house employee, time is not something you need to track either.

Your social media help should all be goal-based. “I don’t care about the hours because I think it’s all make believe anyway. You’re incentivizing someone to work slow or fast, but to me it’s all about results,” he says.

For example, if your goal is to increase brand awareness, you want an agency or future employee to tell you how they plan on doing that. They don’t need to tell you it’ll take x amount of hours, instead they need to lay out a strategy that they plan to implement.

“The biggest confusion is that people think social media is a goal in and of itself. It’s a tool you use to accomplish goals,” says Spector. “Being good at social media doesn’t mean anything. The goal is sales. Or growing an email list or generating leads. It’s never about just getting more followers.”

Step 4: Weigh Your Hiring Options | In-House Vs. Consultant Vs. Agency

There are a lot of social media positions out there and it can be hard to know what hiring direction to take. Here’s a few benefits and disadvantages to each.

The Consultant

Spector works as a consultant for some big brands, including the Academy of Motion Picture, that little company that puts on the Oscars. It’s where he worked handling their digital marketing in-house for six years before going solo.

Remember this infamous Oscar selfie? Spector was a part of it behind-the-scenes!

“I don’t think any outside role can do as good of a job at social media as an in-house employee,” he says. “Which I realize is counter-productive for me to say, since I’m a consultant.”

But a benefit of finding a top-notch consultant like Josh is to bring in someone that can come up with the most important aspect of social media: the strategy. “Anyone can schedule posts. A lot of businesses end up paying for the management when the strategy isn’t there,” he says.

It can be more cost-effective to hire someone to help steer your social media strategy in the right direction and then use an employee to do the easier tasks like daily moderation and posting new content to feeds.

When accepting proposals from consultants, make sure you let them know what your goal is and look for the steps they are going to take to get you there. “If you see a proposal that looks cookie-cutter and is something they say works for every client, take that as a warning. Every business needs a different strategy,” he says.

Pros: Personal consultation for your brand, a solid consultant can help you get the right strategies in motion

Cons: Good ones are expensive, won’t be able to handle day-to-day social interactions

A Great Option For: Businesses that have team members that can handle social, but need to be pushed in the right direction

“If you see a proposal that looks cookie-cutter and is something they say works for every client, take that as a warning. Every business needs a different strategy,” he says.

The Agency

Bringing in an agency to handle your social media means you get a team to come in and start from scratch. “The great thing about an agency is that they’re coming in with innovative ideas,” says Jenn Hermann of Jenn’s Trends, one of the industry’s biggest social media blogs. “Sometimes the benefit to this is that they don’t already know the mindset of the CEO so they aren’t going to cater a plan to a specific person, but rather to the brand itself.”

Agencies also tend to have specific experts in specific platforms. Rather than bringing in a Jack or Jill-of-all-Trades, you’ll have access to someone who has a deep rooted knowledge of how Twitter works and someone that knows exactly what content nails it on Instagram. Rather than paying one fee to hire an Instagram expert, you get to have a whole pool of talent at your fingertips.

Make sure you express to an agency what your goals are and be careful in reviewing their proposal. “Outside agencies, while innovative, can sometimes push for things that are not necessarily in the interest of the business, but are feeding creative ideas so they can win awards or showcase work.”

If you want to grow your brand awareness but much of what an agency pitches has to do with growing your follower count, that’s not a strategy. Make sure their brief includes a creative plan, content examples and a good explanation of why they think the direction will help meet the goal you’ve outlined for them.

Pros: Access to multiple experts at once, a full staff on hand to help you grow your brand

Cons: Won’t know the brand as well an in-house employee, slower reaction time to customers on channels

A Great Option For: New brands that need to build their social from scratch

The In-House Employee

An in-house team can save a company money and time when hired properly. “When you have an in-house team they intimately know the business and the voice and direction of the brand,” says Meagan Saville, Lead Social Writer for Revlon. When you’re working in-house, you have an intimate relationship with the company culture, which an agency will never have.

The other item to consider is if you’re bringing in a new employee to manage social media in-house or if you have a current employee who is savvy enough to do it. “If you don’t have someone that isn’t well-versed in social, it will make more sense to pull in someone new,” suggests Hermann.

Since much of social media is about responding to customers in a timely manner, it is much easier for an in-house employee to react to someone complaining about an item not being delivered on your business’ Facebook page. “If you’re in-house, you can run to the right department and get that item shipped out and responded to right away,” says Hermann. “An agency just can’t work as quickly when they aren’t on the ground.”

Pros: Innate knowledge of the brand and customer, ability to react quickly on social to customer issues

Cons: Bigger potential for a creative bottleneck, no access to a bigger pool of talent that an agency can bring in

A Great Option For: Businesses that can afford an in-house employee and want to go after long-term goals

Look For These Skills. Then Ask These Questions.

Don’t assume that a “social media expert” is a title that comes tied up in a bow and is automatically the solution for all your needs.

When Saville is looking to bring in more talent she focuses on making sure each candidate has the following skills: community management experience, photoshop abilities, writing acumen, and basic analytics and strategy knowledge.

Community Manager
Since so much about social media is about interacting with both existing and potential customers, knowing how to deal with a community is key. This is something agencies and consultants will likely have experience in, but you’ll want to look for this for in-house employees too.

Photo Savvy
If you’re working for a brand, either in-house or at an agency level, you’re going to need to know how to put a post together. Editing photos at a basic level is crucial for knowing what dimensions work best on what platform. Sourcing photos is also part of it, so having a keen photographic eye is a must.

Solid Writer
Everything you write on social media will be (hopefully) seen by a lot of people. You can’t have someone without strong writing and grammar skills posting to your channels. Even in their responses to customers, the tone needs to be eloquent and written correctly.

If something is misspelled, a customer will call you out. Trust us on that one! For in-house employees, it’s great to find someone with a writing background. And if you’re vetting agencies, take a look at the creative content they currently handle to get a grasp of how solid their writing team is.

Your future employee needs to have experience measuring how posts are performing. Be sure to ask about what analytics software they have experience in, especially if you don’t use one already. This is especially key if you’re looking to hire someone to put this process in place.

Whether you’re hiring in-house or hiring outside help, you need someone to help you come up with a strategy based on the goals you’re hoping to hit, whether that’s doubling sales in a year or simply growing brand awareness. “If you don’t know what your brand is about, then others won’t either,” says Saville. “That’s why knowing how to develop a strategy is important.”

Questions To Ask Your Candidates

If it’s an in-house employee or a full-service agency, make sure you ask them these questions before offering them the gig.

What platform do you think we should focus on?
This is why having knowledge of where your audience is will be important before you start this process. You should know what platforms make the most sense for your brand. If anyone responds by telling you that all the platforms are crucial, consider that a poor response. “I tell everyone to start by focusing on one or two platforms max when they’re growing their following,” says Hermann.

Can you share an example Facebook post you think would work well for us?
Creative execution is a huge part of hiring social media help. Ask for examples of past work and potential content you’d expect to see if they got the job.

Do we need to invest in social media longterm to meet our goal?
The answer to this question should depend on what your goal is. If you’re trying to launch a Kickstarter campaign, maybe a long-term plan with someone won’t be necessary. If you want to build brand awareness, that’s something that can take time. Pay attention to how well your potential hire has listened to your goals to know if they understand how it should be implemented.

Who do you follow on social media that you don’t know? And why do you follow them?
Spector also suggests using this exercise for yourself in order to figure out the kind of content that you enjoy engaging with. This is also a great way to test how quickly a candidate or agency can come up with a compelling answer!

What do you think the purpose of social media is?
There may not be a “right” answer to this. But you do want to make sure that whoever you hire views it as a tool to use in achieving a goal. “Social media isn’t a goal in and of itself,” says Spector. “It’s a tool you use to reach those goals.”

Determine How Success Will Be Measured. (And It Shouldn’t Be Measured in Vanity Metrics.)

Hermann suggests every store owner knows the answers to these three questions.

What are your short term goals?
The more measurable, the better. For example, do you want to grow 20% year over year? Do you want to grow your email list by 30%?

What are your long term goals?
This could be as simple as building a strong brand awareness or getting a certain level of exposure in the industry.

What does success look like in one year?
Gaining 10K new followers on Facebook is not a true measure of success. “Answering this question will give you a good idea as to why you’re investing in social media in the first place. The ‘why’ tells you why you’re creating content,” says Hermann. Again, the more measurable, the better.

Your social media strategy can – and should – change over time. “I think every brand should evaluate their social strategy every six to twelve months to see what’s working and what’s not,” says Saville.

Success will also depend on what you signed up for. If you’re working with an agency or social media consultant, you’ll be able to reference their proposal to see if it’s being implemented and can discuss how it’s working along the way. For in-house employees, success may come in different stages, from getting good at knowing the brand voice to creating successful campaigns for new product launches.

“I think every brand should evaluate their social strategy every six to twelve months to see what’s working and what’s not,” says Saville.

Either way, don’t rely on an agency to tell you how successful things are going based on follower counts or viral posts. “It’s easy to get frustrated with social media. Lots of people throw their hands up in the air and say it isn’t working for them,” says Spector. “The reality is it can work for anyone as long as you use it as a tool to reach your goal.”

Be In It For The Long Haul. Social Media is a Marathon, Not a Sprint.

Social media isn’t a set it and forget it practice. Saville believes that consistency is key.

It’s easy for brands to post infrequently or too often, so there might be some trial and error as you figure out what activity level your audience prefers.

And don’t freak out if a customer is complaining about you on Facebook or your brand sends out a tweet that upsets someone. It could end up being a good thing for your brand. Don’t let social media scare you.

“Mistakes will be made, but in the end, correcting, apologizing when needed and showing that you are trying to build a brand with a message that enhances others lives in some way will usually prevail over any small misstep when you first start out,” says Saville.

Whether you’ve got an agency running your social pages or your new in-house hiring is handling it full-time, just trust that with time, the right strategy and the right voice will help you create your own community of customers, and meet your goal along the way too.

Ready to Hire a Social Media Expert?

You’ve got all the tools you need to create an engaged and loyal social media following. Now it’s time to find the right person to implement it. Post your job on our job board. Between our podcast, email list and website we reach over 80,000 people a month.

Post your position right here today.

Andrew Youderian
Post by Andrew Youderian
Andrew is the founder of eCommerceFuel and has been building eCommerce businesses ever since gleefully leaving the corporate world in 2008.  Join him and 1,000+ vetted 7- and 8-figure store owners inside the eCommerceFuel Community.

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