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Outsourcing Social Media? Consider These Three Guidelines

I’m not a big fan of outsourcing social media for a few reasons I’ll get into but I understand often circumstances require it. If companies must outsource their social, then here are three things they should consider when hiring an agency.

Measurement GuideI was involved in a Facebook debate about the recent Home Depot tweet debacle which led to the termination of an agency.

This isn’t about Home Depot – it’s about the bigger issue of outsourcing your social media – but I question why Home Depot doesn’t do it in-house. Only Home Depot can create and build those relationships and have those conversations with passionate advocates.

Further, by outsourcing, organizations often feel they can “pass the buck.” We are sorry about the tweet. The agency has been fired. It’s their way of saying – see, it wasn’t really us. It will never happen again. Until someone with the new agency we hire makes a mistake.

Back to that Facebook debate. The arguments for outsourcing included “large brands don’t understand social.” We know just as much if not more about their business than they do.

Perhaps you are a growing organization, you truly don’t know how to get started in social, and/or you haven’t been able to fit it into your organizational work flow.

Here are three things you should consider and discuss before you hire that social media agency.

1.  Will the agency be empowered to handle customer service issues?

There is nothing more frustrating than using one channel of communication only to be told to use another one.

What is the point in tweeting a brand if they are going to ask the customer to call them? I understand some issues warrant an in-depth call and maybe it helps connect them directly to the right person. I’m referring to the basic questions, when you look at a brand’s feed and it gives you a number to call to handle your situation.

Key consideration: Meet the customer where they want to engage. If you are on social, and are going to outsource it, be prepared to handle and resolve customer issues as best as you can.

2.  Does the agency have a deep understanding of your niche?

Do they understand the vocabulary and can they engage in conversation with a geek in their respective space? Raving fans know when they are speaking to someone who doesn’t get it.

Key consideration: You want an agency with a cultural fit to your organizations’. Missed opportunities abound when the agency you hires can’t engage and resorts to generic responses. That, by the way, is not social.

3.  Do you have a real-time protocol in place?

Maybe there is an internal brainstorming meeting, a production session of some sort; perhaps a moose got into the resort swimming pool, the first car came off the manufacturing line, a fan posted a hilarious video.

I’ve seen agencies who promise X number of posts per day and then schedule the items a week in advance – any random thing like funny memes and photos of puppies –  that will hopefully get a like or a share.

When this happens, you are missing out on prime opportunities to give fans a peek inside the organization; the very thing they crave, and form those relationships

Key consideration: Make sure you have a protocol in place for real-time posting that captures the moment.

I don’t completely understand the logic behind “large brands don’t understand social.” Someone does, and they can hire that someone. Just like they hire the CFO who understands financials. I do understand there are a variety of circumstances and it always “depends.” Sometimes you have to outsource your social media. Ask these three important questions, and you’ll be doing it right.

Keep in mind, as generations who have been on social all their lives enter the workforce, it just becomes a breathing part of the organization. It won’t be a matter of not understanding, or not having the time because it’s no longer an add-on. It’s a way of life.

What questions would you add?

For more marketing advice from Lisa Gerber, click here. 

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