To begin with: I see social media as a part of a strategic content marketing strategy and not a separate animal, so that is included in this post as well. How to outsource Content Marketing efforts is a question that exists purely because, many companies do not have existing resources to set them up in this domain and for the reasons explained in detail below, there are times where outsourcing or getting the work done externally is far more efficient for the business. This also holds true for time strapped individuals trying to get their personal brand highlighted. So even before reading this post, if you were asking yourself why exactly you needed Content Marketing or social media in the first place, the quick answer is: to be authentic, engaging and human, as a brand. A quick recall helps us all-
As a start-up or a small company why do we need content & social media?
- You are not living under a rock. Yes. I am not trying to be dramatic, but even if your start-up was a rehab solution for online addiction, you NEED social media
- Social media is the website of the “early” 90s. Do NOT be found without it. It’s easy to lose consumer trust and then things get too late after you are a fail whale.
- Be found and shared. It is not free, but it is one of the cheapest channels (considering current media budgets) to talk about your product and brand. Why would you not take up an opportunity?
How can you use social media as a start-up or a small company?
Basically, the same way you were going to use content. For branding, PR, interactions, customer service, positive response amplification, reputation management, sharing knowledge and product features, coming across “as a resource”, sharing brand values, building a community, advocates, being present where the conversations are (away from your own site), enhance reach, be talked about, join in influencers, sharing your story, humanizing your presence, being useful consistently and listen.
When do you need external help for your social media efforts?
I’ve been following the online/social space for a while and people generally have different reactions to social media and why their start-up may or may not be ready for it. I enlist a few quotes here from my personal experience, which in my perspective are alarm bells for you to know that, perhaps internal experience in this domain is lacking, and you may need external help.
We tried social but it didn’t do much for us.
How many likes are we going to get?
I really see that I would like to do this, but honestly I just do not have the time to invest in these tools…
It’s too much effort
Is there any real impact?
So, does content marketing mean you are going to manage the Facebook page?
All these are valid and real responses. And if your start-up or small company has these questions, it is important to get help from experts at an early stage. Experts can help formulate a strategy and also allow you to discuss questions in greater details. More on experts here already. Either you get to hire someone internally who comes in with the experience or reach out to experts and agencies and *outsource* (not to be equated with low quality cost-saving efforts).
What part of social media can I outsource?
Social media is complex. Depending on the extent you want to engage with your audience, it can be resource hogging and a long winding activity- also dependent on the channels you are monitoring, whether you want to have a 24×7 presence, how much interaction can you handle, and also how much money you’re investing in it. For the sake of simplification here, let’s assume there are 4 main “operational” blocks of work (assuming the strategic part of how the plan is supposed to function is a part of your overall content marketing strategy).
- Social Content creation: Outsourcing candidate- yein*
In a very insightful Webinar called “the perfect post”, Ken Herron explained why “automating” content creation can prove to be a disaster. He reminded the listeners of the day after the Boston bombings when plenty of companies had automated content on “how well the run was” and going by the real time unfortunate turn of events, it proved to be a complicated issue and quite frankly embarrassing for many such companies. Outsourcing social content creation can face a similar fate like automating creation (which is a total no-go). However there are two types of content creation: creating the
absolute new and “curating” the existing content. While I see no way to outsource creating the absolutely fresh insightful content through an outsourced agency (unless they themselves are experts in the exact same field that you are in), curating content can prove to be a fruitful exercise.
- Social Content distribution: Outsourcing candidate- yes
Social content distribution over Outbox Pro, Buffer, Hootsuite and other such tools can potentially be outsourced to any agency which is aware of what is to be shared and published on each channel as per the base plan.
- Social Community engagement: Outsourcing candidate-naja**
Hootsuite has a great resource here for the pros and cons of social media outsourcing. Some of the cons include: the difficulty in maintaining authenticity, slower response rates, added layer of complexity- all because the agency is not an expert on the products and brand like an internal employee or a brand manager is. This can lead to trouble especially given how real-time and viral the effects of social media are. Engaging through an agency is also a risk that can seriously damage your reputation making the whole exercise pointless- especially if you are a start-up or a small company.
- Social analytics: Outsourcing candidate-yes
Automate. Automate. Usually agencies have “pro/paid” accounts on common tools that allow you strong analytical support that is totally automated and you do not have to worry about where the data is coming from. In the digital age, you just need to remember that you use the right tools.
The good part is, social media practitioners and experts do not necessarily have to cost a planet, so this is quite a practical approach if you are a small brand. Getting the basics right, sometimes is already quite helpful for a good impact. Of course all the outsourcing risks are inherently there, and to have a shot at success in implementing any such grand plans- step 1 is to employ an internal employee with great communication skills to manage the account so that the feedback between the agency/expert and your brand is smooth and timely. Step 0 is to know what you are going for. And on that note, I leave you with a tweet…
RT @: Successful people work from their goals list, not their to do list.
Note: * some part no, but potential for a yes, ** most part no (that’s how cool German is, there’s a word for everything)
This post first appeared in a slightly modified format at LinkedIn
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