Should I outsource social media?“Should I outsource my social media?” is one of the most popular questions I get these days. My answer to this is similar to many answers to business questions: It depends. I’m not just going to leave you with this vague, and half-hearted answer. I’m going to tell you exactly why.

The first thing I want to clarify is that social media outsourcing comes in many shapes and sizes. It’s important to realize that just because a social media service provider offers a specific package or arrangement for their services, doesn’t mean those are the only options out there. There are lots of ways you can work with social media professionals to make your social media effective and it doesn’t have to just be someone posting for you.

I think the reason many ask if they should outsource social media is because they are overwhelmed. They don’t understand how the tools work, they don’t know where they should post, they don’t know what to post, and they don’t know how much time and money they should invest. So, they find someone to post for them and all they get is joy of paying someone else to be as scattered and random in their postings as they are alone.

My authentic answer to the question is that yes, I believe most small businesses and entrepreneurs need external help with their social media. I don’t think you should hire someone else to simply post for you. Rather, the scenario looks much more like a partnership than an outsourcing agreement. 

So, how do you find the right help and relationship to have with a social media company? Ask yourself the following questions to determine what you need:

  • How big is your company?

    Are you a one-woman (or man) shop and everyone knows it? Or, are you a small business, but customers interact with several employees on a regular basis? Regardless of size, social media needs to be transparent. Don’t ever use a ghost poster and intentionally hide that person’s identity or appear as if they are someone else. If multiple people post under one profile, they should always sign their posts with their names or have separate profiles so they can be identified. You don’t want to turn people off by losing the personal connection they can feel by knowing who they’re interacting with.

    If you’re a one-person shop, it doesn’t make very much sense to have anyone else posting for you. Your customers come to you for a reason and so you should always be the one posting. You need to interact with your customers personally to make the connections with them that draw them to your business.

  • Do you like doing social media?

    If you absolutely can’t stand social media and get frustrated with it frequently, you probably shouldn’t be the one posting. Definitely don’t do it because you “have to.” If you aren’t enthused about it, get someone else to post for your company, but make sure they are using the language you want them to use. Make it very transparent that someone else is posting and make it very clear they are the delivery person of the information that’s being transferred. They should be personable and friendly. One important note, however, is that most people that say they hate social media are actually scared, overwhelmed, and confused by it. If that’s you, simply take the time to learn the tools, then learn the strategy, piece-by-piece. I think you’ll find your feelings about it will change drastically. Don’t expect to learn it all overnight. Break it down into very small pieces and go step-by-step.

  • Do you know the tools?

    Sometimes I work with people who are excited to get started in social media, but they don’t know how to log into their Facebook account. Social media services are different than accounting services. Since it is social, after all, you need to take personal ownership in it. As much as some may not like it, you shouldn’t outsource your social media just because you don’t want to learn the tools. You don’t have to become an expert at it, but finding a social media partner is more about making it efficient and effective, not just dumping it so you don’t have to do the work. Would you ever dump your customer service department or sales staff to a call center in China just because you don’t understand how the process works or you don’t want to learn how? That’s not a very good strategy in my opinion.

    If you don’t know how to log into your accounts, that is not the time to outsource any of your social media. Think of it differently; once you learn the tools and know how to use them, THEN you can graduate to finding a partner to help create efficiency. 

  • Do you have a strategy?

    Many social media novices (and even those that have been around for a while) post as though they’re shooting an arrow with a blindfold on. They can’t see their target, and their posts are often random, inconsistent and vague, going in all sorts of directions. It doesn’t make sense to add more people in (or outside) your business posting with the same approach. All you’ll have is a mine field of random arrows flying around. Ouch! Watch out!

    It would make more sense to hire a company to help develop your strategy, rather than to handle your posting. Find someone who will help establish your goals and objectives, create a content list and library, and create an editorial calendar to establish timing and frequency for posting content that is relevant and appealing to your audience. (Check out my free Social Media Calendar Template).

    Make sure the company you hire takes the time to learn about your company, your customers, and asks you pressing questions about who you’d like to serve and what you want to achieve by serving that group of people. This is the core of establishing a solid marketing strategy.

    Don’t waste time shooting arrows that land all over the place and especially don’t multiply that by outsourcing. It’s more important and wise to invest in a partner to help you strategize and plan. You know the company you’re working with is good if they ask questions that are hard to answer or require you to consider new options. Sometimes you’re too close to your business to see things with a clear view.

  • Is posting the problem, or is creating content?

    Another reason business people outsource social media is because they don’t know what to say and think a social media agency is going to know the answers. While a good agency may how to find good content, you have to carefully evaluate what they’re doing for you. Are they simply going to post content that you have to provide? Are they going to provide content, and if so, do they know what is relevant and interesting to your audience? 

    Maybe, instead of worrying about finding someone to post for you (which only takes a few minutes a day if you put the right system in place), you should find someone who can help determine what to post. That includes creating lists of content, finding content, establishing the ideal mix of promotional and informative content, and identifying what your audience wants to hear. Once you’ve done all of this, you need to create an editorial calendar and schedule when you’ll post and when you’ll curate more content. After that, actually posting is simple as pie and doesn’t take much time at all.

  • How much time can you devote to posting?

    One of the most common pieces of advice floating around in the social media space is how much time a person should spend on social media per day. Everyone has a different answer for this, but the real answer is you should spend as much time as is necessary to be effective. That number isn’t going to be the same from business to business. You should also use your time in the most efficient way possible. I recommend creating a schedule that works for you. Don’t just set a timer and spend 30 minutes hanging out online. Use your time with intention and work through a list of tasks to complete. That will tell you how long to spend each day. If it takes longer than you have time, find the tasks that can be handled by someone else (like responding to very basic comments or inquiries).

    Don’t forget to include the time it takes to plan your social media and find new content. Weed out the things that can be done by someone else and hire a new member of your team, or find an external team to help.

  • How complex are the questions people ask about your business?

    Often, no one knows our businesses better than we do. It’s normal to feel that no one else can answer your customer’s questions better than you. This mindset will make life extremely difficult as your business grows. While it may be true, you have to put systems in place to remove yourself from your business and let it operate independently from you. (For a great book on this topic, read Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth.)

    Likewise, the same is true with social media. There’s a lot of interaction that needs to happen long before your customers will get to the deep questions only you can answer. It’s definitely possible to get help responding to comments and simply being social with your followers. Then, any tough questions can be forwarded to you for followup.

I hope you can see how outsourcing social media should be more than just hiring someone to post on your behalf. It really depends on where you are in understanding social media and how to utilize an outside resource to maximize efficiency while aligning with a strategy. Hiring help should be thought of as a way to improve social media and not a way to reduce the work you have to do. Otherwise, I believe you are just wasting money. You need to find someone who will work with you in the ways that make the most sense for your business and will give the best results. Don’t settle for cookie-cutter packages!

What are some ways you can hire a social media partner to help you improve?

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