So, obvious upfront declaration: we offer managed social media as an organisation, so we’d expect you to take this article with a “you would say that” – and that’s just fine. But here’s the thing: we also do a lot of other stuff, and in fact only take on a very small number of carefully chosen outsourced clients at any one time, because we understand that it’s hard to make outsourcing work really well for both sides. So, we like to think that what follows is a balanced and informed perspective that would be useful to us if we were running any other kind of business.
We’d recommend that you start with a step back, and (if you didn’t already) take a good hard look at what you’d like social media to do for you, whether that’s realistically achievable, and an outline of how that might look – basically, you need a social media strategy. Without this, you are setting both yourselves and your outsourcing partner up for failure.
This process may involve a small investment on your part, to get someone in to work through that with you, but believe us when we say it’ll be a tiny amount compared with the cost of months of badly thought out and ineffective outsourced management.
The other thing you should do is articulate your own expectations and discuss them clearly with any potential provider. For example, you might think that any agency worth their salt would be tweeting for you at least five times a day. That may or may not be right, but if you don’t share that assumption with them, they’re unlikely to guess it.
When outsourcing social media can help you
We’ve also talked in the past about our firm belief that a capable and focused internal employee is, most of the time, going to find it easier to do a great job for your company than a third party. If you’re a very small business or sole trader, times that by ten – you *are* your brand, and you are the best placed person to represent it to the outside world. Unfortunately those are often the businesses who struggle most to manage their social media presence – consistently.
So that’s our first reason for outsourcing:
To create a consistent presence
Don’t underestimate the value of regular, consistent activity on social media. This is probably the number one reason to consider outsourcing. If you can’t make social media a reasonably core part of your (or one of your employees’) job role, it will get pushed to the bottom of the list and eventually neglected.
So many businesses set up their social media accounts in a flurry of initial enthusiasm, and then find it hard to keep up the activity. Posts become really sporadic, with lots one week and then none for months. Peer or customer mentions go ignored because there haven’t been any for a while so everyone stops checking for them. Your audience gets the message that social media is low priority for you.
This issue is easily cured by outsourcing. Provided you have agreed a good range of content topics and sources with them, they should be able to keep things moving even during periods where you aren’t able to give them “live” news from within the business. It may not be wildly daring or creative, but the job will get done, and that alone is more than half the battle!
To maintain professionalism / brand standards
If you have the slightest doubt about your grammar / spelling / writing skills, and / or have issues creating respectable graphics, that will reflect really badly on your brand on social media.
In our experience this can be a tricky issue for business owners to recognise, so if you’re in any doubt – ask your most critical and creative friends whether what you’re putting out there enhances or detracts from a prospective customer’s perception of your business. Again, easily cured by outsourcing, as those skills are fundamental to anyone working in social media.
To keep you current and taking advantage of new developments
This one’s a bit harder, and less of a guaranteed fix, because with the best will in the world just outsourcing won’t necessarily allow an agency to maximise everything they could do for you on social media unless you’re able to contribute significant time, money, or both.
But we will say this: even working full time on social media, we sometimes struggle to keep up with the technical changes on the major platforms. Especially now that the advertising aspect has become more central and complex, and there are new bugs / features / workarounds constantly needed.
Combining that particular challenge with another job role is going to be really tough, if you’re doing your own social media. That may or may not be a big deal for you, as you may just want to accept that you’re going to be working at a more limited level – but be aware that it will be a limitation.
Not everyone has the right mindset for creating original and creative social media content, for sure. But equally, not all businesses need it – for many, just doing a good, consistent, engaging job of creating content, and being responsive to customer engagement, is absolutely fine.
If you do feel that your business demands a high level of outstanding content though, and you don’t feel able to come up with the concepts yourself, outsourcing may help you.
We’re only going with “may” here, because there are so many variables which can affect whether you’ll get what you want. Top of the list is that you’re likely to need to invest significant time in working with your social media agency to shape their concepts, because one person’s “original” is another person’s “travesty” – for reference, take a look at the Poundland Elf campaign from December 2018. It’s undeniably original, and equally undeniably we’ve worked with many brands who would be utterly horrified if something similarly risque / crude (depending on your opinion!) was published in their name.
We hope that helps – at the very least, do think through all of those issues before getting in touch with a potential outsourcing partner, and you’ll start out on the right track.