How to: Outsource Your Social Media in 2012
One search of “Social Media Budgets 2012” brings up a host of articles related to marketers increasing their social media budgets for the coming year. While the numbers will tell you that more money is heading into this area of engagement, they won’t tell you exactly how marketers will go about accomplishing their goals.
According to the 2011 Social Media Marketing Report, 28% of marketers outsourced social media duties, a figure that doubled from 2010. If this trend is on par, or even slightly less, that would mean about half of all marketers will outsource some or all aspects of their social media activity in 2012.
But doesn’t the person in charge of your company’s social media have to reside in-house? Isn’t the point of social media to engage your audience with relevant and useful company related items? How do you put your company’s message in the hands of someone who may or may not know a thing about your brand?
The answer lies in establishing a clear plan of action, a lot of trust, and a little bit of luck.
All hands on deck
So far, you’ve created a number of social profiles, and generally add an item or two a day (or week). Some items have been rock stars, others have fallen flat. You’ve put some work into these projects, but haven’t been able to fully commit, thus the reason you’re outsourcing in the first place.
Just because you’re bringing a new party on board doesn’t mean that it’s hands off for you. When shifting responsibilities, it’s vitally important that marketers be deeply involved in the transition. Your new social media manager is experienced in their area, but they still need to know a lot more about your company before they can start generating the results you want.
Speaking of results driven campaigns, the more specific you can be with your new hired gun, the more targeted results you’ll achieve. Start with macro goals and drill down into the micro details. Don’t be afraid – talk ROI with your social media manager. Talk about YoY growth. If they don’t know what you’re talking about – it’s time to start looking for another candidate.
In addition to the existing accounts and networks you’re active in, this is the time to discuss with your social media manager what additional opportunities might be available. Remember, these professionals make their bread and butter from knowing about every social aspect under the sun. If you’re paying for it…put it to use.
Phrasing and Tone
Perhaps one of the most often overlooked elements to any social media campaign is the phrasing and tone. Think of your social media manager as the head writer of your favorite television show. This writer directly influences the overall feeling of the entire show. Sure, it might be difficult to transform a drama into a comedy, but I’m pretty sure Grey’s Anatomy has pulled this off. Oh wait, it’s still a drama? Every organization has it’s own specific way of presenting things. No two people can have the exact same phrasing and tone styles, but any writer worth their salt can quickly emulate another’s style and fold it into their own.
If you have existing social media material, point your new hire to this and see what their thoughts are on both the message, and how it’s presented. If you don’t have any existing social media material, now’s the time to drag out those marketing collaterals and have your social media manager read through every last word of it.
With that said, also be open to new ideas. Your existing material might be bang on for those B2B trade shows you’ll be hitting later this year, but with the immediacy and interactivity of social media, is there a way to retain the phrasing and tone, but still present the organization in a human to human light?
Need the info
As with any outsourced project, your social media manager is going to need a whole lotta info. Are you planning on a new product release in Q2? Let your social media person know about it ASAP. Got a roadshow planned for this summer? Now’s the time to let your social media person know. Basically, if you, the marketing person, knows about it, your social media person should know about it.
Likewise, your social media manager should have the opportunity to get to know key staff members and have a broader view into your company. They’re very likely to ask managers to tell them a bit more about their employees, as you’ve probably got a great number of “Our employees are what make us awesome!” content pieces waiting to happen. Think Tom’s amazing burger recipe – perfect for a 4th of July blog article. Or better yet, “Think you can beat Tom’s burger? Create a video and show us how”, etc.
If your social media manager is within suitable travelling distance, you might want to have them stop by the office at least once a week for the first few months. This will give you an opportunity to provide ongoing feedback (see below), and the new hire a chance to see the day-to-day operations, people, products, etc. Hint: If they don’t show up with a camera and snap at least a dozen “in action” shots, you might have the wrong social media manager.
If your outsourced social media manager is on the other side of the country/planet, try to schedule a weekly Skype call that will give both you and your hired gun a decent chance to talk more about the company.
When you bring a new employee aboard in-house, there’s always that obligatory period of checking in with them to see how they’re getting on, and how the work that they were hired to do is progressing. The very same is true for an outsourced social media manager.
Before signing on the dotted line, create an approval process for your new manager. This will allow you to still have power over what messages are broadcast and which you’d rather refine (see above).
Naturally, as your relationship with your social media manager develops and both of you become familiar and comfortable with an established message, the approval process can be relaxed or done away with altogether.
This is also a great time to see if you’ve made the right hire or not, specifically if you’re in a trial period. By reviewing and approving all of the new work, you’ll have a pretty good indicator if your social media manager is capable of adapting their phrasing and tone to match your message, as well as see what creative ideas they come up with right out of the gate.
Feed it back
This is the most crucial element to any project, outsourced or not. If your new hire is opening eyes, turning heads, and generally getting the “Holy cow!” reaction from your colleagues, let them know about it. Conversely, if the, “Umm? Really?” mill is starting to churn, nip it in the bud and talk to your social media manager about it immediately.
If the feedback is negative, be sure to include specific sentences, phrases, even words that weren’t quite meeting the mark. A good social media manager will have an ongoing list of dead-items that shouldn’t be approached again, or at least in a radically different way. Likewise, if the feedback is good, include specific examples of what you liked and how it was presented. Both positive and negative feedback for your social media manager will only help to point them towards what you’re after.
Outsourcing any project can be a risky venture. There are a number of variables involved that have to be calculated, and any risk mitigated. But by establishing and maintaining an open and honest feedback loop, creating real and obtainable goals, and setting guidelines from the very beginning, outsourcing your social media activities can be a great way to free up a bit more time on your plate, as well as bring in a creative, outside opinion.