The benefits of social media and why you need to do it are no longer relevant questions. What matters is how you do it. When companies get started on this, one of the questions most frequently asked is whether social media should be outsourced, or done in-house? There is no one right answer, of course. Instead, understanding the pros and cons of both choices will lead to the best one for you.
As a rule of sorts (mine), social media strategy, customer engagement and responses to conversations for a brand are ideally done in-house. Social media isn’t a jazzy,it’s a new-age initiative. Social media marketing strategy needs to be aligned with organisation’s overall marketing strategy. An external agency or a consultant can productively contribute in this process but key marketing people with in the organisation should own the strategy.
But as every business has to make the tough decision whether they are going to outsource their social media management or keep it in-house. Sometimes the decision is easy because the business doesn’t have a marketing budget, or doesn’t have the time to manage their social media themselves.
And other times it depends on your sector, your target audience, what you want to achieve and what impact you want to make in terms of your brand image.
When it comes to outsourcing or doing it in-house there are always considerations that need to be made. The major considerations are the following:
1) size of campaign; If you are a big company, producing consumer goods or services and have always used agencies who run your marketing campaigns, and you have never ever meddled in social media, outsource is a great way to start.
But social media should not be mired in your company’s power structure (this will shows up in your tweets) and perhaps outsourcing will get you that political approval or bypass the political struggles by engaging external experts. This is a good way for you to learn from the experts on how to engage your customers on a more personal level. When times goes on, you have set up a social media team in your company, comprising colleagues from marketing, sales, customer service, product design, you can take over and improve your company’s involvement in social media.
If you are a small company, In-house is a prefect. Less sums of money used, it gives you that opportunity to interact directly with your customers, especially when you can be casual enough within your company structure to get different people involved. This helps build team spirit within the company which comes through your tweets. What is also good is such direct interaction allows room for mistakes: when there is a bump in your service delivery and your company makes a mistake and admits to it readily through your tweets for example, you get your customers to empathize with you rather than reprimand you for your mistakes. Compare this to large companies where because of the power structure, they try hard to cover up and when they cannot, they have to launch a press release as some kind of official apology, which does not really win any one anyway.
2) hiring staff with appropriate skills; Hiring a professional might be harder than actually hiring a company to do the work. Usually an outsourced option will have expertise in the field and a team of people to manage the task, where as doing doing it in-house you need to hire people with the necessary technical skills. The hiring process alone can be more expensive than the budget associated to the project. Think about skills the people hired will bring to your business and it might be worth the expense.
3) doing the project with existing staff; Often companies will try to do the work in-house expecting their current employees to manage additional work. Remember there are only a certain number of hours in the day and added responsibilities can take them away from the work they normally focus on. As well does your in-house staff have the skills needed to manage a social media campaign. Sometimes is better to find an expert consultant with the necessary skills.
4) goal of the campaign; What is your goal with social media? Are you trying to build a brand or just trying to interact with clients? Social media can do both but each require different level of skill to achieve successfully. If you want to build a brand with a high level of skills i suggest you outsource a team of people who will be focused on this but if you are on need to interact with clients In house is best suited for this and your customer care team can handle it.
5) logistics of the message; Companies can be very cautious about the way the message is conveyed. Companies may choose to do things internally because they depend on a legal department that must prepare the message or the Public Relations department. Even small businesses may feel uncomfortable giving access to their brand and online reputation. The fear of mis-communication going viral can be at the top of their minds.
6) Cost of staff; Hiring people in-house means not only paying their salaries but means paying the office expenses. The advantage is you get to look over their shoulders to see the work done but it is worth the view? We all know Facebooking and tweeting whole day is like chatting with your friends in the eyes of some of our bosses thus out-sourcing saves us that embarrassment.
7) duration of the campaign; Are you planning to run the campaign for a long time? Will it be a long term maintenance of the social media presence? Or do you just need it set up? Having insight into how long you plan to run a social media marketing campaign can have a major impact on the decision to use an internal team or outsourced solution.
A company’s understanding of social media mostly determines whether they should outsource this skill or not. Many companies who embark on a social media initiative still don’t have an answer to “why social media?” It seems like an obvious question to have asked before starting out but honestly a large number of these initiatives are still driven by pulses pressure from a competitor,or orders from a boss who doesn’t want to be left behind.
Credit: Inc Magazine