Over the past three to five years, companies have been increasingly relying on in-house resources to create social media content that their external agencies previously delivered. According to the ANA's most recent survey, 40%-46% of in-house agencies have taken on content creation for social media, mobile display, desktop display and email formerly produced by outside vendors. Cella's 2019 In-House Creative Industry Report findings were markedly higher. A full 86% of respondents said their teams engaged in some form of social media content development, with graphic content, photography and video being the most prominent forms. In-house teams are immersed in their host companies' culture and can quickly, consistently and intuitively "speak" for the company in its brand voice. This deep understanding of the company's brand, coupled with the ability to quickly respond to requests for these platforms (or proactively create content for them) are key drivers of this transition. As CustomerThink observes, "An in-house employee will always beat an agency or freelancer when it comes to knowing the inside information."* And many people think this says it all.
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In-House Social Media Content Roles
The roles that execute social media tactics are new, ever changing and significantly different from traditional digital services jobs held by employees such as information architects, UX/UI designers and front end or full-stack developers. Now, among other roles, teams consist of content creators, motion graphics designers and editors who are specifically hired to enhance their companies' social media presence and broaden its reach. They are unconventional content creators whose skills can span writing, photography and video production on the fly.
Social Media Marketing
In addition to those who create marketing materials and engage in real-time responses to customer and visitor feedback, another group of professionals helps drive traffic to their companies' social media output. These specialists are engaged in search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM) and social media marketing. They deal in keywords and metadata and are constantly adapting to new search algorithms. They also purchase words and phrases to ensure that people will easily find their sites, and that other online entities will immediately recognize the merits of recommending the brand.
With titles such as search engine marketing manager and social strategist, in-house social media specialists cover a broad range of responsibilities that include: planning online content development; conducting outreach to online media, influencers and partners; and defining research requirements for social-media strategies. These professionals combine unique skills with a holistic understanding of social media and the synergies between it and search content. They also need to have a strong grasp of online analytics and the ability to use data to help craft content for specific online audiences.
Social media marketing, not to be confused with programmatic media buying, combines the science and art of psychology and persuasion. It's an area that in-house agencies are only just now learning. According to reports from both the ANA and Cella, currently 25% to 60% of in-house agencies are committing expertise to social media marketing, including search engine marketing (SEM) as well as SEO. Many external traditional agencies lack this competency; hence, specialized social media firms are the dominant providers of these services. Even so, substantial opportunity and benefits exist for companies to bring social media marketing in house--for many of the same reasons that prompted the movement of social-media content creation. Practitioners of social marketing and buying are at their best when they are immersed in a company's brand, ambassadors of its culture and deeply understand its various audiences. They can play to their companies' strengths and powerfully influence their companies' constituents.
Building An In-House Social Marketing Team
These are some of the major factors to consider when establishing an in-house social media operation:
* Ensuring you create and understand social marketing objectives
* Identifying the appropriate positions to execute the social plan
* Hiring individuals who reflect the company culture and will continually evaluate social marketing platforms and trends
* Creating a structure that allows social media marketers and buyers direct access to internal clients and executional teams
There's No Better Time to Move Social In-House
The key takeaway is this: the integration of social-media marketing and buying professionals into in-house groups is trending upward. The growth is due, in part, to the resident professionals' intimate understanding of their host companies. Additionally, these specialists have easy access to pivotal internal marketing staff. Various roles filled by in-house social media experts are flexible and extendable, evolving in step with an ever-changing medium. Finally, new social-media platforms are appearing almost monthly, offering up fresh environments for compelling content. All of these coalescing developments make the present an especially expedient time for companies to bring social media expertise inside, into the in-house agency where it should be.
*Muhammad Ali Khan, Social Media Marketing: In-House Vs. Agency Vs. Freelancer Who To Hire? CustomerThink, May 22, 2018 (https://customerthink.com/social-media-marketing-in-house-vs-agency-vs-freelancer-who-to-hire/)