business men talking Not every company has the bandwidth to run its own social media channels and plan powerhouse marketing campaigns. Although many brands prefer to keep all of their social operations in-house, sometimes looking beyond your team is the right call. Outsourcing your social media activities to an agency may free up your team members to concentrate on other projects, or it may allow you the freedom to consider a creative new approach to your brand’s social footprint. As social media becomes more integrated with other marketing and advertising campaigns, more and more agencies are including related services. It should come as no surprise that many of the world’s top agencies are turning out smart, insightful social media projects for their clients. Here are four examples of social agencies that are knocking it out of the park.

1. 42 Entertainment

42 Entertainment Smart agencies know that social media works best in tandem with a full marketing plan. 42 Entertainment takes that idea to the extreme by using social campaigns as just one facet of huge transmedia experiences. This agency provided the brains behind the immensely popular “Why So Serious?” promotion for The Dark Knight movie, and that’s just one of its many social-centric inventions. This is an agency that doesn’t do small. All of its endeavors are large in scale and scope, bringing a high production value for A-list brands. “Why So Serious?” was one of the most popular campaigns, but 42 Entertainment has executed several other transmedia promotions. The “Year Zero” project for marketing the Nine Inch Nails album of the same name took an underground approach to getting the music out; flash drives were circulated among fans which held clues to a secret, exclusive concert. In another creative campaign, alternate reality game “I Love Bees” helped push sales for the release of video game Halo 2 with a real world scavenger hunt.

2. We Are Social

We Are Social The name doesn’t lie. This agency is focused on helping brands create social media-centric conversations with their customers. From large companies to charity organizations, We Are Social has proven its ability to create powerful campaigns for any client. One of the agency’s biggest successes was the “Grow Your Own” campaign for Heinz. The ketchup company wanted to emphasize the roots of its product by educating people about its tomato farmers and encouraging families to grow tomato plants of their own. The Facebook-driven campaign especially reached out to mothers with children, making it a family endeavor. Heinz would send a packet of tomato seeds, and later, successful growers might receive horticultural gifts from the brand to further their home-grown projects. The campaign reached more than 11 million people on Facebook.

3. Big Spaceship

Big Spaceship Creative thinking is frequently touted among the top social agencies, but few are able to run the gamut from serious and classic to lighthearted and silly in the way Big Spaceship does. The Brooklyn-based agency’s client roster features many familiar names across a full suite of services, from brand strategy, to games, to design, and social. For evidence of what this agency can do, look no further than the social success of Skittles. We’ve covered the candy brand’s lovable Facebook Page before on Sprout Insights, and the innovators at Big Spaceship are the brains behind the “Experience the Rainbow” campaign. They developed a content-focused plan for both the web and social platforms that revolved around fan conversations. As we’ve seen, those conversations are always laced with positive energy and humor, which reaffirms the brand’s ethos as well as galvanizing its supporters. Big Spaceship’s inventive thinking doesn’t stop there. For Fast Company, the agency worked on strategy for a conversation about the future of advertising that crossed between social, mobile, and print platforms. For Orbitz, Big Spaceship focused on promoting and distributing comedic video shorts through a variety of social channels.

4. Mullen

Mullen This full-service ad agency in Boston has some impressive social chops. Mullen proved itself unafraid to take on new frontiers in social media with its “Hollywood and Vines” creation for Airbnb. The short film was made entirely from fan-sourced Vine videos. Partnering with a screenwriter and film director, the agency developed a list of shots and asked Vine members to claim and film them. More than 100 Vine clips went into the final product, which captured the ideas of travel and adventure that are key to Airbnb’s customer base. Mullen has also excelled with smaller-scale social projects that played on popular culture ideas. It brokered a partnership with celebrity chef Bobby Flay for Fage, along with adding 1 million Facebook fans for the Greek yogurt brand over the course of their relationship. Another success story was the “Election Protection” campaign for JetBlue. Piggybacking off the threats that people would move away from the U.S. if their preferred candidate didn’t win the 2012 presidential election, the airline said it would give away one-way tickets for people if their preferred candidate didn’t win. With Mullen’s social, mobile, and web advertising, the campaign generated more than 346,000 unique visits and 51 million impressions. What other agencies are doing great work in social media? Let us know in the comments! [Image credit: Allen Sima]