Should You Ever Outsource Your Social Media Marketing?
I have talked a lot about the importance of controlling and managing your personal or small business brand in recent posts. So can it ever be the right thing to do to outsource a key element of your branding activity to someone else?
Let’s consider that back in January 2012, Facebook exceeded the 900 million user mark. There can be no doubt that Social media is now the fastest growing and potentially one of the most important marketing tools available today. It is however an area that you can get hopelessly wrong as many businesses both small and large are discovering.
If you are a small business owner you may have heard everyone telling you that you need to be on Twitter/Facebook/Google + et al if you are to build awareness of your brand/business. But in common with many other business owners you don’t understand it or haven’t got the time to learn and apply your learning.
You may have dabbled with things like Pay Per Click Advertising (Adwords or the like) and you can easily see that if you spend a certain amount and get twice that back in sales then it has been worthwhile.
However, what if you spend money on social media and you get 600 likes on your Facebook Page? What does that actually mean in terms of your bottom line? Was that a win, or a loss and waste of time in terms of generating additional sales? Is it worth spending two or more hours a day on social media and is that time well spent? If you do decide to spend time doing it what exactly should you be doing during that time?
If you are not sure what to do in terms of social media or if you find that it’s eating up masses of your time and in effect leading you to be less profitable, then you might want to consider outsourcing some of it. But you need to be very clear what you are aiming to achieve and what the cost is going to be.
There are lots of people who have been using the various social media sites for a number of years and are now positioning themselves as “experts” on the subject. Many of them are but before you work with someone you need to be clear what their expertise is and whether they really understand business and marketing in general.
That’s because social media is only one aspect of marketing and needs to be closely intertwined with your other marketing and brand building activities. To give you an example, last week whilst I was away on business I was talking to a small business owner over dinner who told me that he had spent money on someone who set up what was obviously a standard package, without first gaining an understanding of their business or what else they were currently doing. They provided some very basic social media training and then more or less left them to it. The net result was that they felt they had wasted money, they had spent hours posting on various social media sites. In the meantime their other, previously successful, marketing activity was ignored and they saw sales income drop!
So there are some really key issues and questions you need to ask before you engage someone to work with you on your social media. You also need to be clear what it is you need from them. Do you want someone who is going to help you devise a Social Media strategy and setting up the various sites or do you need someone who is effectively going to operate the social media marketing for you. In either case they need to have a thorough understanding of your business and your priorities and if someone walks in with a pre-prepared “plan” then common sense would tell you to show them the proverbial door!
So let’s briefly look at the two options that you might want to consider. Firstly, you can outsource the strategy development and the basic setup. With this approach the consultant would work with you to understand your business, your approach to marketing and what your brand is and how customers and potential customers related to it. Having done that key work they will then help you to setup a Facebook page, a Twitter page, help you with the design of your Facebook covers to make them consistent with the rest of your branding etc. Then they’ll help talk about and show you some of the strategies and tactics that you can employ to connect with your existing and potential customers.
Having come up with the strategies and tactics together, the consultant then steps out of the picture and leaves you to get on with the actual implementation. Having said that the best consultants I have come across offer a follow up service as part of their consultancy charge and check back with you on a regular basis (for an agreed period) to see how you are progressing.
The benefit to this approach is that there’s no ongoing fee. The downside being that you don’t have someone else taking care of your social media marketing for you.
The second approach to outsourcing your social media marketing is to effectively hand over the reins to someone else. That’s a big decision to make because the consultant then effectively becomes a member of your team and needs to have a thorough understanding of your business on an ongoing basis.
If they will be dealing with complaints or feedback received through social media then they need to ensure that they can respond appropriately and speedily. Inevitably this costs more, but of course relieves you of the day to day activity to a large extent. The other option here of course is to decide to bring someone inhouse or onto your payroll with expertise and this will depend on the size of your business and how much customer interaction you anticipate there being.
Tracking The Success Of Social Media Marketing
Whichever of the two outsourcing approaches you decide on you must ensure that you discuss what your success metrics are before you start the outsourcing relationship.
Is a successful social media or brand awareness building campaign one that generates followers to your twitter account? Or is it one that results in actual leads and sales being generated?
Are you clear whether there is a “failure point” at which point you decide that the Return On Investment (ROI) isn’t enough? As an example, if you’re spending a thousand a month for 6 months and can’t crack targeted 10,000 followers, you might decide not to continue.
To answer the question “Should you ever outsource your Social Media Marketing?” it is very true that outsourcing can help to free up time if you bring in the right expertise. However, you need to make sure that you know if and when you’re winning or losing. You need to very clear about your goals and metrics right from the start and if you decide to proceed pick the model of outsourcing that makes the most sense to you.