Can You Really Outsource A Social Media Strategy?

Posted by Mark Thompson - November 25, 2009 - Social Media - 5 Comments

The foundation of social media involves the interaction, engagement, and discussion with people using user-generated video, audio, and text through blogs, wikis, social content sharing sites, and video hosting sites.

With that being said I ask…Is it possible to outsource your social media strategy?

I always found it was a good debate to understand how social media companies are able to manage a clients entire social media campaign. How is this possible when the entire point of social media is to communicate with people with similar interests on a personal level?

MarketingSherpa’s 2009 Social Media & PR Benchmark Guide says that 76% of marketing and PR professionals “agree” or “strongly agree” that social media marketing is changing the way their organizations communicate.  They also report that the two most significant barriers to social media adoption were “lack of knowledgable staff” and “inability to measure ROI”.  Not surprisingly, agencies/consultants specializing in social media marketing and PR are viewed as more effective at planning and execution than either in-house staff or general purpose agencies.

“To be truly effective you have to “live inside the walls”. You have to know how to engage with your customer and most importantly you have to have a content strategy that involves not just one goal but multiple goals.  Its not about outsourcing the execution, however, you can outsource the strategy.”
Jeremy Smith, CEO of Twine Interactive

The Problems with Outsourcing Social Media
  • The outsourcing company does not understand your industry inside and out
  • They are not entrenched in the business on a daily basis
  • They are unable to generate content that is 100% authentic and valuable since they are not experts in a particular industry
  • How can an account manager effectively manage multiple social media campaigns without consuming a great deal of their day
  • Part of social media is meeting the people you connect with at conferences, meetups, functions, etc…
Aspects where a Social Media Company can Provide Value
  • Layout a detailed, long-term social media strategy/roadmap
  • Include client resources, time, and money allocated to the strategy
  • Include where the client should interact with people (sites, off-line engagements)
  • Include what clients should create to support their social media efforts (blog, whitepapers, webinar, Q&A, forums)
  • Include when and how often you should engage in each engagement
  • Include how to engage in the areas outlined in the strategy (best practices, tips, resources, tools)
  • Include a rough estimate of ROI (timeframe, cost/return analysis, expectations)
  • Include some measurement for success (web analytics, phone tracking, rss subscribers, downloads, brand awareness)

At some point, the role of the social media company is to provide the roadmap and knowledge needed to the client, so that they are able to effectively engage with people via these social content sharing outlets.  But in my personal opinion it is extremely difficult to run an effective social media strategy without the clients support and willingness to want to engage with people.

For any social media experts out there, what are your thoughts?  Do you feel that the actual engagement aspect of the strategy falls on the client?

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About the Author

Mark Thompson

Mark is the creator of StayOnSearch and president of Search Creatively, a full-service Internet Marketing Company located in Raleigh, North Carolina. He also contributes to many industry related blogs including Search Engine Journal and is active on Facebook and Twitter. Follow Mark on Twitter
5 comments
Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith

Good post Mark. One of the biggest issues that I commonly see is that people just want to jump in feet first without thinking through a strategy first. Just because everyone is on Facebook or Twitter, doesn't necessarily mean you need to be there as well. At the same time, when you decide these sites are right for your business, a road map is essential for execution. Without a good content strategy, a social media campaign will fail. Also, thanks for the cameo mention :)

Joseph Kingsbury, Te
Joseph Kingsbury, Te

Mark - nice post, I agree that client participation is key to the success of any social media initiative. Regarding ownership of execution, things can get blurry when looking at social media for PR vs. social media marketing. In reality, the two are increasingly overlapping and I think professionals in both camps probably need to recognize that social media is making a mess out of those traditional lines in the sand. Joseph Kingsbury, Text 100

Patrick Murphy
Patrick Murphy

Do you think it is interesting the way clients want to generate business from social media but do not want to engage themselves. We had a client who did not want to have a facebook page etc for themselves personally. But they did want to reach the facebook generation! I think the answer is finding the balance between in house and outsourcing. And what we find the more they engage the more they want to take in house. Cheers Patrick

Mark Thompson
Mark Thompson

Great point. It can be frustrating from both ends (client & company) when clients feel that by signing up for a facebook profile or linkedin profile that they are doing social media. The most important part is educating them and having them understand the reasons behind each social outlet. Thanks for the feedback.