There are many good posts on the need for brands and organizations to run their own social media activities. Mia Dand at MarketingMystic recently stated this is one of the top three “inconvenient truths” about social media. The Conversation Agent blog suggests that social outsourcing only makes sense when the CEO doesn’t have the time or interest to engage using the social channel. Way back in 2009, Entrepreneur Magazine tackled this knotty topic. But few articles explore, from a business operations perspective, why it is a bad idea. Let me explain.
All (successful) companies have a strategic plan. Successful companies are marked by both their strategic and operational excellence. They execute in the present while defining the strategic direction for future growth and success. Activities such as entering a new marketplace, refining customer care programs to ensure repeat buyers, engaging in R&D efforts to surface current and future products and services all depend on both current operations and forward-looking strategy. A thriving organization sees sales grow year over year because they can meet market demand in the present and anticipate customer needs well into the future.
Well-designed Social Media programs serve the strategic plan as they integrate into and reinforce the core strategy of an organization. Social programs leverage aspects of the firm’s business strategy to impact the bottom line. They are not just another fancy marketing channel. If the firm’s strategy includes reaching a new buying audience or launching a new product or service, social media can support that strategy by — for example — refining the customer data on which audience targeting and product features are based. The future course of an organization can be often tracked through customer account penetration awareness and satisfaction data.
Through social business integration programs, organizations can get an informed look (beyond standard CRM reporting) at customer demand through a number of different mechanisms. From well-worn social media marketing efforts – using basic tools such as Twitter or Facebook – they can reality-test and evangelize a product or service, even before the primary launch and investment of significant resources. At the same time, they can monitor the social channel to identify changing perceptions, waxing or waning demand and the presence of emerging competitors.
Through the use of owned social channels such as online customer feedback systems, discussion forums and blogs, an organization can discuss with their existing customers what they want or need, identify market gaps along with product or service issues, or even defuse dissatisfaction “bombs” before they destroy sales. Social media enables an organization to act more nimbly using these early signals — what risk managers call “leading indicators.” (I covered this topic in 2010). A constant stream of contextual feedback brings unstructured data into the realm of strategic intelligence through the use of social business metrics.
So … consider the complexities of interpreting these critical signals in the context of your organization’s core strategy. Does the notion that an outside agency will be making the key decisions about which data are important to your organization sound like good business sense? Do you really want a recent graduate with little or no knowledge of your core business values and imperatives deciding which comments or ideas are important to share with your marketing team? Does an agency that doesn’t understand your company’s confidential strategy have the institutional knowledge to accurately parse the data and sift the important stuff from the fluff? Do agency staff even know the right people to contact on your sales or R&D teams, let alone have the relationships and business framework to help them understand and leverage data that may define your company’s future? These are just some of the reasons why outsourcing social is not in your organization’s best interests.
Once business leaders get past the misconception that social media marketing is all there is to social media, and start to think about using it as a strategic support tool – then it will be used and valued as the powerful information resource it truly is. Why would you want to outsource this crown jewel of strategic information? Keep those precious jewels inside your company where they belong!