Is hiring social media 'voices' like renting a TV?

There’s something I’ve been struggling with over the past few weeks, just in my own head…

…is hiring in social media folks to talk to your customers (from specialist social agencies, or indeed media/PR/advertising/digital agencies) a bit like renting a television set?



In the short term, with a constrained budget, it makes a lot of sense.  You get the thing you need instantly, there’s no massive up front investment, you can see how it pans out for you in your circumstances, and after a month, you can give it back.

In the long term though, it makes no sense.  It’s a really expensive way to get television.  12 months later, and you’ve paid enough money to have bought a set outright in the first place.  With a little careful budgeting, and diversion of funds in the first place, you could have had your very own telly.

How is this like ‘social media’?

Well, rather than ‘renting’ the time of agency staff to deal with the ins and outs of their own social media interactions, should clients just bite the bullet and…

a) invest in their own specialist people to do it, or even…

b) just make it a little part of various people’s jobs in the company?

Now, to be clear, I’m not talking about the strategy behind the social media, driving awareness of the social channels, the analytical analysis and tool development and so on… I think there’s a lot of valuable experience, insight & ability that agencies can bring to this process.

I’m thinking more of the people at the other end of the social tools…

I’ve got a belief in my head that I can’t quite shake about the importance of ‘who’ people talk to on Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, forums or wherever. 

If they want to talk to someone from ‘company X’, it should be someone from ‘company X’ they speak to (for various reasons of transparency, cultural response, ability to action things internally and the like).  

The ability to talk directly to a person in a company is something that I think people are getting increasingly used to (and will demand more of, I think).

I talked about it a lot in The Communis Manifesto.


Everything I’ve seen of late makes me think that the need for companies to have internal people available who are adept in conversing like this will only increase.  

Getting in agency staff who do this (and no doubt do it across three, four, five different accounts) strikes me as a little… short term, maybe? 

Renting the TV, not buying your own.

Yes, agencies will still help with the ideas, amplification, analysis… but I think companies will increasingly have to have the people internally who do the talking themselves.

I’m really interested in what other folks (i.e. YOU) think… am I being overly precious? 

Does the average punter not care, as long as they get a response?  Is being part of the agency team on a brand good enough?