Blog Post

Is it Okay to Outsource Social Media?


Social media can create an intimate relationship between two entities on the internet, and brands get that opportunity to participate. The person behind the brand's social media has to have a deep understanding of the company and its identity, so can the job be outsourced? That's the question we ask in today's Daily Brown Bag. Watch today's Daily Brown Bag to learn whether or not it is okay to outsource social media.

Also available on YouTube.

TRANSCRIPTION:

Hello, and welcome to Daily Brown Bag. Today, we're going to be asking ourselves the question of whether it's okay to outsource social media. Adam, how are you doing today?

Pretty good, Chad. Good afternoon. Welcome to our Brown Bag. This is an interesting question. Is it OK to outsource social media? A lot of debate out there, and as social media has risen to prominence as an online digital marketing activity, the debate raged.

I think, Chad, in an ideal world, it might be great if every business owner, particularly the small business owners, could write every blog post on their website and handle every social media interaction themselves. Why? Because they're the expert in their business. They started their business. They have the passion. It would probably produce the best content and the most authentic social media interaction, but we know that starting and running a small business is very time consuming and it's very difficult to both concentrate on the business and then have all these other social media outlets that you have to engage in.

There was a very interesting piece that came out just recently, Chad, that sparked our idea to cover this topic again. It was an article from Business To Community this week, called "Is Outsourcing Social Media Marketing Cheating?" I think that's a very interesting premise, because there are definitely the purists out there who think, "If you outsource this, that is a sort of cheating."

I'll cut to the chase here: Obviously, our position is that it is not cheating. In fact, given my background, Chad, the idea that outsourcing is something that should somehow be a negative is a little bit laughable. I did a lot of work for General Electric. They prided themselves on using outsourced vendors who are best in class to achieve cost savings and efficiency. There's a whole industry called business process outsourcing, BPOs in the HR space, that's very common in shared services. There is a rich history of this, but I think in the social media world and in the marketing world, maybe things are a little different.

I do think there are some cautionary tales here as you start to unwind this issue. When you outsource, it doesn't mean you can just let go of control and never be involved. I think the discussion today, when it comes to outsourcing social media, is where is the sweet spot and how do you need to stay involved?

I think that we have a nice checklist today to talk about this, but I agree with you 100%, Adam, that in every other industry, whether it's IT and you mentioned HR, in many cases, it's the right thing to do to outsource because you're able to bring in specialized skills, economies of scale that are difficult to achieve. A simple example: If you're a manager of a marketing department, keeping your team up to date and skilled on every type of marketing is very difficult. That's why agencies are around.

Let's go through this, because I think what you do need is you do need a checklist and a path for the way that, whether you decide to keep it inside your company or whether you can outsource it, you need a plan.

The first thing you have to have is the quarterback. That's the person who ultimately is the person setting the goals and managing the progress toward those goals. There has to be a manager, and really, that person becomes, in some ways, the business owner or the project manager of the social media.

Next thing is you absolutely have to set goals. There's no way that you can have a successful social media program if you don't know what the goal is. Whether that's very easy to measure goals like metrics of how many followers you have and how many tweets you're putting out on a weekly basis to things that are much more difficult to measure, like "Is my brand better off because of my social media?" or "How many leads am I getting from social media?" You have to have those goals, and you have to be able to measure them.

Of course, if you have goals, you need to then have a regular meeting schedule where you're reviewing those. The idea Adam G. said, that you throw up a Facebook page and that it's going to magically populate itself and be good is a fallacy. You need to have the goals and you need to have a recurring meeting, whether that's weekly or monthly or quarterly -- more likely probably weekly or monthly -- to go through and make sure that you're on track.

The final thing that we would say is that once you're doing that, you need to make sure that you're measuring the results and probably modifying the plan, because you may have expectations you start with that, as you learn more and start measuring things, your goal is unattainable or maybe it ends up being that you need a different goal. Don't be afraid to change your goals as you learn, but have a way of doing that and a timeframe for doing it.

Those are some tips for, again, whether you choose to have the member of your team internally or externally, that you're going to need to put forward to make it work for you.

Excellent list, Chad. I think my former partners over at GE would be proud, because a lot of those are the core tenants of Six Sigma, focusing on measurement. I think, to answer the question and close up the Brown Bag today, should you outsource social media? The answer is maybe. A very, very small business with someone who has time and passion can certainly do these things, but as businesses grow, it's very hard to stay on top of that. If it means your social media is going to slide versus outsourcing it but still maintaining control in these measurements in the way that you've talked about, using some of this Six Sigma ideas so that the process still runs smoothly is definitely the way to go.