This is a permission-based re-post of latest blog from colleague Tom Treanor, Founder and President of Right Mix Marketing Inc., whom I have long respected for his sound and pragmatic social media and marketing advice and expertise. Definitely worthwhile subscribing to Right Mix Marketing blog, and following him on Facebook and Twitter!  Thank You, Tom.

Outsourcing Social Media Management: The Flawed Logic of the Badged Employee

I sometimes see posts on social media or articles talking about the evils of outsourcing social media management to an outside consultant or company. The assumption is that your company’s social media activities are an extension of your company and that it needs to be “authentic” (i.e. coming from you).

This sounds great in principle, but if we look at how companies actually work, we can see why this logic is flawed for many cases. Here are five ways this logic falls apart:

1. “Only employees can ‘get’ our message”

Any social media manager needs to internalize the company message and find the right way to apply that to social media. The communications in social media often represent the owner, the company leadership, the company culture, or the official communications line. Consultants are often more aware of the nuances of different company messages and how to tie this to specific social media goals. A good consultant’s ability to “get” the message and translate it into social media action often matches or wins over a (non social media specialist) employee’s perspective gained from working “in the trenches” every day.

2. An untrained employee can be a serious liability

An intern, store manager, a bartender, a PR professional (learning social media) or others who understand social media from a personal perspective but who don’t have training can be a liability for your firm. Learning social media for business “on the job” is a very visible and potentially dangerous way to handle this valuable marketing opportunity.

3. Social media consultants can be 20x more effective

Even a good “generalist” employee will likely not be aware of all of the tools, nuances and resources available. You can’t package years of hard-earned experience into a few months of training or time behind the wheel of your company’s social media program.

I’ve experienced situations where the social media designee spent several hours researching a topic (and were still not taking any action) where I can come in and complete the same task (e.g. setting up a certain Facebook ad) within 15 minutes. Just to make this clear – 5 hours (and still not done) vs. 15 minutes is 20x more effective. This is just an example, but an external expert can be infinitely more valuable. For example, a successful blogger outreach program is infinitely more impactful for your brand over one that never gets off the ground!

4. Joe the consultant. Bad. Joe the employee. Good.

So you meet Joe, who’s a social media consultant, and you use his services. Is that bad? If you suddenly decided to hire Joe and he takes over your program tomorrow as a badged employee, is that good? The badge doesn’t change the dynamic. If Joe’s good, you actually have more flexibility to use his services as a consultant. You have more flexibility to ratchet his services (and costs) up and down. No need to let Joe go if you’re not happy. No need for the long interview process, the employee training, the insurance and many more items that come along with employment.

5. Social media may not be a full time role for smaller companies

Many smaller companies are not in a position to hire someone to work on social media (or even marketing) full time. They feel forced to designate an employee to take it over, taking time away from their “day job”. In this situation, you may be sub-optimizing your social media marketing while also impacting the employees regular performance. In this case, I recommend using a consultant while having someone designated to work with them, to learn the ropes, and to help align the social media messages with the company line.

Don’t get me wrong. I think companies need to be investing in social media skills and in hiring employees to take on key social media marketing roles (if they can afford it). But don’t think an untrained internal resource will have the impact that your company needs to succeed in today’s online environment.

Don’t hire carelessly or set them up for failure

Make sure you choose the consultant well, involve them in your company’s day-to-day activities (so they “get” your company), and keep the lines of communication open. No consultant can “guess” what your company message is and what messaging style you prefer.

I’d love your thoughts: What’s your take on this? Do you have a strong opinion either way? Have you seen problems with internal social media managers or social media consultants?

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