Should Social Media Be Outsourced?

Smart marketing puts your message right in front of your audience. With millions of people participating in social media each day, using social media platforms to market your business can be a smart move. If you’re warming up to the idea of social media and see it as a legitimate strategy, a logical step is to embrace it and find a team member or a trusted outsourcing provider to build up your social presence.

But before you sign over your social presence to an outside provider, it’s important to ask whether social media should be outsourced and, if so, how it should be outsourced to maximize benefits and minimize risks.

The Benefits of Outsourced Social Media

Like other types of outsourcing, social media outsourcing can save your company time and energy. Your business efforts are always more successful when they are closely linked with your core competency. For example, if your business specializes in virtual office services your employees and managing staff will have expertise in remote working, virtual office technology and all of the other components that go with working “in the cloud.”

Unless your company specializes in online marketing, social media skills aren’t part of your core competency. Your time and the time of your employees will be better spent on other projects. Outsourcing to a social strategy consultant or service can help you keep your presence consistent and your social presence running smoothly.

Using an outside vendor for social media can help your organization gain unique insight into the social process. With frequent platform updates and new measurements of success being introduced on what seems like a constant basis, it’s important that your company stays on top of its game. An outside vendor who specializes in this form of marketing can be a critical key in your social success. They can help you stay competitive and learn to stand out from the crowd with unique updates and engagement tools,

The Risks of Outsourcing

Despite all of these benefits to outsourced social media, the process isn’t without its risks.

The path to effective social usage for corporations has been littered with faux pas and missteps that have made many companies regret starting a Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn account. Chrysler’s account was a victim of a bad tweet in March and Nikon’s Facebook page underwent a fair bit of backlash in September, among many other examples of corporate social gone wrong.

In Chrysler’s case, an employee of the social media firm posted a profanity laden update on the official Chrysler Twitter account. The tweet was made in haste by a hired social media “expert” who either forgot they were logged into their client’s account or made the post in a moment of bad judgment.

Nikon’s social media agency made the mistake of implying that a photographer is only as good as their equipment. This is something that every real photographer knows is not the case, and the Facebook post received a lot of negative response from the Nikon fanpage community and photography blogosphere in general.

The lack of professionalism shown in the Chrysler case and lack of knowledge about a market in the Nikon case are two very real risks of outsourcing social media. But there are ways to minimize the risks and still reap the benefits.

Don’t Outsource Your Voice, Outsource Your Process

Social media outsourcing can still be very beneficial and help your company save time, remain creative and stay competitive. Rather than handing your entire social process off to an outside firm, you can seek out a social consultant or company that will get your company set up, train your employees and offer ongoing support as your social business needs expand.

A social media expert can show your employees how to utilize these channels in an appropriate way. Your employees know about your business and your field. They are invested in the success of your company and are less likely to make mistakes with regard to professionalism or lack of industry knowledge.

By using an outside vendor for social media training and support (rather than outsourcing updates), you can maintain control over your profiles while still reaping the benefits of utilizing an outsourced resource that has expert level knowledge.

What do you think about the benefits and risks of an outsourced social presence?


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15 responses to “Should Social Media Be Outsourced?”

  • I highly support outsourcing for skills where the learning curve is high and constantly evolving.  That being said, you cannot abdicate responsibility for the content/timing of your own communications strategy.  Anyone you hire works for you, and not vice-versa. There’s a danger in letting a social media firm drive your overall marketing communications strategy.  That’s your job.  You’ve hired them for a particular piece of the strategy, and you must assure it’s integrated into the entire fabric of your marketing.

    1. courtneyramirez

      Great point Claire – having a team come in for a piece of the overall marketing puzzle means that they need to fit – and not drive the show. Getting clear on what your organization wants to do with regards to online publishing will not only help you find the right social media team but assist them with doing a good job on your behalf.

  • Hi Courtney,

    Let the outsourcers handle the How. 

    Your organization handles the What. Companies outside of your organization can handle processes. Your job is to fill the processes with value, to control what’s being said, to monitor interactions.

    Never hand off the primary aim of social media – being social – to a 3rd party. That’s your company’s job.

    Thanks for sharing your insight Courtney.


    1. Ryan (and Courtney),

      I believe what you are referring to is “strategy” versus “tactics.” Several years ago (2007, to be precise) I attended a CPRS Toronto session featuring three very smart female PR pros. I’d asked the question of determining strategy. My favourite answer came from (former CBC journalist) Susan Reisler. I’ve used her response (below) to formulate my own answer since time, although now I (too) add the “what” to the “why.”

      Defining “strategic”

      When questions were invited from the audience, I requested that the panelists define for us what is meant by being “strategic.” [Susan] Reisler indicated that how you introduce and solve a problem is key (i.e., “this is what I’m thinking….”).

      “You will quickly become comfortable using the language of knowledge management and persuasion.” She continued, “Think of ‘strategy’ as the superstructure. The superstructure includes ‘why are we doing this?’ The tactics are the how.” Reisler believes that staff and consultants who think they have all of the answers are dangerous. Instead, be continuously thinking about the questions you need to ask, who should you consult, and how can you arrive at a solution.


      Great first post, Courtney! Welcome to the regular contributors team.

  • Hello Courtney,

    First off very informative post. I never knew that people were outsourcing so heavily for social media. In Chrysler and Nikon’s cases they allowed people too much freedom to post. Like you said, they are going to be your subordinates, so tell them what to post.

    You should be feeding them more information then they can post in one day, just to make sure you know the content they are putting out. Periodically checking in and seeing who exactly is doing your posting for you is another way to have more control over your outsourcing.

    Great post, and keep up the good work, your post was very informative!

  • As a micromanager myself, I find the concept of outsourcing a scary one. The public can be very fickle and turn on you for strange reasons. It’s an interesting idea, but I like the concept of having someone train employees and keeping the control internally.

  • I’m generally in favor of having a social media manager handle the day-to-day mechanics of posting posts and tweets. The issue I see more and more is the abdication of responsibility from the “owner” to the “manager” which leads to very poor content with nothing of substance behind it. If the posts and tweets don’t lead to something/anything – what’s the point?

  • Susan Young

    Interesting post in light of the (very) new trend I have been seeing. 

    Some companies reluctant to outsource are being savvy and hiring a former journalist or news reporter to work alongside the social media, marketing, and PR teams. These ex-media pros bring a fresh perspective to messaging and have experienced “life on the other side”. They come with a full understanding of what’s newsworthy, compelling, and timely.They can write. 

    This article on Eloqua is an excellent example. Forget outsourcing, this is the way to go. http://t.co/zjXI2Ihy 

  • Thanks for the terrific comments everyone! I’m glad there was so much positive response to the post. It’s a sticky situation as there’s growing pressure to be everywhere all at once, especially for big brands, but at the end of the day the responsibility needs to be in the hands of the owners. By hiring carefully, handing over just a few tasks if necessary and closely monitoring the process, social media outsourcing can be win-win for all!

  • Hi Courtney

    I work for an online lead generation company called Inbox Insight – we recently conducted a survey to 500 small business owners about Social Media and asked the question about whether they would outsource it.

    You can see the results in our infographic here – http://www.inboxinsight.co.uk/News/Default.aspx – the results show that people are reluctant to outsource social media and think it should be handled in house.



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  • Thanks for the post Courtney. It made me think how many times and balance and analyse the pros and cons in outsourcing one’s social media campaign. Yes, outsourcing is the best move. It offers great opportunities for the outsourcers. Outsourcing social media campaign is a little bit a risky move because it’s the reputation and the brand of the company you’re putting into danger. Choosing the right and reliable service provider would be the best remedy to overcome these risks. 

    Julie 🙂

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  • Belinda Summers

    Successful outsourcing of social media marketing is simply not as easy as handing things off and forgetting about it. No one knows your business as well as you do. No one is as passionate about serving your customers as you are. It’s too risky to outsource your brand’s image. Just like what happen to Nikon’s. So make sure to consider some options before risking your business. We should also consider the benefits of outsourcing not only its disadvantages. If it would be a great help in the company so you must decide what to do..!!
    Thank you Courtney..:)

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