Should You Outsource Your Social Media Efforts?

With all of the platforms, tools and tactics available online, it’s easy for businesses to get overwhelmed with social media. That’s why it can be awfully tempting to turn over the social media keys to an intern or hire a freelancer to do the work for you.

I know what you’re thinking – this sounds appealing. It gets your business on the social web and it takes the responsibility off your plate.

But, this approach can be fraught with problems.

First, it can be an expensive to hire someone to monitor, manage, post and engage on the social web for you. Although that might be feasible for a large company, it can be cost prohibitive for a small-to-medium business.

And, if you find a cheap freelancer or company who boast they handle it all for next to nothing, be wary. You may be turning over your brand voice to the wrong person.

Second, because a consultant or freelancer isn’t on site, they miss the sharable moments that happen at your business on a daily basis.

For instance, they can’t take a picture of your pizza coming fresh out of the oven or share a cool video of something that happened in the office today. Sure, those things can be passed along, but because an outsourced consultant or marketing team isn’t a part of the company culture, social sharing opportunities can often be missed.

Ways marketers can help

However, consultants and marketing firms can definitely be useful in your company’s efforts to get active on the social web.

Here’s where a consultant or marketing firm can help:

  • Strategy development. Businesses that need direction with their social media efforts should consider hiring help. A firm can help you build a smart social media strategy that will determine where to spend your time on social networks and how to spend it once you’re there. They can also help you weave your social media efforts into your overall marketing mix.
  • Set up. Social media management becomes much easier once you have the right tools and processes in place. Skilled consultants will be able to recommend tools and establish processes for social media listening, management and engagement.
  • Training and Guidance. Once you have a strategy in place, you can hire someone to train you and your staff on how to use the tools and best implement your plan. They can also help your program get started and provide ongoing guidance so you don’t fumble with your efforts. Consider them a fantastic set of training wheels.
  • Measurement. To help you determine success on the social web, you need to measure results. An outside firm or consultant can help you set up a dashboard for tracking your efforts against your company goals. This way, you can make informed decisions about where to spend your efforts moving forward.

Outsourcing successfully

Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely times where bringing in a team to help companies with social media makes complete sense. In fact, I’ve helped businesses get their social media efforts off the ground, serving as an external social media manager.

However, if you decide to go this route, there are a few things that you should do to make this approach successful:

  • Communicate regularly. It’s imperative they know what’s going on day-to-day with your business.
  • Give them access. Make sure the team is able to quickly and easily get the information they need, when they need it.
  • Integrate into your team. If you want this approach to be successful, the social media team needs to act as part of your marketing department. That way, they will have a better understanding of how social fits into the overall marketing mix.

But, it’s important for companies – especially smaller ones – to remember that while outsourcing social media may sound like a good idea, it might not be the most practical approach.

If you’re struggling to find your footing with social media, use your resources to get strategic help. That way, your time (and money) will be much better spent.

What do you think about outsourcing social media? Has it worked for you?

A portion of this post originally appeared as my guest article for the Nashville Business Journal.

Image credit: cisshadab

About Laura Click

Laura Click is founder and CEO of Blue Kite Marketing, a Nashville-based integrated marketing firm. In addition to being the lead blogger on the Blue Kite blog, Laura is a proud Mizzou alum, avid runner and dog lover. You can connect with Laura on Twitter at @lauraclick, on LinkedIn or Google Plus.

  • Steve Chandler

    Great post Laura. As someone that gets paid to often help client develop social media strategies, I agree completely. If a marketer can keep it in the building, they should.

    • http://flybluekite.com Laura Click

      Keep it the building – love that! Certainly, there are exceptions to every rule. But, I find that for smaller businesses, it’s better to teach and train them how to do it themselves.

  • http://twitter.com/adamtoporek Adam Toporek

    I think the challenge is there is a gap for many small businesses where they are too big/busy to put the time in to it in house but outsourcing it is too expensive and of too questionable a quality.

    I think your list of ways marketers can help is perfect for most SMBs.

    • http://flybluekite.com Laura Click

      You hit the nail on the head, Adam! You’re right – small businesses want to get on the social bandwagon, but they feel they don’t have the time or bandwidth to make it happen. Certainly, outsourcing would make life easier and give business owners one less thing to think about, but unfortunately, it’s often to expensive for the ones that could really use the help. Thanks for weighing in!

  • L. Michelle Baker

    This is such a great question! And I like the thoughtful answer you’ve provided. Certainly SOME aspects of social media output can be outsourced, like the sharing of blog posts, or the monitoring of discussions to determine which to ignore and which to contribute to. But I appreciate your points about the pitfalls.
    One form of “social media” that is often neglected is the blog. Blogs seem old-fashioned in today’s Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn triad, not to mention Pin’ing and Plus’sing, but I still think of them as a social tool.
    Once upon a time, a government agency asked me about starting a blog in their Director’s name, but written by 4 different employees. I remember immediately thinking *DISASTER*. I suggested they a) create a mascot and all learn to write in that voice, or b) post their own profiles to the blog and write in their own voices. What I emphatically iterated is that they would never be able to ghost blog in their Director’s voice. They just wouldn’t be able to capture the social aspect of the communication.
    And I think the same holds for any company – small or large. Don’t ghost post for your CEO.

    • http://flybluekite.com Laura Click

      You bring up a good point – blogging is a larger part of social. I think that it’s easier to outsource that component of it. But you’re right – ghost writing for an individual is tricky business. It can be done, but you have to be very careful about it. Thanks for weighing in!

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