Outsourcing social media

The first #smclinic was a success, which is a big relief. We genuinely never knew if anyone would participate and were concerned that it would degrade into the usual banter by the same old faces. That never happened, in fact, many of the usual faces were around but their input simply improved the whole thing. Those genuine beginners who were looking for answers were very lucky to have the calibre of users that turned up to offer their support.

One thing that did come up merits a bit more discussion though. That was the topic of outsourcing social media. It was one of the questions that was asked and the responses from our expert panel were not all “on message.” The fall out continued beyond the clinic itself with the 2 camps polarised in their opinion of whether or not it’s a good idea.

It’s a black and white issue.

There’s a level of organisation that has such a volume of social media work they need to undertake that they might just as well outsource it than tackle the problem in-house. Basically, if they were to do it in-house it would be a departmental function rather than the genuine voice of the company. That’s what happens with large brands. If they bring in experts then at least they know they are getting some sound advice as well as having someone who understands the importance of online branding and will act appropriately.

Smaller organisations really shouldn’t ever consider outsourcing though. The spirit of the company is much more easily captured by the staff and their output ought to be manageable if the task is shared. This will create a genuine company voice which is only really achievable at this level.

That’s not to say that these smaller companies shouldn’t be looking for outside help.

There is a lot to learn at the outset about brand positioning and communications using social media. It’s imperative to come up with a strategy that works for you and be trained in how to implement it. That’s where consultants come in. They will hold your hand in the early stages, even take on board the writing of some of your content, but at the end of the day it needs to all be dealt with in-house.

That’s my position anyway. Very interested to hear yours.

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10 thoughts on “Outsourcing social media

  1. For me it is clear that you need to have an internal SM champion (s). There is a place for outsourcing and whoever you use as an outside influence must work with that person or persons very closely. If a small business goes out there without somebody who knows at the least the basics either internally or help from outside then they will struggle to achieve much and ultimatley waste time and energy. A blend of the two can be (and has been for many)achieved.

  2. Can I also add that if people think that the biggest and most succesful SM campaigns do not have an element of outsourcing to them then they are being a little naive.

    1. Thanks Mike. I guess not all companies will actually have appropriately skilled staff in-house to handle the communications properly.

      Hypothetical question: Would you rather follow an organisation who get it all a bit wrong or an organisation who have the kinks smoothed out by outside help? Hmmm

      1. How would a follower know? Getting it wrong at first is ok to a certain level, but if they are getting it wrong when it comes to helping and serving their audience then they will struggle to recover without the right guidance. Like you say, many companies do not have the internal staff. If we are saying that comms cannot be outsourced then there would be no need for marketing agencies of pretty much any kind.

  3. I find this a very difficult fence to decide which side to sit on. I think it depends on a case by case basis and each business will differ, depending on their resources and social media marketing strategy.

    As a ‘champion’ of social media within an organisation, I have developed, with others, what I believe to be a robust strategy and have trained a team to deliver the strategy. However, I have used social media for years and the majority of my colleagues would be the first to admit that they don’t have the knowledge to develop and deliver social media strategy.

    If an organisation is using a consultant to develop strategy and get them started, they should be wary of ‘gurus’ who will write themselves into the delivery of said strategy, in some cases unnecessarily.

    I believe that in order to deliver information and respond to enquiries in a timely fashion, the platform must be managed by someone internal, or someone very close to the business. That’s one reason why top level CEO accounts work, they are able to respond with knowledge and authority (or appear to).

    However, as our social media platforms grow, we find the time necessary to manage them grow and it can become increasingly difficult to allocate enough time.

    1. Yes, time is a major issue for social media delivery as it’s an enormous overhead which doesn’t always get factored into the planning.

      Maybe outsourcing works if it’s regular and they work from within the organisation, on a contract basis. That way they’re essentially an employee anyway.

  4. Surely the viability of outsourcing is all down to context.

    I agree that external support while a firm is establishing a social media protocol is hugely beneficial and also for developing strategy and brand issues, but on a tactical level then outsourcing may not be the most appropriate.

    External firms will never quite have the same level of knowledge as someone internal and so for some industries (recruitment or professional services for example) outsourcing of the tactical engagement might not be as effective as some designated internal resource.

  5. You’re right about context. If the content that you’re dealing with is unpredictable, like the recruitment sector for instance, then it’s difficult to have that managed externally when your consultant will have other commitments.

    If content is predictable and steady then it would be far more effective.

  6. I dont think getting bogged down in the actual tweeting, writing etc etc is wise. It’s the strategy and measurement that many need help with.

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