Should I Outsource My Social Media Management?

jspayn06
Jonathan Payne Founder, My Social Game Plan, LLP

Posted on September 9th 2012

Should I Outsource My Social Media Management?

social-media-outsourcing

Over the past few years, we've seen monstrous shifts in the way small businesses engage their customers, and with those shifts has come a new responsibility for owners: Director of Social Media.

Small business owners rarely get a break from the constant stress of being responsible for...well, everything.  As an owner myself, I know what it's like to live and die by checklists and face the daily barrage that comes with being a small business owner.

So when the opportunity to outsource arises, it's important to consider all the options and risks in order to make a good judgment.

Should You Outsource Your Day-to-Day Social Media Management?

A lot of people will give an unequivocal "NO" when answering this, saying:

  • No one knows your business as well as you do.
  • No one is as passionate about serving your customers as you are.
  • It's too risky to outsource your brand's image.

Those are respectable, sensible reasons for not supporting social media outsourcing.  I would be a little more flexible with my answer. 

My personal view is, "Outsource?  Sure, kind of, under a few conditions."

I don't think outsourcing your social media management is inherently a bad choice, but the relationship with the agency you choose must be nearly perfect for the outsourcing to be effective.

In my opinion, the following are absolute minimum requirements before outsourcing to a social media agency:

  • They should go out of their way to understand your business model, your customers, your overall marketing strategy, and your target market.
  • They should be passionate about the mission and vision of your company -- the very purpose behind your business' existence.
  • They should tour your business and meet your employees.  They should meet your most loyal customers and/or clients if possible.
  • They should become experts on your products, because people will inevitably ask questions on social media, and they'll expect fast, correct answers.
  • They should LOVE your business and want it to succeed as badly as you do.

If you're considering outsourcing to an agency that shows little interest in any of those things, turn around and run.  Fast.


Most importantly, you should approach outsourcing as a temporary engagement.  The agency should be capable of training you how to properly manage social media internally.

Sure, you may keep them on retainer as consultants for handling problems or specific campaigns, but ultimately, the agency-business relationships should end with you and your employees having the ability to effectively manage your own social media.

What Questions Should You Ask Before Choosing Outsourcing?

So, you're entertaining the idea of outsourcing your social media.  What questions should you ask yourself to decide if it's worth the time, money, and effort?  Gotcha!

  • Do I know anything about social media other than it's popular and consumers use it a lot?
  • Does my business have the tools and manpower (or womanpower!) to manage social media in-house?
  • Would it make more sense to hire a part-time social media manager instead of outsourcing?
  • Do I trust an outside entity to represent and promote my products and brand?
  • Do I have time to learn and understand at least the basics of social media so I'm not blindly handing over the reins?


A Judgment Call on Your Part
Unfortunately, there's no right or wrong answer to the question of outsourcing social media management.  As with anything, it depends on the current state of your business, your business model, your financial state, and how comfortable you are with the idea of not having full control of everything in your business.

Take a good, hard look at all the details that go into outsourcing social media management and, please, don't hire the first agency who sits down with you unless they've exceeded the requirements discussed above.  You'll thank yourself later if you approach this very seriously!


What are your suggestions when it comes to outsourcing social media management?  I'd love to hear your feedback in the comments!

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

jspayn06

Jonathan Payne

Founder, My Social Game Plan, LLP

Download my free eBook that details the social media strategies and tools I personally use. is an Interactive Marketing Specialist at Strategexe Consulting Group, as well as the Founder of My Social Game Plan.

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Comments

Kent Ong
Posted on September 9th 2012 at 1:30PM

I believe a company should work closely together with social media agency.

The question when we on Facebook, a social media agency will need help from the company customer service to handle their customers. Social media agency can't handle it alone even they already know all the products.

jspayn06
Posted on September 9th 2012 at 4:38PM

I agree, Kent.  It's absolutely necessary that the chosen agency always have a point of contact within the day-to-day business who can be easily reached in the event of customer service issues. 

This is another reason I encourage the relationships to be focused more so on training rather than 100% outsourcing.  I think it's important for someone who lives in the business daily to play a leading role in social media management, but that someone will likely need to be educated before they can effectively take that role.

SarahArrow
Posted on September 9th 2012 at 5:38PM

Hi Jonathon, I love the section where you explain your outsourcer should love your industry and business like you do. Without that, whatever they do for you will be soulles and robotic, and that will hurt more than it will help.

 

jspayn06
Posted on September 9th 2012 at 6:23PM

Thanks Sarah!  I agree with you.  Most consumers have an easy time spotting true passion, so it's imperative that your social media presence be genuine and unique...it should carry its own personality (the personality of the brand).

LoriLynnSmith
Posted on September 10th 2012 at 1:46PM

Hi Jonathan

I definitely think you hit on some big questions.   If a business regardless of the size doesn't understand what they want from social media or how it works, they are no likely to be happy with the results.

jspayn06
Posted on September 10th 2012 at 4:25PM

Thank you Lori! Couldn't agree more :)

Jeff Belonger
Posted on September 10th 2012 at 3:28PM

Jonathan.... excellent post with many things for both sides to consider. And I agree with you and what Sarah had stated, that you must have the passion for that industry or business, to really like it... because if it doesn't come through on the posts, the questions/answers, or the engagement,... people will pick up on this. 

My problem with in-house staff is, especially if they are just helping out, usually don't even know the basics. Good example.. on one FB fan page, I see constant posts on their page come from hootsuite. Just basic stuff like that.... and not knowing the best ways to capture people's interest on a fan page... Just one example... Again, good post.

jspayn06
Posted on September 10th 2012 at 4:32PM

Yep, that's the difficulty of managing in-house unless you have someone on staff with digital marketing experience -- or are willing to hire someone to work in-house.  That's also why I placed emphasis on the agency-business relationship being temporary in terms of day-to-day management and there should be some emphasis on training.  I think the optimal social media manager is that person who is in the business almost every day...preferably someone in upper management as well.

Thanks for the comment, Jeff!

DIS4Business
Posted on September 10th 2012 at 3:48PM

Great content. One thing that I would liek to add is having Social Media policies set in place so that any one that is hired (outsourced) to take care of your business's Social Media account should have an idea what is acceptable. It also prevents them from asking you so many question as to what is acceptable to post and when. Just a suggeston.

jspayn06
Posted on September 10th 2012 at 4:28PM

Great suggestion! I hadn't considered the benefits of that from an outsourcing perspective.

shibbard
Posted on September 11th 2012 at 12:52AM

Jonthan - Great post. 

So often business owners don't ask themselves or the potential outsourcer ANY questions.  Not only does the business owner need to id objectives, they also need to have mutually agreed upon measurements of progress.  Might as well avoid any potentail disappoitments where possible. 

Having handled outsourcing for several companies, I'd also suggest making certain that the agency or individual not only understand the client's business, but that they be more than just social media implementors...that they be able to be the company's marketing eyes and ears online.  They should be able to identify trends and marketing opportunities as well as filling the void for social media action. 

jspayn06
Posted on September 11th 2012 at 1:40AM

I can't disagree with you there, Sheila.  Great suggestions to add to all this!

angiemjordan
Posted on September 11th 2012 at 2:33AM

I love when you say on a temporary basis. I have a client right now who I am managing and training at the same time so someone in house can take over their social media. Great tips for all businesses when deciding whether to outsource. Great article! 

jspayn06
Posted on September 13th 2012 at 3:58PM

Thank you, Angie...couldn't agree more.  Good luck with the training :)

Meg E. Cox
Posted on September 11th 2012 at 9:14PM

A small business might outsource to a solo entrepreneur rather than to a larger social media marketing firm. In this case the effect might be more like hiring a part-time employee, but with greater flexibility.

jspayn06
Posted on September 13th 2012 at 3:54PM

True, Meg.  This could take the form of a relationship more like a freelancing/contract position.  Though I would still place heavy emphasis on the factors discussed in the post, as they remain important to any social media manager, outsourced or insourced.

Meg E. Cox
Posted on September 14th 2012 at 1:44AM

I agree.

Posted on September 13th 2012 at 9:14AM

 Great article. I agree with the raining aspect you talked about Jon.

At our company we specialise in this outsourcing of social media management and although initially we run clients campaigns the end goal is to train our clients on how to manage it themselves. This teaching and learning strategy is essentially the building blocks of content marketing and it's a pretty organic experience. 

jspayn06
Posted on September 13th 2012 at 3:57PM

Thank you Stephen!  I think this is the most effective method of outsourcing social media management.  Otherwise, you often end up outsourcing to a team of people who you rarely make contact with and frequently mishandle your presence on social media.  If the relationship is more of an ongoing management + consulting + training system, I think outsourcing is a good option.

lukehejl
Posted on September 13th 2012 at 4:49PM
Good article, Jonathan! My social execution agency, Social Factor, focuses primarily on social execution so this topic is of particular interest to me. Something else to note about outsourcing to a social agency is that you are getting collaborative social expertise. It's easy for an internal employee resonsible for social to get stuck in a box. Working with the right social agency, rest assured you have a partner that stays on top/ahead of the trends and fosters a collaborative environment which in turn delivers you a hefty return on your investment. Our clients receive not only the expertise of their community manager, but that of all of our community managers and social strategists. In fact, we have a recent blog post that addresses this topic: http://www.socialfactor.com/pros-of-an-open-work-space 

Great topic for collaboration here, Jonathan. 

jspayn06
Posted on September 14th 2012 at 1:40AM

Sounds like a great system you have there, Luke, and something along the lines of what I was mentioning here.  I think that ongoing relationship is very important, but not necessarily from the stanndpoint of the agency doing 100% of the social media management.  Thanks for commenting!

Amanda Brown
Posted on September 14th 2012 at 8:12AM

As managers and trainers on social media, especially LinkedIn, we adopt just this approach when working with clients.  Get under the skin of the company you are representing.  If you are not passionate then forget it.

For my lovely cake client, @bettybakes.  I started out managing Twitter for them and after about 6 months, they took some of it on particularly when they got a following in the coeliac community.  I dipped back in to their Twitter to manage a prize draw for them which drove their loyal twitter following to their Facebook page.  We also manage their LinkedIn profile and are about to set up Pinterest.


You see, when it comes to the micro businesses, taking them along a journey which makes common senseto them and to the way they have always run their business means you keep a client.  Your are not there to be the geeky nerd who baffles them with techno-babble but a helping hand to maximise their marketing. 

jspayn06
Posted on September 14th 2012 at 3:59PM

Perfectly put, Amanda!  Sounds like what you're doing is right in line with this post.  Glad to see another example of this strategy being put to use successfully.  Thanks for commenting :)

aspilialleli
Posted on January 4th 2013 at 6:58AM

Outsourcing companies should take all of these into consideration as well. Business owners are the ones who should duly understand the means of outsourcing their social media management – I mean the risks and rewards involved. But, once outsourcing companies have also considered this, I guess it’ll be easier for both parties to decide, plan and implement.

I’ve actually written an article regarding this case. The truth is, BPO companies have a lot more to offer when it comes to social media outsourcing. Whenever entrepreneurs imagine the whole process, they probably think about handling the most significant tasks such as posting updates, adding friends, commenting on photos and so on and so forth. Considering the factors stated above, many other social media solutions emerged. I hope the article I shared can also provide everyone more information, just like what Jonathan’s great work here has done. :)