SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Social Media — tracks feedback from leading marketers about social media practices and issues.

Last week’s poll question: Are you outsourcing any of your social media efforts?

  • No, and I don’t plan to 65.87%
  • Yes — part of my social media presence 14.33%
  • No, but I’m considering it 11.95%
  • Yes — all of my social media presence 7.85%

This week’s poll question isn’t really about social networks.

Sure, we’re talking about outsourcing Facebook pages and the like, but the real question here is “What is the value of your organization’s culture and institutional knowledge?” In social media circles, that’s not a question that comes up often enough.

Solid blog posts, thoughtful Twitter responses and the like aren’t actually that hard to create. But what is all that content worth to your organization? Chances are they’re not worth much at all — they’re just noise — unless they’re aligned with your organization’s brand identity, culture and mission. If another organization can perfectly parrot your identity, culture and mission, I think that means there’s something wrong the organization at a much deeper level. The roughly 8% of SmartBrief on Social Media readers who have outsourced everything about their social media efforts have effectively said, “Anyone can sound like my organization” or worse — “It doesn’t matter what my organization sounds like.”

Consultants and agencies can be incredibly useful parts of a social media effort. They can help plan, they can help monitor, they can help analyze and they can even help critique content with great effectiveness. About 14% of our readers let someone else handle part of their social media efforts. I think that can be perfectly sensible. But when you ask another organization to completely take over as your voice to the world, you’re either giving up something invaluable, or you’re masking a much deeper deficiency.

We talk a lot on this blog about the importance of aligning social media with organizational goals, but in some ways I think that’s inadequate. To really align with your goals, it must first be aligned with your organization — the way a person’s skin is aligned with their body’s movement. How can you synthesize that?

I’d be curious to hear from readers who are completely outsourcing their social media presence. What made you take that route? What results have you seen so far? How are you attempting to cope with the disconnect between your organization and the people handling your presence? Do you think your fans can tell the difference?

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9 responses to “Is your social media presence in the right hands?”

  1. dave says:

    Sounds like a commercial for ad agencies.

  2. "Solid blog posts, thoughtful Twitter responses and the like aren’t actually that hard to create. "

    Actually… trust me, they are. (And I'm surprised someone who cranks out such great content here each day would feel that way.)

    Hire carefully if you're going to outsource. A good freelancer will ask the right questions and try to produce the best work possible that does make a difference for the organization he or she is working for.

    Even though I hire freelancers to help with our blogging I work very closely with them developing each blog post, often assigning ideas to ensure it aligns with what CTAs we want to use and buyer personas and keywords we want to target. If I'm not the one doing the blog post, it's my job to manage the project because I'm the marketing manager/in-house person. At the end of the day, even if it's someone else doing the tactical work of a part of your social media, the in-house person still needs to own it and manage it.
    My recent post Community Management is Not Digital Cold Calling

  3. Gillian Bura says:

    I think this is a great article. I actually am a marketing consultant and I am the person that companies outsource to. I remain in contact with all of my clients on a very regular basis so I can be sure to completely know what's going on inside their businesses. As for the DIY whenever possible comment: I work with CPAs who don't have time or the patience to learn how to do it themselves. I also work with a mortgage company that is so busy processing loans, they can't even begin to ponder adding social media management to someone's to do list. If you're not going to take the time to manage your social media presence properly, maybe you shouldn't DIY. All in all, great article! Glad to see so many people find it difficult to turn out unique information, it's job security for me!

  4. Diane McMahon, CFRE says:

    I think your right on with this article! It also depends on the organizational structure. If the agency is top down and inflexible, the skin won't breath.

  5. Well said! Maximizing the value of social media isn't just about being present, or using these venues only as one-way sales tools — it requires a tremendous commitment of strategy and resources to become a valued, trusted resource, whether you DIY or outsource. Too many folks have a "if I built it, they will come" mentality, they think it's going to be easy — it's not, it's a daily slog, a labor of love. I agree with Janet and Hal that outsourcing can work if your outsource talent "gets" you and you prepare them well. I regularly ghostwrite for clients' social media sites, but that's after an intensive immersion process.
    My recent post Storytelling: dead or alive in the social media age? (book review)

  6. ChuckBartok says:

    We have found our best relationships and successes are with clients who want to work as a TEAM and NOT turn the complete tasks over to us.
    Of course our clientele are primarily small to medium size entities, NOT managed by a Board.
    Generally have Direct meetings with the "chief cook and bottle washer"
    Working directly with the Creator seems to lend itself well in Social Media Structure