A good agency offers very valuable services in advising and training clients on the best ways (philosophy and tools) to use so they can listen to and engage with the community that exists around their brand in order to strengthen the ties the community has to the brand. An agency worth its salt is also attentive to new developments in these respects so that it can keep its clients current and connected.
That being said, I believe that the day to day really must be run by someone (and maybe eventually a team) in-house who can immerse themselves in the culture and get a feeling for what the brand is really like and what the goals of the company are and, based on what the community is saying, has direct access to the people who can effect that change inside the company as quickly as may be necessary. An insider in all senses because who knows what funny, interesting or otherwise share-worthy things happen inside that slip by the person liaising with an agency running the day to day otherwise.
Selecting this person or team is something an agency definitely can and probably should help with but I really do believe that the day to day should be an in-house role.
This doesn’t mean agencies are indispensable or, conversely, have a limited timespan in which they are valuable to their clients. Nor does it mean that every brand or even vertical requires an in-house team to run their social media (which is only part of brand community management). But in cases where a company understands the need to listen and enagage based on the personality of their brand, of which social media is an expression, and of their business goals, agencies can provide valuable help getting them started and keeping them on top of the game, or party as it were!
(FULL DISCLOSURE: I am not affiliated with an agency but I have worked both in-house and in an external advisory role and am currently seeking new opportunities! Happy to chat about this article or community management in general 🙂
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