Outsourcing Social Media: Should I Do It?

Can you find someone you can trust to accurately reflect your brand online?

There’s no two ways about it, social media is a time-consuming but rewarding activity.

However as someone that is building a brand online, those person(s) must know how to interact with potential customers in a way that communicates and accurately reflects your brand.

A recent survey of SME owners proved that ‘social media expert’ was the number one title position that MD’s and CEO’s were looking for to help support their company with social. Interesting to note how this came out much higher on the list than other roles that could fill that gap, such as ‘social media executive’, ‘social assistant’ or ‘content manager’.

There are certainly some obvious benefits to enlisting external help, some of which may not even require a full time in-house role but could be fulfilled on a part-time basis.

START SMALL THEN GROW

As an SME, launching your social strategy does not necessarily mean you need to have a dedicated 40-hour week assistant committed to posting three times a day and doing on the hour community management checks. I have helped launch a number of small businesses (particularly retailers) with dedicating no more than 2 hours a day to creating good content with a solid strategy, outreaching to potential customers and responding to enquiries.

If you are a large corporation then this of course is an entirely untrue principle, but most Start-ups are not large enterprises from the get go. 10 hours a week is enough time to make a significant addition to someone’s social presence but not enough to hire a full time position.

A plus for outsourcing.

TEAM WORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK

A CEO of a social media marketing company recently said that “Weekends and holidays are some of the most active periods when it comes to social engagement.” Question: would your internal staff be dedicated enough to respond to enquiries outside of the standard 9–5 on a Friday night? How would that compare to an external company?

If you are going to outsource, I would suggest it is vital that the expectation of responding to customers outside of normal hours is a given.

Also on the subject of team, internal staff looking after your social media come and go all the time. If all of your eggs are in one basket and that person leaves, your expertise will walk out the door with that person. When an external company has an employee leave, it is still their commitment to ensure your social activity continues and is not affected, that there is a contingency plan in place.

A second plus for outsourcing.

ONE PERSONS HEAD AGAINST A TEAM OF INDUSTRY KNOWLEDGE

Social media agencies work with multiple clients, in multiple industries. This means they have to understand those industries and how their different audiences interact with different platforms, different content and consume varying data.

Social has the temptation to look like something you can assign to any ‘assistant intern’, but this is your business. Would I trust a college student to walk into an office of CEO’s and accurately reflect my brand without any real industry knowledge? Absolutely not. So why should your social channels be any different?

You need someone who understands your industry and how it operates, the relevant trends and the art of business communication.

A third plus for outsourcing.

However, being from a digital and social agency, I would be giving a biased view if I did not point out some of the downsides to external help too.

WHAT QUALIFIES SOMEONE AS A ‘SOCIAL EXPERT’?

Every agency will tell you they are ‘social media experts’ and understand ‘social strategy’. But the reality, is a good proportion don’t.

Content and competitor research, ever-changing trends, sales funnels, analytics, measurement and ROI are just some of the many factors involved in ensuring you have a solid social strategy.

Too many business owners assume college graduate employees can handle all of this. Sadly there are not enough 18 year old geniuses out there who can really do the job.

Don’t be fooled by the common selling points and look for warning lights: too-competitive pricing, auto-posting and copying content from competitors. It will come back to bite you.

CREATE A SOCIAL POLICY

Reflect, reflect, reflect.

Every post and conversation that is created on your social channels is a representation of your brand. Any person that comes on board to support must accurately communicate your brand in the way they interact with customers. Tone of voice, use of imagery and how to deal with complaints are just some of the many mistakes brands overlook leaving users wondering why your website looks like a complete different company to what’s being said on your social media.

Develop a voice that works for your brand across each platform and stick to that in every circumstance. Make sure they know the rules and guidelines.

DO NOT LEAVE YOUR HANDS COMPLETELY REMOVED

Social agencies can help to get eyeballs on your content and show you where people are talking about keywords that are relevant to you online, but you are still the overall expert of your brand. That means you should still have a strong influence and input on the content created.

There’s nothing worse as a consumer than reading blogs about your industry and finding mistakes, inaccuracies and downright untrue statements. The damage to your brand can be phenomenal and sometimes irreversible.

See your outsourced help as an extension of your knowledge, a part of your team that you are still directing as the head. Ensure they link in with your sales team and you are constantly funneling social leads down the pipeline and tracking conversions. This should constantly adapt your social strategy going forward.

Last notes to consider:

SOCIAL SHOULD BE EXECUTED AS PART OF A WIDER, INTEGRATED CAMPAIGN

Social is just one element of a good marketing strategy. Sure, if e-commerce is purely how your business operates than perhaps you may do more online activity than other brands. But ensure you are utilising other aspects of marketing depending on where your audience best engage — TV, offline/print, SEO, direct mail all have their right place in the right strategy!

NUMBERS MEAN NOTHING

100,000 Facebook likes mean nothing if they are not interested, engaged and loyal followers. Beware of the trap of agencies ensnaring you into believing high numbers will transform your business. Unless they are converting into sales and you are tracking that, it’s a waste of time.

Build and nurture those relationships and see your business develop.

START SMALL AND GROW

You don’t need to launch on every platform available immediately. Complete a research piece and know where your audience are engaging best. That’s a good place to start and continue building onto other channels from there. Social is not disappearing tomorrow and growth is exciting!

Matt is an account manager for the Wonderful Creative Agency. Get in touch @matt_rowbotham

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