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Friday, 22 March 2013

Social Media: In-house or Outsourced?

In-house or outsource social media?

As part of our offering is support services for social media, I was initially interested in a long thread about in-house vs outsourcing social media on a Linkedin group for marketing professionals today. By the end of the thread I was so cross, I left the group and I don't do that very often.

Most agreed the ideal solution is in-house to deliver the authentic feel of the company. I agree.
Several pointed out that's not always practical and well managed external help, combined with in-house handling of direct customer engagement and strategy provides a good solution to delivering a consistent service. Well, we are hardly unbiased on this one!
Most posters on the thread agreed that strategy should be driven by the in-house team's deeper understanding of the company's vision, values and business objectives. So far, so good.
I was somewhat amused to see several postings that were blatant adverts, thereby immediately disqualifying themselves from involvement in any serious social media work.
There were also plenty of spelling mistakes; "shouting" block capitals and grammatical errors in the postings - again seriously undermining confidence in the quality of their work and posting judgement.
I was already doubting the wisdom of being in this group -  I must have evaluated it on a good day.
Then I found one person proudly announcing they had created a fictitious person and standard log-in in for all their social outlets to ensure continuity in their social engagement. While I can see the usefulness of this approach to the company (real staff are such a messy inconvenience :-) do they seriously believe that basing customer communications on a deception is the right way forward in building relationships with people?
It's just too easy to be found out. Linguistic researchers have long known that we all use words in ways that are as unique as our fingerprints.
A quick comparison of two texts run through natural speech analytic programs will tell if two pieces are written by the same person. My guess is: if a machine can tell the difference, a human will easily smell a rat. Especially if they get 'engagement' couched in differing word patterns, all purporting to be from the same person. Even if they can't put their finger on it, a real live customer will have an uneasy feeling that something's not right. An uneasy feeling is a long way from the ideal warm glow generated by empowered staff capable of genuine human engagement.
Then my eyebrows really disappeared into my hairline as one chap posted that collaboration between the in-house team and the outsourced company meant allowing the employees to get stuck into their work while they outsourced the socialising! This reminded me of an international banker I worked with many years ago. He was complaining about all the amazing feasts he was attending while he was drumming up business in the Middle East.  I jokingly offered to do his eating to let him get on with the business - a solution as patently useless as getting someone else to do your socialising online - or am I just an unrealistic idealist?
My eyebrows repeated their assent into my hairline when a lady (who claimed many years in professional marketing) argued (with shouting capitals) that smaller companies can't do their own social media because they are not marketing experts and wouldn't do it right. So they should outsource it all.
I grant that small businesses often need support and counsel, but would it make sense for a small business owner to fully outsource their social media to someone who stridently shouts in social media posts? Not to mention clearly holding a very low opinion of her small business clients' abilities? It doesn't look like a happy win:win  to me. I believe business relationships need to be forged on a certain amount of respect for each other's capabilities.
Another 'professional' thought the purpose of social media was to "beat the marketing drum".
They clearly have years of catching up to do, starting with David Meerman Scott's excellent New Rules of Marketing and PR book.
Interestingly only one of the 28 respondents in the thread mentioned monitoring for any form of business  ROI.
In the legendary words of News of the World reporters at swingers' parties: "I made my excuses and left".

PR blog posted by Penny Haywood Calder at PHPR Ltd, Edinburgh, UK. URL: PHPR TV Channel on YouTube: PHPR Ltd on LinkedIn Follow PennyHaywood on Twitter

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