Social media tips: In-house or outsource?

Once you’ve decided to start a social media campaign, your next big decision is who is going to run it. You can either run it in-house using your own employees, or you can outsource it to an agency — whether it’s a digital marketing, public relations (PR), advertising, or specialised social media agency.

If you’re a business, getting an agency to run your social media campaign means you gain access to their social media expertise, where in comparison, your knowledge and experience may be limited. You’ll also save time, as a successful social media campaign involves constant listening and engaging with your target market, usually on more than one social media channel. All of which translates into an ongoing and fairly significant time-commitment.

Agencies may also have access to analytics tools and technology that you don’t, which they can use to track your campaign’s progress and improve it where necessary. Finally, if they’re full-service, your agency can do design work for your campaign, such as creating a branded Facebook Page or Twitter background.

Despite these advantages, though, there are also several potential dangers with outsourcing your campaign management to an agency:

1. They don’t know your product like you do.
If a potential or current customer asks a specific product-related question or queries your company policy via your social media presence, will your agency give them accurate information? A potential solution to this is to have your agency refer these types of questions to you before they respond.

2. They don’t know your brand like you do.
A related danger is that your agency may not know your brand and your market positioning as well as you do, which means they may not engage with your customers using the same brand voice with which you’re already communicating. To avoid this happening, educate your agency on your market positioning, brand personality, and aims as a company before the campaign launches.

3. They aren’t as committed as you are.
Despite the financial and reputation incentives that your agency has to run your campaign efficiently, in most cases they’ll never care as much about your business as you do. So, if a brand problem arises on a social media channel, will they respond as quickly as you’d like? How committed will they be in dealing with a criticism of your brand on Twitter, for example? You may want to decide on guidelines beforehand, so both you and your agency are clear on service expectations during the campaign.

4. An approval process takes time.
Especially in the context of a negative review or customer problem, a short response time is crucial to handling a problem successfully. If your agency needs to get approval on messaging from you first to avoid the problems mentioned above, communicating with your customers becomes more convoluted, and response times may slow down.

5. Your customers may not like it.
Would your current and potential customers mind if they knew that an agency was running what is essentially your online customer relationships on your behalf? While some companies consider this an unavoidable side effect, there is a chance that your customers will feel cheated that they’re not speaking directly to you on these channels, which may damage their perception of your company and your brand.

6. You can lose control.
Outsourcing the running of your campaign means you won’t be there to hear or see every single comment made about you on social media platforms, which means you won’t always be aware of every problem and success. To avoid this, make it a priority for your agency to report back regularly to you about general campaign progress, as well as any specific issues and how they were handled. You may also want to subscribe to a service like Google Alerts so you can remain involved at a general level, as well as being able to pick up problems or opportunities that your agency may miss.

7. You become too dependent.
If you need to change agencies for whatever reason, will you be able to transition the account smoothly Engagement on social media platforms needs to be continuous and consistent; an external change like this may stall your activity and change the voice that’s being used for your brand.

Whether you outsource or not, you’ll expend resources in terms of time, money or both. The key, then, is to balance the use of these resources with the risks involved.

As a solution to this, some companies use a “hybrid” model, where an agency helps in the strategy creation, design and launch stages, but where the company manages it once it’s up and running. For many businesses though, running the campaign requires resources that aren’t available, so this hybrid solution isn’t always an option.

If you do outsource, take time to discuss procedures, expectations, brand positioning, and crisis management strategies for dealing with customer complaints in a social setting. If you don’t iron out these details initially, you could end up eroding your business’s reputation online – which is the exact opposite of what you’re trying to do with a social media campaign in the first place.



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