Letter to a Client: How to Successfully Outsource Your Social Media

Posted on April 23rd 2012

Letter to a Client: How to Successfully Outsource Your Social Media

I recently received a request from a friend who was hiring his first full-time, in-house social media talent. “How can I best set her up for success?  She really knows social media, but knows very little about my business or industry,” he asked.

I developed the following as a set of guidelines for him and have since used it effectively with my own clients. If you provide social media services, it may be useful for you to share with new clients.  If you’re interviewing for a full-time social media job, it can give you a basis of questions to ask employers during the interview and on your first day.

Dear Entrepreneur,

You’ve partnered with someone – either hiring an agency or social VA, or recruiting an in house social media manager. Before you sit down with your new social guru, here are 5 steps you can take to make sure that your effort will be a success.

Outsourcing social media management can be a scary step for an entrepreneur to take. But business owners hold the power to create the conditions for social success by focusing on five key areas.

Define your target audience.  Social media is most effective when it connects you to the right people. So who should your accounts target? When your social media is driven by an outsourced company or new hire, it’s important to create a clear profile of who you’re trying to reach.

Sometimes this will be broad (“males, 18 – 24” or “moms, in their 20s and 30s”); often, you can get much more specific. Take time to discuss your business, your products, and your typical customer with your social media person.  If you’ve developed in-depth customer archetypes for other marketing efforts, share those.  If you haven’t, now is a great time to do that. 

Explain your business goals.  What do you really want to achieve with social media? All too often, businesses hop on social media because they know they “should be on there” but don’t have a clear agenda. Your social media goals are an extension of your business goals.  They may get more specific, in the same way you might delineate a more specific PR strategy, technical strategy, or sales process to articulate individual elements of your business’ broader vision.  But your social media efforts should always tie back to what your primary objective is with your business. 

Are you trying to reach new customers?  Build a sense of community among existing users?  Provide real time customer service?  Generally increase brand awareness?  Reach a few influencers to increase the perception that you’re a thought leader in your space? Whatever you’re trying to achieve, make sure you articulate that to your social media person – it will affect everything from channel selection to content generation and tone.

Unpack your ecosystem.  Every business operates in a specific ecosystem, all of which the owner and managers understand because it’s the sum total of thousands of individual inputs over time.  Specific pieces of information to consider documenting or discussing with your social media person include:

  • Who are the big name players in your space that should be immediately flagged for your personal attention if they interact over social media?
  • What are the big blogs, publications, sites, etc. that bring increased value (and perhaps increased scrutiny) if they interact with you? IE Who are “high value targets” for interaction?
  • Are there any terms, subjects, or discussions that are taboo and should be avoided at all costs?  Are there any points of interaction that should be immediately escalated to your attention if they occur? (e.g. a dissatisfied customer sounding off, a media request for an interview, etc.)
  • Who are your key competitors?  Who are your key partners?  What about your advisors, board of directors, etc.?  What kind of a tone would you want all of these individuals handled with?
  • Do you need to put together or refer the social media person to a glossary of common industry terms?  Decoding the language of an industry can help them much more easily hit the right “voice.”

Set clear boundaries and reporting structures.  Take the time to think about what you need to be comfortable in order to hand over even partial control of your accounts.  These usually center around two items – boundaries and reporting structures. Getting clear on these issues is critical to a social media outsource relationship working because it forces you to define the limits of control you need, and gives you a chance to clearly articulate those to your team.

  • Boundaries: Do you access your social media accounts regularly and just want the social media person to post pre-approved content and do routine functions like delete spam?  Can they retweet? Should a list of questions be prepared for your review before responses are sent (and at what intervals)?  Or should they plan to use judgment and take full ownership of the accounts?  Are they speaking as your voice, or as the company’s voice?
  • Reporting:  What kinds of information do you need to see, and how frequently?  In the beginning, opt for more rather than less, but remember that time spent reporting takes away from content creation and engagement.  What metrics are useful for you to look at? Growth in numbers of followers and engagement metrics?  A summary of the content that was posted for the day? A list of high priority items that only you can respond to?  Touching base twice weekly is often about the right interval.

Establish metrics for success – together.  Take an honest look at where your social media efforts are today, and then set 3, 6, and 12 month targets.  Look beyond numbers for numbers sake, but instead look for metrics that encompass both a broad growth (e.g. increased followers, more likes, infiltrating new platforms) as well as a deepening of engagement (e.g. are people commenting more? Do they visit your site more often, like your posts on Facebook, send more emails? Etc.).  Then review these metrics with the social media provider and other trusted colleagues to make sure that the goals are achievable (at one end of the spectrum) and that you’re thinking big enough (the other end of the spectrum).

With this information, our partnership will amazing and I can be sure to help you achieve your business goals through our social media efforts!

 

LizAlton

Liz Alton

Liz Alton is a business writer and social media strategist.  She follows the latest trends in market research, social media, the mobile industry, and the entertainment design space. To learn more about her work, visit http://www.lizalton.com.

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Comments

Sandra Tedford
Posted on April 23rd 2012 at 5:22PM
I've found in working with clients on Social Media understanding the product or service they provide and customer pain points helpful in creating content that reasonates with the audience. People appreciate when your tone is upbeat rather than subdued in your conversation.
WhiteDown
Posted on April 23rd 2012 at 9:44PM

I understand why companies want to outsource stuff to do with social media, it's not something that most small businesses have the budget to hire a full-time team to manage. That being said, creating content is what is the key centerpiece of social media and you have to find ways to make sure to do it yourself because that is the core of the social experience IMO. You should outsource some of the more monotonous parts of social media IMO (sending out invites, getting more likes and followers, etc). As long as you keep realistic expectations about what you can do yourself and outsource some of the more time consuming stuff (legal work, paperwork, social media marketing, etc) there's really no reason you can't do this.  that do nothing other than promote Facebook pages...there's a ridiculous number of options to outsource and focus on your core business idea while you're employed and making some income. Between companies like http://popularfans.com and all of the other options that are out there - there's a ridiculous number of ways to prevent yourself from spending way too much extra time on social media and to mostly focus on your core business. But good content is a priority IMO.