By Eve Mayer
Hedging your brand bet within the social arena isn’t just an option anymore — it’s a requirement. But how is this need currently being addressed?
Companies who are using social media to grow their business are mostly accomplishing that success in one of three ways:
- Outsource all of their social media needs.
- Have an internal team or person handle all social media aspects.
- Use a combination of internal and external resources to handle social media needs.
Buuuuuuuuut … Which of These Three Is the Right Way?
Many CEOs right now are saying OUTSOURCE IT ALL — that’s the way to do it these days, right?
The best way your company can handle social media is through a balanced combination of internal and external resources. Why? This combination creates the most effective social media at the lowest cost for the company.
Chances are you’ve got lots of smart people working for you and they already have the capabilities of doing many of the things required to create, manage and oversee elements of an effective social media strategy for your company.
However, there will be limitations. Maybe your employees don’t work nights and weekends and your social media really needs to have coverage at all hours. Perhaps your employees are Facebook wizards but their understanding of how to use LinkedIn to improve business development or reduce recruiting costs simply isn’t up to par.
Your employees might be spreading brand recognition through Twitter but are unable to break into the international markets that you’re after because they can’t tweet in Spanish or French. These are just a few of thousands of problematic scenarios that can occur where either acquiring training or outsourcing the work will save your company time and money.
On average, it takes 32 hours per month for an organization to effectively use ONE social media site (like Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn) to achieve business goals. Keeping up with the changes in social media, new tools, new rules and even the new sites themselves takes even more time.
If your core business is not social media then you shouldn’t be internally spending the bulk of your time on it. You need to outsource when appropriate.
This Begs the Question: Who Should You Hand Your Social Media Ops To?
This is a tough call since the economy collapsed at the same time that social media flourished — which means that large numbers of people decided they were experts in social media when they may have had no marketing, customer service, media or writing experience previously. Because of this, there are tens of thousands of individuals who work on social media on their own as a consultant.
The risk with outsourcing some of your social media to a person as opposed to a company is that these people often find paid full-time positions and quickly leave their consulting projects behind — meaning you’ll be starting all over again to find reliable help.
Another misconception that companies have is that they should put social media in the hands of a young person because “young people understand technology.” I liken that to asking a telephone repairman to get on the phone and make sales calls for your company because he understands the technology.
It simply doesn’t make sense.
An understanding of the technology is not the essential requirement. An understanding of your company’s voice and an experience in representing companies through effective PR, writing and communications IS. That means the right person may be young, old or somewhere in between.
Competency and professionalism is what you’re looking for.
Some companies have large fantastic ad agencies and marketing companies that they turn to and ask to handle their social media. This is not always the right answer.
Because advertising agencies typically focus on marketing only and do not typically want to handle the day-to-day grunt work that social media truly requires. Social media is really communications, which means it should combine marketing, PR, customer service, recruiting, research and more — all smushed together.
Ad agencies often outsource social media work to specialized agencies that focus on these areas and then up the charges on the end user. My advice is to keep your ad agency, keep your PR agency — and assemble an internal and external social media team who will work in partnership with these agencies to create an overall synergy that will grow business.
Lastly, here are four tips for selecting a social media company to work with:
1. Start by checking the company’s own social media presence. If they don’t have a social media strategy that you find effective — what makes you think they can do it for your company?
2. See what clients the firm has served. Industry-specific knowledge is not necessary because the content created has to be specific to each client, but if you’re a B2B company then they must have B2B experience — which many social media companies don’t. Most firms also haven’t worked with non-profit clients and won’t know how to serve their B2B needs.
3. If the company pitches you the same package deal that they pitch to every company — claiming you need to be on the same social media sites with the same number of posts as all of their other clients — run away as quickly as possible! This means the social media company isn’t starting from YOUR business goals or identifying the internal resources that you can use. Your company may not need to have a presence on every single social media site they are trying to sell you on — and you should only commit resources to areas that will truly affect your business.
4. If the social media company claims to know everything about social media, then they are LIARS!!! Social media is growing too quickly — changing at a rate that no person or company can possibly keep up with. Look for a company that lets you know what areas they are strong in (and admits to what areas they are not as advanced in) with a determination to find the resources that you need.
Eve Mayer is the CEO at Social Media Delivered and author of “The Social Media Business Equation: Using Online Connections to Grow Your Bottom Line.” Eve is a Vistage member and speaker who focuses on social media for CEOs working on business growth. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published: Sep 14, 2011