A controversial post on the topic ofÂ outsourcing social mediaÂ recently published in the SmartBrief on Social Media blog said, "Entrusting your brand's voice to a bunch of strangers-- or anyone not directly integrated and passionate about your brand-- is risky business. The idea behind social media is to be authentic- for it to really BE YOU."
I've often said that the two chief cornerstones of social media are "authenticity" and "transparency," but I reject the notion that outsourcing social media makes that an impossibility. I doÂ agree, however, that bringing social media in-house is a best case scenario. I futher agree that, as Jackie Huba suggests, itÂ should not be the purview of unsupervised, unpaid interns. Â Â
So, when is it okay to outsource social media and when is it not?Â
It's okay when...
A company needs social media consulting - Let's face it. Some companies just don't get social media and need help from a qualified expert in getting started.Â
I'm finding a lot of companies get overwhelmed (or enamored) in dealing with the tools of social media without first understanding the culture associated with it.Â
We start from a more strategic perspective, which includes a social media readiness audit, then seek to understand the company's marketing and business communication objectives, as well as what marketing approaches they're already using. Then and only then do we make judgments about how social media might fit in the marketing mix.Â
While we often help with implimentation, we stop short at actual operation. We provide training on technique, ethics and best practices, then turn the program over to the company to run themselves and provide ongoing coaching to insure they're making the most of the engagement.
A company needs outsourced blogging - Again, it's best if a company can find resources in-house, but in the case of small businesses that's not always possible. In that event I recommend finding an outsourced blogger using an established, trusted agency like Jim Turner's Bloggers For Hire. Jim, a highly-regarded social media veteran, has been provideding talented, well-trained, experienced bloggers to companies for years.Â
For this to work successfully two factors must be in place:Â
- The relationship between blogger and company must be disclaimed. I don't believe that someone should pretend to be who they are not. If you're not an employee, don't pass yourself off as one. (No faux anything)
- There must be a strong channel of communication between the blogger and someone inside the company.Â Â
Outsourced blogging tends to work best when the blog is topically-focused as opposed to company-focused. It's also conceivable to let the blog live outside the company Web site in a "sponsored" environment.Â
A number of years ago I worked with a fitness equipment manufacturing company and set up a blog strictly focused on fitness. Every now and again there were posts about the company and its products, but for the most part, posts dealt with how to stay in shape.Â I hired a blogger who had a background in fitness and experience blogging.Â
A company needs help setting up a social media resource - Not every company has in-house staff capable of designing a blog or creating a Facebook Page. In those events, as with Web design, it's perfectly acceptable to use an outsource agency.Â
It's not okay when...
It comes to ongoing operation - With the exception of blogging (and that only in certain cases), I believe a company should keep social media in-house. Even though some would consider it a form of blogging,Â I don't like the idea of outsourcing tweeting, for example. A blog that retains a topical-orientation is one thing, but tweeting is too representative of the brand itself. In the case where the latter is being done, I say you must disclose the relationship. No "ghost tweeting."
In conclusion, I'm okay with outsourcing training, design, setup and blogging in some respects. I draw the line at the operational level though.Â
Here's what some of my Twitter friends had to say when asked that question:
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