Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Foursquare, Gowalla, Yelp; the list of social media sites where you can list your business and interact with customers seems to be growing all the time. How do you participate in all these social media sites while still finding the time to actually run your business?

One possible solution is to hire an agency to handle your social media activities for you, such as tweeting on your behalf, updating your Facebook Page or creating a comprehensive LinkedIn profile.

Just because you can hire someone doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. Consider the following pros and cons before you decide whether hiring an agency to handle your social media is the right option for you.

The Pros of Hiring an Agency

Should an Agency Handle Your Social Media

Pro: Save Time

It takes a lot of time to create social media profiles, build a following, and provide consistent updates across a number of different platforms. While having an active social media presence is obviously time well spent, perhaps you have more pressing demands to attend to. In this case, hiring an agency to handle your social media tasks will allow you spend time on actually running your business. There are only 24 hours in day, so make sure you assign the most effective people for the tasks at hand.

Pro: Save Money

Most agencies provide social media services on a sliding scale. That means, the more services you want, the more you pay. Conversely, if you have a modest budget, you can often contract fewer services. Hiring an agency may allow you to evaluate whether social media is a good fit for your business without having to worry about the overhead costs associated with hiring a staff member for the job.

Pro: Expertise

You’re probably not a social media “expert,” nor do you want to be one. For a social media agency, however, social media is the business. Any agency worth its salt will have a track record of successful social media campaigns that it’s managed for other clients. It will be able to answer all of your questions. It will also be able to confidently address topics like SEO, company blogs, video, and any number of other topics related to using social media to build your business.

If your toilet backs up, do you reach for a plunger or do you call in a plumber? Use the same criteria to decide whether you have the expertise to handle your social media activities in house or if you’d be better off hiring a professional for the job.

The Cons of Hiring an Agency

Con: Lack of Industry Knowledge

If you hire an agency, you are but one of many social media accounts that its managing at any given time. An agency may have clients ranging from urban retailers to farm suppliers, and everything in between. What does the agency know about your business or your customers? How will the agency choose and distribute content that’s appropriate to your audience? You have to consider that an agency will never know your business as well as you do.

Con: Lack of Authenticity

No one wants to communicate with a “company.” What people really want — especially those who are using social media — is to communicate with the people behind the business.

If you hire an agency to handle your social media campaign, you’re allowing your audience to believe that they’re actually communicating with you. It’s clear that having a disclaimer like “Agency X is doing our tweets for us” won’t help your cause. You’re left with the fact that if you hire an agency, it’s not really you who is communicating with your customers.

Are you okay with that? Is it fair to your customers to make them interact with someone who has no personal affinity with your business? Only you can decide the right answer.

Con: Profits vs. Relationships

The primary goal of a social media agency is to maximize its profits for any contract it undertakes. That means it’s focused solely on the bottom line; as stated earlier, social media is its business. The agency doesn’t really care about building a relationship with your customers, it cares more about building a relationship with you.

If an agency does a good job handling your social media campaign, perhaps you’ll renew or expand your contract. If it doesn’t do a good job, however, it’s your relationship with your customer that potentially suffers.

When you hire an agency to handle your social media campaign, the content, execution and even measurement of success is often quantified in terms of the return on investment, or ROI. While a positive ROI for any marketing expenditure should always be your goal, sometimes it’s harder to quantify the value of building a good relationship with a client vs. the number of widgets you sold this month.

An agency will always have its own bottom line in mind, whereas you must consider your customers when determining the of your value of social media campaign.

Which Choice is Right For You?

Some argue that social media itself hasn’t been around long enough for there to be any real experts in this field. On the other hand, you have to consider whether or not you have the tools, skills and resources in-house to make social media work for your business. Carefully weigh the pros and cons before deciding if hiring an agency to handle your social media is a good fit for your business.

Have you ever hired an agency to handle your social media activities? Would you ever consider it? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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