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A Freelancer, An Agency, and A Business Owner Walk Into A Bar…

When you’re overwhelmed with running your own business, and you know you need help with your social media, but you’re not sure who to ask, it can be like on of those bad bar jokes.

A freelancer, a marketing agency, and you, the business owner, walk into a bar. You say to the bartender, “Hey barkeep, serve me up some knowledge, which one of us is best to run my social media marketing?” The freelancer cuts in with, “I’m the best choice because I’m flexible and affordable.” The marketing agency interrupts, “Yes, but we can provide all-purpose solutions for any marketing needs.” And you’re thinking to yourself, “Isn’t this something I should be doing?” Meanwhile, the bartender serves you a cheap domestic beer and says, “I don’t know anything about social media, but I’ll help get you drunk so your head spins from that instead of spinning with these questions.”

Not funny right? The joke or the scenario. But, how many small business owners find themselves in that same position, deciding between hiring a freelancer, an agency, or tackling their social media marketing on their own, without really knowing the pros and cons of each?

I currently freelance as a social media manager, but I have worked for agencies in the past, and in a way, I run my own small business, Managed by Rita, and manage my own social media on top of the accounts for my clients. From my experience, let me break down the differences, advantages, and disadvantages to each route of social media management. Truth be told, there is no one right solution, it’s up to you as the business owner to find the right fit for your company.

A Freelancer

I’ve already mentioned two, flexible and affordable. Because of our ability to schedule our work out for ourselves, most of us can bend our deadlines to meet the needs of our clients. Because we mostly work out of home offices, we’re mobile and likely able to meet face-to-face or schedule a conference call on shorter notice. Personally, I like to meet my clients in their place of business to a) make it convenient for them, b) immerse myself in their business culture from time to time, and c) act as a member of the team albeit one who comes and goes.

Freelancers rarely have overhead. Therefore our prices are much fairer. Again, our flexibility is at work here because we answer to no one (except our clients, of course). Often, you can negotiate a price or the amount of work you hire, and most of us will customize our services to fit your needs within the realm of what we offer.

Other advantages include:

  • Specialization – A lot of freelancers specialize in one area or a select few, and if you’re only looking for a piece of a package, this will be your more affordable option.
  • Personal treatment – This comes with the flexibility aspect, a reliable freelancer will likely be more available for your calls, texts, or emails. No leaving messages with receptionists and waiting two days for an email response here.

Some disadvantages include:

  • Specialization – A lot of freelancers specialize in one area or a select few, so if you’re looking for an all-inclusive solution to compete with what an agency can provide you may have difficulty finding just one freelancer to fit the bill.
  • Need for collaboration – A solo freelancer may require input from you on a regular basis, whether it’s content generation, access to various web accounts, or approval on posts. If you’re looking to hand off your social media completely to a freelancer, you’ll need to be willing to relinquish a lot of control and grant them all access.

An Agency

As is mentioned in the lame attempt at a joke, agencies usually offer full-services marketing for their clients. They have teams of people working on digital strategy, social media, content creation, design, and development. They have account managers and project managers to keep everything running smoothly, and deadlines met. They have the time, capabilities, and manpower to run analysis, beta testing, and case studies.

Other advantages include:

  • Worry-free – Many agencies devise the strategy, create the content, schedule, manage, and report back to their clients with minimal input from the client with the exception of approvals and the occasional meeting to consult on the strategy.

Disadvantages include:

  • Expensive – Agencies have overhead and those teams of people they need to pay. Their prices will be high, and often they require a signed contract that binds you to their services for a certain amount of thime.
  • Overwhelmed employees – The many people who make the agency run are regularly working on multiple projects at a time. The higher paying clients with the most clout will be made a priority while other projects get pushed off if need be.

You, Yourself, and You

The main advantage to this is obvious. You will not cost your business anything, other than time. If you have the time to devote to managing even one social profile, then all you need to spend is advertising dollars.

Other advantages include:

  • No one knows your business like you – You’re physically in your place of business on a regular basis. It’s easier for you to snap an Instagram photo of a happy customer or live Tweet from an event than to send the info off to a third-party. You also know your message and your audience better than anyone.

Some disadvantages include:

  • Extra work – As if you don’t have enough to do with just running your business, to make social media work for you, you’ll need to dedicate time on a daily basis to posting, responding, engaging with others, liking, commenting, etc.
  • Not as easy as it looks – Each platform has its unique audience, advertising rules, and idiosyncracies. Learning best practices for each is a full-time job (I should know).

At the end of the day, there isn’t a single correct choice for who should manage your social media. The decision needs to be made based on what will work best for you and your business with time and budget considered.

Interested in learning more about managing your own social media? Contact me today to set up your Social Media Bootcamp or for consultation about outsourcing work to Managed by Rita.