When it comes to outsourcing your social media activities, a couple of words form the advice...it depends. It depends on your business, what you want to outsource, your social strategy, your social media goals, and your resources, not the least of which to consider is time.
Social Media Examiner's recent survey results (PDF) reported that 36% of marketers are devoting one to five hours a week to their social efforts, and another 26% are spending six to 10 hours a week. While that survey reports responses from marketers, the results can still be significant for large numbers of businesses since 73% of small to medium sized businesses say they have a marketing person in charge of their social media efforts, according to a survey done by Vocus and Duct Tape Marketing in 2012 and released in September 2012.
When marketers do turn to outsourcing, the Examiner survey found that fewer are doing so in 2013 when compared to 2012 (26% compared to 30%, respectively). The top three things being outsourced are:
- Design and development (15%);
- Content creation (11%); and
- Analytics (10%).
Keeping the voice close
Monitoring (7%), status updates (6%), research (6%), strategy (5%), and community management (4%) rounded out the list of outsourced items asked about in the Examiner survey. So not only are fewer marketers outsourcing their social media, but as the work moves closer to the daily interactions on the social platforms, the tendency to outsource also goes down.
In fact, since at least 2010 the caution has been sounded about delegating the "conversation" to people outside your company. One reason cited is because there's a certain level of authenticity and sincerity that's required for those tasks. There's also the need for a voice that is in touch with the core business values and can interact on social platforms in concert with those values. This becomes even more true and important when and if the conversation surrounding your brand turns negative. That's not a time to have someone engaging with your audience who doesn't have the same values or understanding of your business, its operations, and its goals. Other special considerations also exist for publicly traded companies and others that must follow compliance rules. In the end, each business has to consider its own situation when deciding whether to outsource and what to outsource. Here are a few pros and cons to consider.
Focusing on the pros
In an article published on Business 2 Community, Vertical Response, a company providing a full suite of self-service marketing solutions for small businesses, lists the advantages of outsourcing social media as gaining expertise, saving time, and saving money. Focus lies at the heart of those three pros.
Social media is still very new, and it's still evolving, so it can be advantageous to have people on your team whose primary focus is social media. The good ones will be constantly learning and studying the field, and will have insights that are timely and comprehensive. Specialists in social media will also be able to focus on the content creation portion without the distractions and other duties that one of your regular employees probably has. Creating content that has value and that inspires sharing requires someone who has the pulse of the topic and who understands how to use social media tools and platforms most effectively. Saving money by outsourcing social might manifest in many ways from not having to bear the overhead expense of a new employee, to not needing to buy analytics tools or subscriptions.
Understanding the cons
Besides the con of loosing sincerity when outsourcing your social media engagement, Vertical Response also points to difficulties with sharing in-house content and integrating your other marketing efforts with your social media efforts. For example, if you have outsourced content creation, then the content creator will need easy access to your portfolio of content — everything from blog posts and white papers to pictures of your team at the latest trade show. The person will also need to be kept in the loop on upcoming events and publishing plans so they have a view on potential content opportunities that are in the works. In companies with many silos, this could be difficult to set up and maintain. Integrating your marketing has similar challenges.
There is a con written about by Mark Thompson on StayOnSearch that is less immediately evident but is no doubt something that needs consideration when your company depends upon face-time with clients, vendors, and partners: Outsourced engagement means it's likely people aren't going to meet-in-person who they've been interacting with on a social platform. That may not be very social at all.
What outsourcing pros and cons have you discovered? Share them in the comments.
Duane Craig reports and writes on technology, construction, finance, food, and agriculture. He's been published in trade print magazines, the Washington Post, and widely on the web.