One might think that since I work at an agency that I’d have a predisposition to recommend outsourcing your social media needs. I can assure you that is not my opinion. I’ve always been a straight shooter on my blog regardless of whether my opinions or recommendations directly benefit me. This post is no different. Not every company or organization needs to outsource their social media efforts. This post is intended to help give some insight on where I believe that line is drawn based on my years of experience being on the service side.
So without further ado, here are the 5 questions to ask yourself that will help you determine whether hiring a consultant or firm is the right move.
1. Do I have a strong sense of what social media success means for my business?
While this may seem like a simple question to answer, most companies and organizations do not have a strong answer. Facebook likes and Twitter followers are not a measure of social media success. While it’s great to increase your overall social reach, the real question you have to ask yourself is, “What are you going to do with that reach?”. How does your business measure success overall? How can social media plug in to those metrics? Is it driving more traffic to a web property? An increase of sales? Maybe you just want to build brand and turn your social reach into a regularly engaged audience. Whatever the case is, you need to have a rock solid understanding of what true success is to your organization before you even think about dipping your toe in.
2. Do I have the necessary tools & resources in place to ensure we can be successful?
This is another area where folks miss out. There’s a wealth of online resources that can make managing your social media efforts a little less daunting. From engagement to measurement, the fact is if your business or organization is of any size, simply using Facebook or Twitter’s website interfaces will leave you frustrated and with little time left over for anything else. For managing your engagement and publishing check out the likes of Hootsuite or Tweetdeck. For measurement you can’t go wrong with starting with something like Simply Measured, Sprout Social or Raven Tools. However the fact is, you need to be well versed with these tools in order to get the most out of them and position your organization with the means to manage your own social media efforts.
3. Does my company/org have the manpower to fuel our social media efforts?
So you have your goals determined and a good tool set in place. Now the question is, do you have real people in place to manage social media everyday? All the nifty goals, tools and fancy looking channels will do you nothing if you don’t have real people engaging and responding every day. If you’re a small business owner, you better carve out a good 1-2 hours total per day towards your social media efforts, and if you’re a bigger brand and serious about it, either a full time hire or someone in your marketing department positioned to spend a good deal of their day contributing. The fact is your social channels need to be vibrant, evolving places where you are continuously posting original content, sharing relevant links, and engaging with others on a regular basis. And for product/service based orgs, you can count on them becoming a source of leads and customer support. If you are serious about social, you need real people doing the work.
4. Does company leadership fully embrace using social media to the fullest extent?
If you’re a small business the buck probably stops with you, so ask yourself if you’re really on board with fully embracing social media. If you’re a larger company, you better make sure the powers that be do as well. Because if the answer is nothing but a definitive yes, then nothing will kill social media success more then just treating it as a broadcast channel filtered by your legal department. I’ve seen it happen numerous times and it’s not even worth the effort. While it’s certainly expected to have some standards in place, your social media channels cannot be treated like press releases and broadcast media. Conversations need to be allowed to evolve, openness and transparency is expected. The bottom line is, if your company kicks ass, that is what will primarily resonate online as well. If you suck, well that will too and you bigger problems to solve.
5. Does my company have realistic expectations about what social media can do for our business?
A lot of times companies have unrealistic expectations of what social media can do for their business. It’s not a silver bullet, and it’s not going to necessarily bear any fruit in the short term. What it is going to do is give your business another avenue to connect with customers, provide new lead channels, and provide a platform for your business/organization to influence in a variety of new ways at a fraction of what traditional marketing has provided. But it comes with the need for patience and a tolerance for all things social. The fact is, even the best companies in the world have their detractors. You can’t please everyone all the time, but you can try and while it won’t work every time, the fact that you do so openly and transparently, will pay huge dividends over time.
So the question you’re probably asking yourself now is, based on the above answers…What do I do? The bottom line is if you don’t have the right answers to the above questions, chances are you stand to benefit from a consultant or agency to help. You could hire and bring the work internally, but 9 times out of 10, you’ll stand to benefit by starting with a smaller investment and getting access to the necessary expertise more quickly and efficiently. There are a variety of options available to you that fit just about any budgets so don’t feel if you are a small mom and pop shop that you’re left out of the cold.
I’ll be following up this blog post next week with a post on how to find and choose the right consultants/agencies as it can sometimes be a daunting task.