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The Murky World of Outsourcing Social Media Marketing

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ManWithCrownSmIt seems that everyone has an opinion on the legitimacy of handing off a variety of tasks in business – especially when it comes to outsourcing social media marketing. “If you want a job doing right, do it yourself” does still factor into matters, as a mindset, but more than this, the landscape is littered with failed projects, and examples of outsourced marketing that at best yielded “some results”, and at worst damaged the reputation of the client’s business, sufficient to label the engagement a complete disaster.

Why the continued obsession with outsourcing marketing in this way? Let’s face it; business people are busy. They’re focusing on what they do best in the business, but more often than not, are still wearing a variety of hats. That doesn’t mean that the marketing has to go on hold, and it’s a fact that “digital” must factor into the new way of business. It’s too easy to declare that business owners want their cake, and to eat it – there’s nothing unreasonable about a person wanting to play to their strengths AND grow their business.

The Dangers of Outsourcing

Leaving aside the obvious issues of finding the right resource or company – one that speaks the native language of the business and target market – we have the task of understanding the business and the industry. Agencies and freelancers aren’t quick to niche, often preferring to spread their services across industries, to give themselves the greatest chance of picking up volume contracts. Marketing online, roughly speaking, is 80% content and 20% distribution, so when it comes to speaking with authority about your target clients and the pains they face, how will someone with no experience fair, in representing the business as the go-to thought-leader?

Not having visibility and final editorial sign-off on content can cause massive risk to reputation, but doesn’t exactly reduce the workload in the desired way. You find yourself poring over articles, blogs, eBooks and status updates, scanning for spelling and grammatical errors, as well as amending the downright wrong and bordering-on-libelous statements, to mitigate the inherent risks – which means that you’re STILL doing a lot of the work yourself. It’s beginning to look very much like having a dog, and doing all the barking yourself!

The Dangers of Not Marketing, Digitally

Scanning the pages and posts of the Influence Agents site and blog, you’ll get a sense that we’re huge advocates of digital and inbound marketing, but we realise it’s not obvious to everyone, still, what the opportunity is for their business. Put simply, your website and social profiles, fueled by the content you create and feed into this online “real estate” has the ability to attract and pre-sell prospects on the value of your product or service offering. We deal primarily with clients in the professional services industry, where time is traded for money, so it’s even more valuable to have a digital asset, that deals with the many questions and pre-amble of the sales process, so you only have to get involved when there’s a strong likelihood of a sale.

In not adopting a digital/inbound strategy, you’re starving your business of the leverage and gearing that comes with a semi-automated pre-sales machine.

Which brings me nicely onto the ways in which you can ensure a smoother engagement, should you choose to employ an outsourced service. Well-defined systems and processes lie at the heart of a successful marketing operation, and ensure that there’s a predictable and repeatable set of actions being taken. This presents a consistent output, and takes much of the guesswork and hand-holding from the equation. Think, too, about the personality of your brand, working with your outsourced team to agree target customer/client personas, your desired tone of voice, and rule of engagement for using various platforms – especially where groups, forums and communities are involved.

Lastly, I recommend recognizing and separating out the tasks of outbound versus inbound social media marketing. Your outsourced team should have no problem with seeding and distributing your blog posts, landing pages, videos and other content, but will likely find it difficult to respond to direct messages and mentions intended for a specific person. Often, passing off responsibility for the content sharing aspect, whilst retaining the “conversational” engagement on social platforms, offers the right mix for many businesses, and helps keep reputation in-tact.

What have been your outsourcing experiences, both in marketing and in other services? We’d love your comments, below.

Lead Generation Lessons from 4,000 Businesses

Matt Hodkinson

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