A few weeks ago, I shared my thoughts on how to structure a solid social media program. I alluded to the fact that the only components of your social program that can and should be outsourced were the “business as usual” (BAU) activities – those daily or weekly tasks that simply keep your social engine running.
Many experts and gurus and specialists and ninjas and d-bags with other nonsensical titles believe that companies should outsource most of their social media efforts. In talking with businesses who do outsource, I’ve heard an array of reasons why:
- Lack of belief. Businesses don’t believe that social media works. Unless it will help them sell more widgets, they don’t want to bother. (Eric Qualman proves this point wrong with an excellent Social Media Revolution video) BUT, the “big three” social sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) are too large to ignore, so businesses hire an agency to maintain their presence there just so that they can be seen and say that they’re “doing” social.
- Lack of time. Businesses want to focus on selling more widgets, not “engaging” with customers and other social fluff that is considered a waste of time.
- Lack of expertise. Businesses don’t know much about social media marketing. However, they do know their business inside and out, and would much rather focus on that and leave the social media to the “real” experts.
Most of those who believe in outsourcing social media are merely scared by the perceived complexity of navigating the social landscape in an environment where consumers – not the brand – control the conversation. And, rather than make the time to figure it out and do it right because it’s hugely impactful to their business, they outsource to agencies or individuals who claim to be experts in social strategy (news flash: knowing how to set up a business page in Facebook and schedule tweets/posts in Hootsuite does not an expert make. A tactical executer, yes. Strategy expert, no.).
Consider these reasons why you should NOT outsource certain components of your social media program:
- Engagement/Social CRM (how does your brand ongoingly engage with consumers?): 60% of consumers have followed a brand on a social networking site. They do this because they want to share their opinions and be heard by the brand, not the brand’s agency. Social interactions are far more meaningful for both brands and consumers when there is direct interaction, especially in customer service-type scenarios.
- Measurement (how do you prove to management that social media is driving the top line?): social metrics should be tied directly to the top business and marketing objectives. They should be measured, reported, tweaked, re-measured and re-reported on a continual basis to ensure social media efforts are worthwhile and are making an impact on the business. Outsourcing this is too cumbersome and will create bottlenecks in the process. Not to mention an agency is too far removed from what senior management wants and expects in terms of performance.
- Commerce (how do you utilize social networks within the context of e-commerce?): this may work as a joint effort between a brand and its agency, but think about this – in instances of product changes/availability, negative ratings/reviews, etc., do you want to delay the response time by having to engage an agency as middle man… or would it be better to keep this in-house so that you can adjust quickly?
- Integration (how do you ensure integration with other digital and offline marketing efforts?): no one knows how to do this better than the brand itself. An agency cannot possibly understand and be involved in every campaign running across an entire business.
In my opinion, monitoring efforts and other BAU activities may be the only components that are acceptable to outsource. These two pieces do not require direct and ongoing representation and guidance from the brand to execute.
I fully acknowledge that there may not be one “correct” answer here. What works for one brand may be completely wrong for another. In addition, it can be a challenge to secure the right amount and mix of resources to support social efforts in-house. Sometimes, a business doesn’t have the manpower and simply has to partner with an agency. I also recognize that there are instances of exceptional agency partners, where the agency is so close to the brand that they feel more like an extension of the business, rather than an external partner. In these cases, outsourcing may not be a “bad” thing.
I’d like to leave you all with these final thoughts: most businesses can agree that social media is essential for doing business, since social sites are where their customers are, already talking about them and sharing their experiences. With so much opportunity to capitalize on (e.g., the chances to turn bad experiences into good ones, to turn first-time customers into loyal brand advocates, to glean important product and service feedback), why would you NOT want to be an integral part of that process?
What are your thoughts: let someone else do the dirty work, or bring it in-house?