Anyone who knows anything about social media will tell you that companies should not pay someone to do social media for them. For the best results, they should learn to do it themselves.
The same goes for individuals who are promoting themselves or their products, whether they want to sell books, build relationships with potential clients or simply get the word out about their brand.
Yet that’s exactly what I do as a social media consultant. Yes, occasionally I work as a strategy coach, helping businesses learn how to engage their online community through Facebook or Twitter or YouTube. But the bulk of my social media business comes from small companies who pay me to do all of that for them.
(UPDATE: Check out my guide on social-media consulting: How to Build a Part-Time Social Media Business.)
Why don’t I follow conventional wisdom when it comes to outsourcing social media? Because this isn’t a perfect world. For a lot of small businesses, running their own social media campaign simply isn’t an option. They can’t afford to hire a full-time employee to dedicate to social media, like bigger companies sometimes do. Bosses may not have time to learn to use the tools — or, more importantly, social media etiquette — nor do they want to spend hours growing a quality community online.
Now that I’m growing my own small business, I totally understand this. In addition to serving my clients, I have what feels like a zillion other things on my plate: keeping track of my finances, staying on top of new social media developments and working hard to get new clients. And there are certain things I just don’t have time to learn. Like figuring out the best way to keep track of my expenses, how much my clients owe me and whether they’ve paid. Thankfully, I have someone amazing to outsource it to: my mom. She keeps the books for a company as part of her job, and being the awesome mom that she is, she’s offered to do it for me, too.
Obviously it would be better if I did this myself. I’d better understand my profits, and I’d learn something in the process. But I don’t have time to do everything. So I focus on what I do well, and ask for help with the rest.
Small businesses can do everything themselves, either. And if they can’t do social media well themselves, outsourcing is better than doing a shitty job or not doing it at all. Especially if you hire an awesome social media gal like me.
Here’s the key to outsourcing social media: the person you hire has to really understand the company, its industry, its mission and its community. She has to really get the tone and personality of the brand. And she has to communicate regularly with the boss in order to do her job well.
That’s why I love what one of my clients, Overland Experts, has done to integrate me into their small company. Rather than treating me like a consultant, they consider me part of their team. They’ve even added me to their team webpage. Because the more I’m involved with OEX, the better I understand the company and the better I can engage clients through our growing online channels. (Which, by the way, seems like a good reason for me to go on one of their 4×4 adventures to, say, Mongolia or Kenya, don’t ya think?)
So yes, try your best to do social media for your small business. But if it’s just not your thing, don’t feel bad about outsourcing. At least you’re making social media a priority. That puts you ahead of a lot of other folks out there.
Your turn: Do you think social media can or should be outsourced?