Here’s a persistent myth about social media and brands:
Social media activities can’t be outsourced. That the only people who can manage social media channels are employees.
This is nonsense.
Brands outsource all kinds of crucial day-to-day activities these days, including accounting, advertising, public relations, IT, customer service, legal, and even delivery services. No one questions this anymore. It’s considered the price of doing business to outsource business critical activities to outside experts.
So why do many people consider a brand outsourcing social media as taboo?
There’s no reason why consultants can’t manage a brand’s Facebook or Twitter accounts with as much passion and insight as an employee.
The conventional argument against outsourcing is simple. That social media is a transcendent form of communications built on engagement and relationship building. The only way to truly build and strengthen a relationship is for the “spokesman” to be an employee.
This, of course, isn’t true. Customer service call centers – where representatives speak on behalf of a company and try to resolve issues – are almost always outsourced (lots of times overseas). Advertising for a brand is managed by their advertising agencies, who often control the brand image not only in advertising circles, but online and for marketing purposes.
These are outsiders speaking for and engaging on behalf of a brand.
The same thing can happen on social media channels. As long as the brand works in conjunction with their consultants – setting up the overall strategy and approving the tactical approach – there is no reason why social media shouldn’t be outsourced. Just like in other areas, the social media consultants would work for and on behalf of the brand.
And for the record, consultants often have just as much knowledge and connections as employees. For example, at Weber Shandwick we have clients we have been working with for more than a decade – longer than the tenure of many of the executives that we report into. This gives us institutional memory and a deep understanding of the brand.
In fact, hasn’t the concept of social media already exploded the myth that a brand ambassador has to be an employee? Aren’t brands seeking outside advocates via social media channels in the first place?
Outsourcing social media makes a lot of sense in this spotty economic climate. Many brands have cutback on employees and are operating marketing and communications departments like skeleton crews leaving those departments overworked and overextended. Adding social media activities to their already full work schedules is a recipe for disaster. Or costly mistakes.
Working with experts – knowledgeable ones who already understand communications and have a track record of social media success and experience – seems to be a no brainer.
I’d be interested in hearing your take on this. What do you think?
Photo by Stephen Brace (via Flickr)