Social Media: Should you outsource?

17 09 2009

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Joining the social media marketing stampede now seems a nearly unavoidable business necessity. And a common question for business owners is, “should I outsource social media?” But whom should a company have do all the site building, optimizing, networking, publishing, sharing, linking, interacting, reaching out and monitoring required to implement an effective social media marketing program?

For me, just reading that last sentence is overwhelming. General concerns about social media mainly surround the time it takes to manage the strategy, and create an authentic message communicated through the right channels on a consistent basis. Know first that given all the avenues for marketing your business, social media provides the most direct message possible. That’s why some think that having a corporate social media strategy is like selling uncut cocaine. Traditional corporate communications (PR, journalists, other bloggers) “cut” up your story and dilute your message. So is it worthwhile to put your fate in other people’s hands while playing the telephone game with your company’s information?

The answer is, maybe. Whether your company chooses to outsource the job to avoid wasting time and money, management needs to be very clear with all concerned as to just what they want to accomplish.

Believe it or not, the global business process outsourcing (BPO) industry is expected to grow to $230 billion by 2012, with $50 billion of it going to India only. It’s amazing to think that social media outsourcing will be a segment of this forecast. Choosing whether to outsource or retain your social media strategy in-house is personal to your business and there is no right or wrong answer, as long as the campaign has a clear focus.

Outsourcing:

Here’s the deal, how much time do you want to spend internally to develop a social media strategy? Often times, simply outsourcing the work gets the job done – rather than fumbling around and letting it take the back burner because you’re not sure how to start. In that case, check out the seven benefits to outsourcing social media. As far as deciding whether outsourcing is right for your company, deciding on a service provider, and managing an agency who communicates your specific message – read this article.

In-House:

If you are interested in tackling this hurdle, but maybe need some coaching to start, it’s good to first acknowledge the idea that people want to interact with the people at your organization. It’s a no-brainer to believe that you have pride in your business and the solutions it offers to your customers.  If this is the case, you probably believe that entrusting your brand’s voice to a bunch of strangers, or anyone not directly integrated and passionate about your brand, could be risky business.

Thus we come back to the issue of scalability. The trick is to figure out which channels are the most productive for you and to focus on those. Think of social media as simply another method of communication, but the real question is who is really listening? For me to say that if you love your business/brand, communication will come easily is a broad statement. But it really is as simple as that…figure out the best mediums to promote your voice and create relationships through those channels. Here are a few things to think about:

  • If your customers have opted in to receive e-mails from you, work on that.
  • If you have a brand people know, Facebook is a great place to be.
  • If you’re trying to establish your brand as a leader, blogging might be the way to go.
  • If you’re trying to drive foot traffic, Twitter is proving to be a great way of doing that.

Furthermore, check out these 25 social media and marketing tips. They include advice on justifying the investment in a social media strategy, how to decide on tactics, and measuring success.

What about the risks of social media? A research study found that 81% of senior management, marketing and human resources executives view social media as a valuable tool to enhance relationships with customers and build their company’s brand. But that same percentage perceived social media as a corporate security risk. Without panicking your in-house counsel (who may also be outsourced), here are five best practices to improve your relationship with counsel and improve the likelihood of your campaigns seeing the light of day.

Choosing to outsource is just as personal as choosing your company’s social media messaging. And whether you outsource is a decision based on a multitude of factors. Regardless, either choice will certainly enhance your brand – simply because engaging in social media allows you extend your reach to more people.

Photo courtesy of Knowtebook.

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2 responses

18 09 2009
Jason

I think it’s a good way how you break down the social media landscape. It is important to make a clear distinction between “outsourcing” social media and “offshoring” social media.

Hiring US based social media strategist can put the campaign into right direction which can save time and lower risks. Offshoring is quite different. In my opinion, companies need to have a mature social media process in place before they engage with offshore resources to optimize the social strategy. Strategic outsourcing should always start in the US and work toward augment the social media staff oversea.

23 06 2010
Infinit-O

Thanks for the great read. I would just like to point out that although it would be preferable for companies to maintain conversations in the social media sphere within the company, most of the time, this does not happen. It could be because of lack of time, manpower, etc. Would that then mean that the company can just forget about engaging their community through conversations? It shouldn’t. Social media engagement, although not a primary requirement for a business to function, is also very beneficial. Thus, in cases where companies are not able to manage their own conversations, this is where outsourcing can come in. It is not the idea of outsourcing that would be an issue. Outsourcing to someone several miles away versus someone else with in your company is still not you. What is vital is exercising proper guidelines and maintaining effective communication to ensure that your social media engagement remains effective. For us (we are an outsourcing company: Infinit-O), the question is not whether you should outsource, but who should be your outsourcing partner. That’s just my two cents on that. Kudos!

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