Outsourcing social media has received mixed reviews and it seems that this debate is growing fiercer as businesses become increasingly more aware of the enormous affect social media can have on their reputations. This heightened awareness likely stems from a combination of horror stories of outsourcing gone wrong, such as the well-studied case of Chrysler’s social media disaster, and what seems to be a recent increase in research in this area conducted by social media consultancies, internal marketing departments, PR and marketing agencies and third party publications.
In my view, outsourcing social media is both safe and effective if you are judicious in selecting an external partner that is worth its salt. It is no secret that damaging and irreversible mistakes can occur in social media, so it is vital that you chose a well-established agency with a history of above-standard communications that knows your business through-and-through and that there be an iron clad, error-proof system of review between agency and business.
This study conducted by SocialMediaToday on in-house and outsourced social media advises businesses to establish visibility into what the agency handling their social media activities does and make sure they are tracking, measuring and course-correcting constantly. We couldn’t agree more, having established these connections for open communication with our agency’s clients where each and every message sent out is reviewed, scrutinized and improved and where questions can be asked and responded to with immediacy.
If you are starting a new venture and can’t support social media internally, outsourcing these tasks can be advantageous. Not only can this shift the time- and cost-consuming burden of monitoring, managing and measuring social media onto someone else’s shoulders, it can also improve your messaging, reach and influence because you are handing these responsibilities over to specialists. I suggest you do your research, however, as many agencies have been known to assign social media tasks to inexperienced juniors while charging you the full rate of an experienced professional.
It is also important to understand that social media requires an internal commitment from your business. You should have someone available to check the tweets, blog comments, LinkedIn answers and discussions, Quora answers and so on developed by your agency before they are sent out. It is also good to have some commitment of senior employees who can dedicate time to providing high-quality responses to relevant questions and discussions posted on social media channels about their specific fields. Your goal is to be as authentic as possible. An agency worth its salt should help you write a strategy, follow it through and provide support, but its efforts must be constantly checked and weighed.
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How outsourcing can be advantageous
- Strategy: A good agency should develop an effective and coherent strategy tailored specifically for your business to help you reach long-term goals.
- Speed: A good agency will help you keep on top of your day-to-day tasks to progress through your strategies quickly.
- Support: A good agency should provide you with answers to your social media questions and teach your employees how to take on social media tasks. It will also provide you with the information to help you avoid costly mistakes.
- Network: A good agency will have and be able to develop a database of tier-one influencers who would be best for you to network with, saving you the time required to find them.
- Integration: The best agencies will be able to integrate your social media efforts with your overall marketing strategy.
How outsourcing can be perceived as disadvantageous
- Authenticity: Many businesses are concerned that outsourcing social media will depreciate its authenticity. I disagree entirely. A good agency should care and know about the businesses it represents as much as its employees. Also, the agency has just as much at stake to lose if the social media plan fails. Its reputation would be tarnished and it would lose its job handling the accounts of the business.
- Connections: It is also thought by businesses that they will lose valuable connections forged through social media if they outsource their efforts. This is also untrue. Relationships are established through the business’s own channels. An agency worth its salt should distinguish brand advocates, influencers and prospects in their communities and make them well-known to the business that could then further relations if desired.
- Authority: In a crisis situation, most agencies want to establish a clear communications plan to address problems quickly. This plan usually includes a statement to be sent out by the agency to the disconcerted individuals to buy them some time to inform the business and devise a solution. There is nothing wrong with this process; it can actually be more beneficial than attempting to solve the problem immediately as the business has time to work with the experience of the agency to develop the best possible response.
- You can be locked in or even held hostage: This point was taken from a Social Media Examiner article. As mentioned previously, a good agency should provide all the information its client needs to take on social media itself. There needs to be constant communication between agency and client where questions are asked and answered promptly. It should be no mystery how the agency is conducting its client’s social media tasks.
- Mistakes: This problem also exists if social media is done internally. As mentioned previously, a good agency should know your business through-and-through. If each message is checked by an internal representative to ensure its accuracy, there should be no errors.
What do you think? Do you disagree with me entirely? Did I miss any key points? Feel free to share your thoughts here. This is a widely debated subject and I’d love to hear your point of view.