There have been a number of discussions in the marketing forums about what it should cost to outsource a social marketing program. This is a bad idea for a number of reasons. Social media is like a cell wall membrane. In this analogy, the cell is your company, and the cell wall is your social media effort. It’s semi-permeable. Everything outside the cell wall is interaction with the public, vendors, etc.
Too many companies want to outsource their social media effort to “get it done” without doing the work. Social media though is about participation. If you don’t participate yourself then it’s difficult to reap the benefits.
Here’s why I discourage outsourcing social media programs.
1) Product Knowledge: I don’t care how well an outside agency understands your business – no outsider will understand your business as well as your internal people. That’s why it’s important to have knowledgeable employees responding to questions in a timely manner, in a way that’s consistent with your company’s culture and policy.
2) Being the Conduit: Your social media program is your permeable cell wall. Information travels both ways, from customers or fans to the company, and from the company out to fans or followers. Funneling customer input to the right people, internally, is half the battle. Employees are more likely to know the right people to funnel the information to than outsiders.
3) Using Social Media as a Marketing Research Tool: If you are trying to get feedback on alternate ideas among your current users or fans, social media is a great vehicle. It’s fast and cost efficient, but not secure. Assume your competitors are listening in on whatever you say. Given that sensitivity, you may want to execute any research you do yourself.
You can certainly have outside agencies help you set up your social media programs. They can (and we do) design custom business pages, set up promotions, etc. However, the guts of a social media program is participating, listening, responding and engaging your customers.