Should communications firms manage social media platforms for brands?

An in-house team may know a company's policies, but they won't be able to provide combined learning from other industries and target audiences.

Melanie Taylor
SVP, Social@Ogilvy
Has more than 15 years of experience in digital comms with an emphasis in social media and digital analytics

Human error can happen anywhere. It happens at agencies, such as when a firm working with Chrysler used an expletive on a company blog years ago, and it also touches brands, such as the recent example at US Airways. So who should manage social media accounts, if none of us are perfect? 

The answer is agencies, because they possess a collective knowledge of managing a brand’s online presence, which is difficult to replicate internally.

An in-house team may know a company’s policies, but they won’t be able to provide combined learning from other industries and target audiences.

An agency that manages dozens of communities can identify trends, new platforms, or the effects of policy changes much faster than internal managers who only watch one community. That shared knowledge leads to best practices and faster solutions for both the brand and agency staffers working on it.

Best practices are often formed due to analysis done in bulk across multiple pages. For example, the slow decline in organic reach on Facebook was not noticeable when looking at one page in isolation. But, when we aggregated more than 100 pages across the globe, we spotted a decline that was affecting overall platform performance.

That’s another benefit of working with an agency, access to paid media specialists. As this element of the social ecosystem becomes more critical for effective reach and engagement, managing the conversation involves more than just posting. It is unlikely that the expert conversation manager is also the media buyer or planner.

By leveraging these functions together, a brand can optimize media around well-performing posts. And because media buyers at firms can staff multiple accounts, they are more cost-effective than internal experts who service only one brand.

Partnering with an agency allows brands to focus on high-level marketing objectives rather than the day-to-day tactical requirements of social media. 

Keeping tight control over your brand’s equity in-house makes sense, but it is hard to replicate the breadth of service an agency can provide. 

Brett Jewkes, CCO, NASCAR
He is responsible for leading the company’s integrated marcomms team. Previously spent six years at Taylor  

The short answer is – it depends on your business and brand. At NASCAR, we collaborate with a number of external agencies on big picture social and digital projects, but our unique brand and industry simply demands internal management of our social channels.

We hold live events 38 weeks of the year and some with preseason activity and post-season celebrations. On any given week, about 6 million people watch on TV and thousands more attend events in person – and many of those people are interacting with the brand on social media. 

We have a team of people at our events each week representing NASCAR’s digital and social brand. They post content, interact with fans and media, and more – activities not easily outsourced to an agency or other external organization.

In addition, NASCAR serves multiple stakeholders in our industry – teams, tracks, broadcasters, drivers, and corporate partners. Each are independent entities with an active presence in digital and social media and although they all have their own goals, they collectively look to us to lead.

In 2013, the company reacquired its digital rights, bringing them back in-house so the sanctioning body could further control its digital voice and lead the sport’s stakeholders. It would be difficult for an outside party to strike the right tone given the nuances of our industry.

Finally, the speed of our news cycle is measured in minutes, not hours. Every race week sees
new storylines, and every day presents the possibility of unexpected news – social media for NASCAR is as much a communications tool as it is a content delivery and marketing platform.

Additionally, Twitter is the place for media to break news, and they are in constant competition with each other to be first with the story. This environment requires an in-house team, prepared to quickly respond to news, issue statements, and otherwise communicate with our fan base. 

Those reasons outlined above are why NASCAR’s internal teams – not an external agency  – are best suited to manage its social media voice.

PRWeek’s View: No two clients are alike. While agencies are getting even more adept at handling brands’ social media feeds, the company is the best judge of whether its social media should be handled internally or externally.

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