I often meet with brands from all over the country – mostly big, global brands, but also mid-sized and smaller companies. Here are the two biggest challenges they have with social and digital communications:
1.) Knowledge. When you work at a single company it is difficult to get expertise on areas where you aren’t actively engaged. So if your brand isn’t doing much in social media then it is highly probable that expertise in the medium is severely lacking.
2.) Resources. Communications and marketing departments – even at big companies – are operating with personnel shortages. Most internal teams are stretched thin and no one has the time to suddenly take on social media projects that require strategy, tactics and, above all, time for content creation and community management.
As a result, many brands have stumbled into a social media strategy that looks like somebody dropped a pizza from a three-story building.
It’s a mess.
Someone in product marketing is blogging. Customer service has opened a Twitter page. Communications has a YouTube channel. The marketing department opened a Facebook page. Sometimes these departments don’t even know the other pages exist.
Rarely is there an overall strategy or even a consistent set of guidelines and best practices. Content is sporadic and when other work gets in the way social channels can go dark for long periods of time. Worse is that there is no integration or cooperation among the disparate channels.
That’s why it’s becoming crucial for brands to outsource some or all of their social and digital communications. It has become nearly impossible to do it effectively from the inside only.
Here’s what you get when you hire a PR agency with social media expertise:
- Social Know-how. The rules, regulations and features on the different social media channels are in a constant state of change. Brands need people who understand completely how these social channels operate. Agencies can give you this in spades. They know how to hold a contest on Facebook while adhering to the rigid requirements for doing so. They know how to organize a successful tweet-up. They can do things like UStream an event and integrate it onto an application on Facebook that also features live feeds from Twitter.
- Content Creation Kings. One big misconception about social networks like Facebook and Twitter is that content creation is easy. After all how much work can it be to fire off a 140-character sentence? But if you are only using Facebook and Twitter for status updates and tweets then you aren’t fully utilizing the channels. They are both multimedia and interactive platforms with text updates being only part of the equation. Think apps, videos, polls, photos, infographics and how to fully integrate across all platforms.
- Time for the Taking. There’s never enough of it. But when you work with an agency they can also tap into more time by bringing in more people to the table.
- Resources Galore. When you work with an agency – especially a big one – you can tap into all kinds of valuable resources. For example, at Weber Shandwick we have developers on staff that can build webpages and applications, we have Emmy-award winning producers to create videos and UStream events and measurement experts that know how to use the latest technologies to bring you the monitoring and measurement that you need.
- Community Builders. Social media isn’t just about content creation – although many brands think it is. In fact, content creation is really the beginning. Once you put content out on your social channels, people react to it. They share it. They comment on it. They ask questions about it. They love it. They hate it. They mash it up. Bloggers take it. Media publish it. Agencies excel at community management – of interacting and engaging with people as they interact and engage with your content.
- Best Bang for the Buck. In most cases hiring outside consultants is cheaper than making an internal hire.
There are still some social media purists that argue that outsourcing social media isn’t authentic. That brands must produce and manage social media content from the inside.
Nonsense. Brands already outsource a plethora of activities such as legal services, customer service, warehousing, advertising and public relations. Social media is no different.
Would love to hear your take on this. Are you outsourcing social media? Should you be?