Social Media for Small Business: Should You Outsource It?

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socialmedia_1.28.14We’ve gotten past the point of “does your business need to be on social media?” Now, the burning question of the day for small business owners is whether you need to outsource social media work to a third party. Here are five things to keep in mind.

1. What’s your motivation for wanting to outsource it? This is probably the most important question to ask. There’s a difference between not having enough people-power to not being interested in doing the work. If you “get” the importance of social media and have tried managing it on your own, but realize you need some help, guidance, and/or someone to supplement your work, then that’s a legitimate reason for thinking about outsourcing.

However, if you’re simply not interested in social media, then tread carefully. The reason we say this is that social media doesn’t work unless it’s authentic. A third party can certainly learn about your business and go a long way in delivering authentic tweets, pictures, posts, and so forth. However, a third party can never know your business like you do, and a third party should never operate in a vacuum without any oversight on your part. In other words, you still will need to be involved to some degree. So if you’re not willing to commit yourself (or someone from within your organization) to social media, no amount of effort on behalf of a third party will likely get you far in the long run.

2. Can you hand off this task to someone within your organization? It’s easy for small business owners to think that they need to be the ones to manage the company’s social media presences, but when you add that on to everything else you need to do, well…we all know what can happen. There’s no reason why you can’t delegate this task to someone (or a group of people) within your organization. In fact, social media often works best when it’s a group effort because then it never feels like a burden. But as we stated in the previous point, you’d still need to provide some oversight to make sure your employees are accurately representing the company. And if you go this route, make sure you have clear guidelines for employees to follow and that you have the usernames and passwords for ALL social media accounts. You’ll also want to have protocols in place for handling things like disgruntled tweets and ugly comments from fans.

3. Instead of investing in an outsourced solution, would it be better to invest in a social media audit? Perhaps the problem isn’t a lack of interest or time on your part; maybe you want to know if you’re “doing it right” and maybe you want to know what you could be doing better. If that’s the case, then what you need is a social media audit. This would involve having a social media expert review your social media presences from top to bottom, including the public face (e.g. what your profile says, for example) to the story the analytics are telling (e.g. what sort of click-through rates you get on links you share on Twitter, for example).

Asking an objective person to assess your social media presence and provide solid, practical steps for improving it is a great way to get a handle on where you’re at and to take your social media marketing to the next level. Consider conducting an audit on a regular basis, such as once a quarter.

4. What would happen if you narrowed your focus? Could you manage it better on your own then? Maybe the issue is you’re spread too thin. It can easily happen. When you start down the social media path, you’re gung ho at first and you find yourself signing up for Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, and Tumblr. Then you start hearing about newer platforms, like Snapchat. The question is, do you need to be on every single platform? For most small businesses, the answer is no. Which leads to the question: which ones are most important to your company? The answer? It depends on your customers.

If your audience is focused on people 25 and under (maybe you sell fashion to tweens and teens, for example), then Facebook and Google+ might not make the most sense, but Snapchat, Tumblr, and Instagram might. If you’re in a highly visual business, like a wedding photographer, then Pinterest and Instagram might be the hot outlets you focus on.

There are just so many hours in the day, so you need to use your time wisely in every aspect of your business, and this most certainly applies to social media as well. Figure out what’s important to your customers (if you’re not sure, ask them), figure out which platforms you enjoy, and see if there’s a happy medium. If you’re a wedding photographer, maybe you love Pinterest and Facebook and you’ve learned that many of your customers use Pinterest and almost all are on Facebook. Focus on those. There’s no rule saying you need to be on every platform under the sun. You can always add on something new as you grow or as situations change.

5. How big of a piece is social media in your overall marketing mix? For some small businesses, social media serves as a way to have an increased online presence and to stay in front of customers and prospects in between sales. For these companies, any actual business that comes from social media is seen as a bonus—gravy—rather than a key part of the marketing and lead generation mix. And guess what? That’s OK. Not every business will have the need to drive thousands of leads and sales through social media. For example, a custom home builder wouldn’t be able to handle 1000 sales, let alone leads, every month. For other small businesses, however, social media might be a key ingredient and a way to drive sales. Ecommerce companies, like online retailers, are good examples.

The bigger the role social media plays in your marketing and sales, the more time and investment you’ll need to make in it. That might very well involve outsourcing to a third party who goes way beyond simply maintaining your different platforms, but rather understands the ins and outs of social media marketing so that it drives traffic and sales conversions.

Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution—what your business needs will be different from other businesses, even your competitors. Use these questions as a sanity check. If you decide that you do indeed need to outsource your social media work, then make sure you properly vet the companies you’re considering. Not sure how to go about this? No worries. We’ll be back in a few days with eight questions to ask the people you interview.

Do you outsource your social media work, or do you handle everything in-house? How did you decide? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments. And be sure to check back in a few days when we post the second article in this series: eight questions to ask if you outsource your social media to a consultant.

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2 thoughts on “Social Media for Small Business: Should You Outsource It?

  1. Hi, Jason… This is a really great share. As I’ve discussed in a previous article I wrote on B2C (!tWnk7), small businesses seem to become more doubtful on outsourcing such social media tasks. I think it’s pretty because they take it literally or they are just afraid of the consequences they see happening in the future. But that’s totally not the case. In the business world, I believe we definitely have to try something first before succeeding. Besides, outsourcing, ‘when done and managed right,’ is good for business. Thanks for sharing these insights to us!

    1. I can relate to what you’re saying.

      I think it is also the lack of information (results, related successful business, and the ins and outs of such platform) plus the why-do-this-when-we’re-having-such-success-the-old-ways mentality is holding most SMBs to do it.

      I’ve actually talked to a local business owner the other day about social media. It was really a challenge to send out the message (aside from the fact that it was an informal conversation) because their mind is totally locked on other things. If I ever visit the place again, I’ll sure to share this post of yours Jason! Very well said, indeed.

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