22 Feb 12 Outsourcing the social media process – do’s and don’ts

Social media is probably one of the fastest to have achieved the ‘must have’ status among all marketing initiatives. The sheer number of people that it manages to arrest along its growth path is any marketers delight. Even other marketing efforts such as ads on TV, web, print, seem to indicate a growing dependence on social media.

Social media for companies is recommended primarily because it manages to reach out to millions of people continuously. In addition it does not take much effort to renew a discussion string when it starts to subside. The success of social media marketing can be attributed to a plethora of reasons, some of those that stand out are:

  •  Enables significant visibility
  •  Multitude of platforms to increase reach
  •  Interactive – consumers and customers can get involved
  •  Can be shared easily
  •  Real time interaction
  •  Enable data gathering for further analysis, increasing value add for the companies
  •  A marketing tool primarily, effective for other departments such as HR, customer care, etc

 
Benefits from social media – easier said than done
Apparently social media seems easy to leverage on. There are two defining attributes – it is extremely effort intensive and needs to be thought through very critically. The days of pulling out a commercial if it is not received well, issuing an apology and banking on ‘out of sight, out of mind’, are gone. As companies have discovered well into their social media marketing days – it takes a lot of effort to not just stay active on social media but the entire activity needs constant and close monitoring. Discussions need to be directed, controlled, followed, spread and analysed. Social media strategy has the potential to completely alter how a company is viewed by the consumers indicating why companies think it necessary to allocate enough resources to the exercise.
 
Outsourcing will help to stay ahead of the game
Social media needs experts who can align the messages, execution and plan to the overall company strategy. The other important aspects such as execution and monitoring are time and effort intensive and need a daily plan of action. The data collected as a result is analyzed to indicate trends, changes needed, and will impact the strategy going forward. The industry includes players such as Infinit-o and Social Media Outsourcing. Large companies like Capgemini offer add-ons that can help in monitoring the efficacy of the social media initiatives.

The fact that the execution can be put into a process makes outsourcing of social media possible. Companies need to define outputs so that service providers take and follow-up on it.

Vendor selection is crucial
A company looking to make the most of its investment in social media can differentiate between strategic inputs and actual execution tasks and then outline an outsourcing plan. The plan will be based on their comfort level in terms of evolution of their social media strategy start by outsourcing the non-core activities. Before a company embarks upon an outsourcing plan, it must ideally scrutinize the service provider on certain parameters. Some of these are:

  •  Vertical expertise offered by the service provider
  •  Impact analysis of services offered in terms of increase in top line
  •  Processes and people to be employed

As in all other outsourcing efforts, companies cannot afford to be not involved. Upfront time investment to ensure that the service provider completely understands strategy, outcome needed and overall vision cannot be compromised upon. Once a certain comfort level is achieved more and more responsibilities can be handed over to the vendor to let them take forward initiatives independently. This is not to say that companies can outsource even the strategic aspect – that should always remain in-house.

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