The Risks of Outsourcing Social Media
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I won’t argue or debate over whether you should or shouldn’t outsource your social media. Whatever you choose to do, it is your business.
What I would like to share, however, are some suggestions so that if you do decide to outsource, that you do it well and know what your risks are. As for the rewards, I’m sure that whoever is selling you these services will cover those.
So what could go wrong? How do you protect yourself and your company? Think about how you train and orient a new salesperson, a customer service representative, or any employee who has contact with the public on your company’s behalf. You will need to translate your story, your products and services, and company beliefs, as well these guidelines and expectations to the person or people who will be handling your online profiles. These folks are referred to as ‘community managers’. These community managers are going to be the voice to the world for your brand, so take that education process seriously, and be wary if they aren’t willing to invest the time to learn.
On your own or outsourced, either way you need to invest the time up front to develop the strategy and guidelines that will dictate your success online. The following are a few things to consider as you go to contract with a vendor or independent contractor. It is not meant to be a complete list of what should be covered, but should help to point out some things to think about and ask about.
Playing by the Rules
Singing Your Song
Your Brand: Your company’s brand is delivered by your voice and tone and the topics that you talk about and the things that you share. The risks are that a comment, post, or article shared on one of your sites might give the wrong impression. That could alienate your audience.
Prevention and Remedy: Spend a good amount of time documenting and sharing what your company brand stands for, the things that are important, and how you expect customers, prospects, and visitors to be treated. Go as far as making a list of do not touch topics.
Know Thyself: Whoever will be handling your social media needs to understand the ins and outs of your business, your competitors, and your industry. After all, if they are going to talk like you, they better know you. Nothing says ouch like a response or promise that you can’t keep or meet. Okay, maybe saying something that makes you sound clueless could hurt you too.
Know Thy Prospects: Making a bunch of noise to people who are not your prospects is a waste of time and money. There should be a clearly defined persona and market segment that you aim to attract and engage.
Know Thy Clients: Imagine talking to a good customer as if they were a total stranger. That would hurt. You need to give your community manager access to someone who can fill them in or better yet, give them some access to your client database.
Standing Tall and Delivering
Responses: How responses to comments, answers to questions, or follow ups on posts are handled tells a lot about your company.
The Risks: Alienation is one end of the spectrum while outrage is the other. Make certain that you have clearly identified what should be responded to and how to respond. It doesn’t have to be a canned response, as it should sound genuine, but it should be phrased in a way that represents your company’s policies and brand promise.
Prevention and Remedy: Having a clearly defined set of guidelines will help, but also encouraging your vendor to reach out and get in touch with you if they aren’t sure of how you would want something handled is certainly a great way to ensure the best response. If something does go badly, jump in and set things right.
Yours: You cannot and should not go deaf and blind. If you have assigned someone or outsourced your social media activity, you should still be watching and monitoring regularly.
Theirs: Regular reporting that includes numbers fans and followers won and lost on each property. How many lists or circles you’ve been added to. Number and types of responses (mentions, likes, RTs, shares, +, etc.) Number of conversations—it’s all about dialogue, isn’t it? Traffic driven to your website—analytics reporting. These are but a few of the measurements that should be regularly reported.
Strategy and Tactics
Know the difference between a strategy and tactics. By doing a lot up front (getting to know you, goal setting, and working through a strategy first) will help establish the best tactics.
Also, get to know the differences between campaigns and management. Campaigns have a beginning and an end, with their own goals, strategy, and tactics. Management is the strategy and daily tactics that are meant to sustain and grow your online community and value over time.
However you chose to get involved with social media marketing—be it on your own or with the help of an agency—it is something that you simply shouldn’t put off any longer. Be safe out there—and be successful.
Mardy Sitzer is a Certified Inbound Marketing Professional, and President of Bumblebee Design & Marketing. Since 1993, Mardy has been delivering creative and innovative marketing solutions. An avid reader of all things internet and marketing, she also writes blogs, articles and web content for industry magazines as well as for Bumblebee’s clients. Follow her on Twitter (twitter.com/MardySitzer) or email her at email@example.com.