The case for—and against—outsourcing social media

Various factors, such as cost and familiarity with your particular industry, can help you make your decision—or maybe you can adopt a hybrid approach.

If you work at a marketing communications agency, one of your clients has probably told you they do not have budget for [insert marketing campaign here]. Instead, they will rely on social media. If you are a marketing director, you may have even said that to one of your suppliers.

Social media is so time-consuming it is hard to see why experienced business people view it as a low investment proposition. There is definitely a cost involved when internal staffers are dedicated to the task. Social media is also fraught with challenges, especially when you consider the serious missteps some brands have made, such as Kenneth Cole’s recent tweet regarding a possible airstrike on Syria.

There are benefits and drawbacks to both outsourcing social media and do-it-yourself. How do you pick the best approach for your organization? To help you decide, here is a short summary of the case for—and against—outsourcing social media marketing.

The case for outsourcing social media

1. You can follow social media best practices

Social media is constantly changing, and no one can keep up with it all—not even a so-called “social media expert.” But if an agency is dedicated to providing social media marketing to clients, they will be up to speed on recent changes to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and more. In addition to constant change, there are many nuances to social media best practices. With so many different platforms, it is challenging to understand all of them. Do you know the recommended length for a tweet? (Hint: It is not 140 characters.) How about the proper Pinterest protocol? Or the ideal number of LinkedIn groups to which you should belong? If you outsource your social media, you gain expertise into new developments, as well as a better understanding of how to use each platform.

2. Outsourcing saves time

Most companies find it difficult to devote the required time to social media. Many have a presence on a number of different platforms, making it almost impossible to keep each one regularly updated. Outsourcing social media will take at least some of the responsibility off your plate and put it onto someone else’s.

3. You can build your business

Many businesses are participating in social media without a clear idea of how those efforts link with business goals. A smart partner helps you understand what is possible on each platform from a business building perspective—and what is not.

The case against outsourcing social media

1. Outsourcing is not as personal

This year I read a colleague’s new book. When he popped up in my Twitter stream, I congratulated him on his success. Because Twitter is a place to have conversations, I expected him to respond. He didn’t; it felt weird. He had outsourced his Twitter activity to someone who did not have the common sense to say “thanks” upon receiving my tweet. My friend missed the personal engagement the platform offers, as well as the opportunity to build a relationship. Unfortunately, he also created a bad impression.

2. It can get expensive

Because social media is time-consuming, it can also be expensive when outsourced. Many businesses simply cannot afford to hire outside experts. If that’s the case for your business, consider bringing someone in to set the strategy, develop your company’s social media guidelines and train your staff. You will end up getting the best of both worlds.

3. There’s a lack of industry expertise

Social media marketers may not have experience in your particular industry sector. If you work in a highly regulated business, strict guidelines are essential on what you can and can’t share on social media platforms. These guidelines must also be in place if you handle social media in-house, but you may not be comfortable with outsourcing.

The bottom line on outsourcing social media

Only you can decide whether outsourcing or in-house resources are the best approach to social media for your business. I think some combination is best: You get the benefit of experienced advice as well as the opportunity to learn about best practices. Your business will also minimize the possibility of a major mistake without spending a bundle on outside expertise.

A version of this article first appeared on the Polaris blog. (Image via)

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