Social media platforms are vast and new technologies are forming around the social web every day. Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, blogs or forums, they are accessible to everyone, at any time. This makes it a vital tool to be used in any successful business marketing campaign.
So you know the basics, you have read up on the opportunities social media can present your business and the social media water looks warm, inviting, tempting. You are ready to take the plunge to learn what social media can do for your business. But wait. Social media is just like learning to swim, jump in too soon (or just after eating) and you may sink.
Here are some thoughts which may help you make a decision whether to outsource your social media efforts or not.
Many organisations do not realise the true importance and what social media actually means for their business. I am often shocked at how many so-called ‘social media gurus’ chirp on about how they can guarantee to get x amount of Twitter followers or Facebook likes within a certain time frame. This is not a measure of social media success. Yes you want to extend your social reach, but this is 100% pointless if you don’t have a strategy of how to engage and influence these new found fans. What is your social media objective? Is it to drive sales, increase brand awareness? Launch a new product maybe? Or drive traffic to your company website? My number one tip is to have a clear smart objective thought out, documented and aligned to wider business objectives, before you even begin to dip your toes into the alluring water.
Another thing which I often think is overlooked in business is the time it takes to build and manage an online community. It takes a long time to engage with others and build and sustain their trust – even longer to see any results from social media activity. Say you commit to just keeping abreast of twitter activity for twenty minutes a day or to write one blog post a week, this is time you would previously have been spent working on something else. Goals need to be realistic. if you add social media into your daily job role, something else will have to fall by the way side. However, the good news is that there are tools out there to make managing social media a little easier (Hootsuite is a good starter for ten). Although beware, you will also need dedicate more time to ensuring you have the necessary skills to use these tools to their full potential and position your business with the means necessary to manage social media in house.
Social media is more than just another avenue to broadcast sales material. For conversations to spark up and communities to develop, openness is required. This means buy-in across the business, including from management. If management do not fully embrace why you are taking part in social media or understand your objectives, you may as well stop now. The company culture also needs to be echoed in terms of openness and sharing and social media must been seen outside of marketing, as a valuable communication tool, delivering real results. Furthermore, if social media generates sales leads or enquiries and sales departments are not on side, leads will be seen as low level and inevitably not be followed up appropriately.
If time isn’t on your side, it’s a great idea to involve a number of different departments in social media. For instance, if you have external sales teams, you could get them on board and have them add their industry knowledge gained from client visits to your social media content. The bottom line is, your social activity needs to be thought provoking, interesting and unique. Content must be frequently fresh, interesting and engaging, contributed from a variety of different people within the organisation.
Finally, social media is not the holy grail of marketing and patience is needed to see any form of result. Social media is another promotional tool in your marketing armoury, opening up new ways to gain contacts and build new and strengthen existing relationships. Furthermore, it should not be seen as a one size fits all solution. What works for one company, may not work for another, or provide the same results.
So, where do you go from here? Ultimately if you have not given thought to or cannot provide answers to the questions proposed above, outsourcing social media may be beneficial. But don’t worry, the water is very warm, and there are people out there waiting with an outstretched arm and a rubber ring.
I like to consider myself a social media enthusiast. I dislike the term guru. I am not a social media guru. I am interested in social media; I’m excited by it and have experience using it to help businesses get the most from their social media marketing efforts.
The secret is, ‘industry expert’ or not, we are all still learning swim. With changing tides in the social media industry – such a thing doesn’t truly exist.
What are your experiences or thoughts on outsourcing social media?