Don’t hand over your social media voice

We all know that in business, you can outsource almost anything. You can outsource your accounting, your website development, catering, event planning, staff training and more. Business owner’s can’t do it all, right? It makes sense to give some tasks over to the experts.

Outsource your cleaning, not social media
Outsource your cleaning, not social media

But what about your social media voice?

Should you outsource that?

In the social media age, it’s no surprise that firms have emerged offering social media services, including posting on businesses’ behalf. And many businesses have cautiously taken this on – perhaps relieved that there’s someone there to do this confusing work for them. Many businesses still don’t have an understanding of their own website, let alone Facebook and Twitter.

But I don’t think outsourcing your social media presence – over the long term – is a good idea. And here’s some reasons why:

1.       Your social media fans (if you’re lucky enough to attract any) are fans of YOU or your business; they’re not fans of the consultant you’ve brought in.

2.       To be successful over the long term, social media has to be honest and up front. If you’re not tweeting or posting, you need to tell people that. And this may turn your audience away.

3.       Social media is about having a genuine conversation. If your fans or customers ask what’s happening in your store today, or why you aren’t offering their favourite product anymore, they want to know they’re hearing from YOU. You’re the business owner making the decisions; not your social media consultant. You need to be personally accountable and responsive.

4.       Social media is about breaking down the barriers; breaking down traditional information strongholds. Your fans want to get to YOU, not a go-between. Social media is an agile, free and intuitive way to communicate – when you bring in external parties, it takes that away. You’re bringing in a disconnect and diluting the power of social media.

5.       Your consultant might not get it right. Only YOU know what truly makes you, and your business, tick. What happens when a conversation evolves, via your consultant, that you don’t approve of – that damages your brand?

6.       Logistics. A ‘social media consultant’ slows things down. There’s nothing faster than tweeting your own image of a new product that’s been delivered, or the view from your restaurant courtyard. You’re the best person to tweet when a special guest has checked in five seconds ago. You’re the best person to retweet good news from a business partner. Relying on a third party to do this for you takes the wind out of social media’s sails. If you’re the business owner or manager, you need to take the reins and be your company’s instant broadcaster.

Even more concerning – consultant price packages. How can a consultant state that it requires $500 a month to maintain your social media sites, when nobody can predict the level of engagement that might take place that month? Think about it.

Does it sound like I’m cutting my own lunch? Not at all. I’m a digital & social media consultant within a PR firm. I believe firmly that businesses can benefit from consultants who have spent a lot of time within social networks and can advise on best practice. But in my firm, firstly, social media isn’t a stand-alone item offered to clients. If it suits their brand and business objectives at all, social media is a tool within a client’s overall communications plan.

Secondly, while we strategise for clients, can train them, set them up on social networks and “hold their hand” for a period, we advise clients that they are best representing themselves online for the long term. We wouldn’t represent them at a family birthday party. Why would we get in between them and their fans?

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Diane Lee says:

    I think that businesses that hand over their social media function to consultants (and fork over the big biccies as well!) do so because they are either a)don’t know how the technology works and b) are scared of it. There are probably other reasons, but I think these are the biggies!

    I worked with a small NGO a couple of months ago (as a volunteer) to help them with their social media. I had then intention of “teaching them to fish” i.e. to manage their social media themselves. But I made a huge assumption: that they were actually involved with social media on a personal level. They weren’t. So I had to teach them not only where to buy the rod but also how to put the rod together and to bait it (sorry about the fishing analogy!). From that perspective, I found it an eye-opening experience, and probably not a successful one.

    I think the best consultants would (and should) teach businesses (and individuals in businesses) how to use social media on a personal level first if they aren’t already using it(dip their toe in the water so to speak and see if they like it). If a business owner doesn’t use it personally (or doesn’t see the point!) then what makes them think social media will be a successful tool for their their business?

  2. With any outsourcing initiative, its a matter of choosing which ones should be outsourced and which ones should be kept in-house. If a company is uncomfortable with outsourcing their voice in social media, they can still look into outsourcing other areas of their company, and even in their social media efforts so that they can have more time to focus on the tasks they wish to keep in-house.

  3. Ric says:

    Having someone else do your social media is like being married by proxy … it’s someone else getting the benefit of your relationship. And you can’t abrogate your responsibility for what is said – it’s still (as Michelle says) YOUR brand, and YOUR words (in the public perception), even if someone else mouths them.

    And Michelle – you’re only cutting your lunch with this post if you’re one of the snake oil set! This sort of strategic approach may not get you rich quick, but it’s more likely to be sustainable.

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