Should You Outsource Social Media?

I had an interesting conversation with social media expert Deb Krier – the SociaLight – on her radio show the other day. As we were discussing social media and marketing, the inevitable question came up: “How do I manage the time social media requires?”

A common solution, especially for small to medium businesses, is to outsource to a social media firm. This can take a lot of pressure off business owners who already have too much to do. At the same time, outsourcing can create more problems than it solves if it is not done right.

How do you avoid the potential pitfalls? Here are a few best practices:

  1. Thoroughly vet your social media partners. – It’s pretty easy to hang out a “Social Media Expert” shingle, and a lot of people did that over the past couple of years. That doesn’t meant they’re all experts, so be sure the partner you select really knows how to effectively manage social media for your business. (For tips on how to spot an authentic expert, read:
  2. Be an active participant in the process.  Surprisingly, outsourcing social media can sometimes seem more difficult than doing it yourself. Why? Because a good outsourcing relationship is collaborative. You’ll be helping to plan your approach and educate your partner on your strategy to ensure they can speak your brand voice. You’ll also need to review responses at times and course-correct as necessary.
  3. Don’t abdicate responsibility. Never assume you are relieved of your responsibility for social media just because you’ve hired someone to do the daily activity for you. Social networking is an immediate, public expression of your brand. What’s said online represents your company, and you’re ultimately accountable for the content your social media parter shares.
  4. Know who’s on your team. You may have a great relationship with the owner of the social media firm or the account rep that sold you a monthly support plan. But what about the people who are actually doing the work? Don’t let your brand, business philosophy and approach to customer interactions get lost in translation. Meet with your team members (all of them) on a regular basis to prevent any misunderstandings or miscommunication.
  5. Have a plan. Actually, have two plans:
    • The first one is for how your business approaches social media. This is your social media strategy and a good partner can help you develop this plan so it dovetails nicely with your overall marketing and business strategy.
    • The second plan is a contingency plan. This addresses how you will deal with inappropriate posts, off-brand messages or social media backlash. Most companies will never need to use this plan, but it’s better to think it though in advance rather than in the moment if things do go wrong.
  6. Stay Engaged. Once you are up and running with your social media partner, stay connected to them and your community. Consider occasional direct response to engage contacts and add personality to your brand, particularly if this is something only you can do. Track the results of your programs over time, and make adjustments as needed.

If you outsourc social media, feel free to share your “lessons learned” below. I’d love to hear from you.

  1. I’ve found that the second point is of extreme importance. A lot of small businesses believe that just because they pay for social media management, they no longer need to be involved. My clients who are really reaping the benefits of our program are the ones who are 100% involved.

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