When Should You Outsource Your Social Media?

There are many good reasons to bring on additional resources to help you manage your social media presence and outreach, but possibly the biggest could be that unless social media marketing is a core competency of your company you’re going to be at a disadvantage when trying to build your social media channels but determining which ones to use in the first place to best leverage your company assets and best reach your target audience.

Let’s take a look at some of the times when hiring out your social media efforts makes sense, starting with the most dire — and undesirable — situations first:

1. When things blow up

You’ve been managing your social media channels, communications and community building. Then something goes terribly wrong. It could be that your company is experiencing a crisis communications incident, and your social media channels have ignited with vitriol from the public who see your Facebook Page and the Twitterstream as a battleground to lob attacks against your company.

What now? This is a critical time. Admit you’re over your head and that you need help. Look for a social media marketing agency that has experience of crisis communications in social media. A more traditional crisis communications firm may not yet understand the complexities and nuances to minimize or putting out fires in social media channels. While a crisis isn’t ideal, if you see the warning signs in your traditional or offline channels, bring in a qualified social media consultant sooner than later. They may be able to keep the crisis from blowing up online entirely or help minimize the damage.

2. When you’re overwhelmed

You’ve managed your social media channels internally for a while, and you’re finally getting traction. Then something good but unexpected happens — like a mention on Oprah, perhaps — and all heck breaks loose. Suddenly, your once manageable Facebook Page is abuzz with conversation via hundreds of comments. You may be tempted to throw some emergency internal resources at your channels — pulling in Joe from Marketing and Jane from Product Management — but neither have been properly trained in handling external social communications much less an onslaught of posts, comments and tweets.

What now? You should be so lucky to have sudden and massive growth of your social media channels, but if you’re not prepared to handle the load, an external agency could do three critical things for you: come up with a rapid deployment strategy for harnessing the energy within your channels; supplement your internal team with skilled social media specialists to handle appropriately selected tasks; and train your internal staff in the skills they’ll need to properly manage your company’s social media assets.

3. When you’ve hit a wall

You’re plugging along pretty well in social media, but the growth of your channels and the activity just seems a little flat. You’re participating in conversations, you’re being pretty responsive to your friends, fans, and followers, and you’re posting updates and useful content pretty steadily. You have a loose strategy in place that seems to be working OK. You’re a little frustrated, though, because aren’t seeing the response you think you should be seeing.

What now? An experienced social media marketing agency will first assess what you’ve done to date, analyze your metrics, and identify gaps in your social media marketing strategy. They can then come up with a more comprehensive strategy that fills in the gaps and makes creative recommendations that may not have ever come to your mind. Sometimes when you’re in the thick of it, you can’t see the proverbial forest for the trees. Getting outside input can take your social media efforts to the next level.

4. When nothing’s happening

You’ve been immersed in social media for months but are getting very little response to your updates on Facebook or Twitter or to your uploads on YouTube (s goog), or wherever else you’ve set up a presence and have posted something. You’ve been charged with building your friend, fan and follower bases to a certain number, but that number seems completely unattainable at the rate you’re going. Not only are you not getting many comments and no retweets at all, but you haven’t seen any mentions — positive, negative or neutral — about your company in any social media channels. It’s like you’re working in some cosmic vortex where all of your efforts seem to be sucked into a black void.

What now? Just because you build it, they won’t necessarily come to your channel, much less interact with you or take any of the business-critical actions you’d like them to take. Bring in that social media marketing agency for a more thorough assessment of your social media marketing efforts and maybe even a broader analysis of your competitors in social media. They can craft a more proactive strategy and lay out specific tactics you can employ to put your social media marketing efforts on a more positive trajectory.

5. Before you start

Still considering social media marketing as part of your integrated marketing mix but not sure where to begin? A hit or miss approach will be mostly misses. At this stage of social media marketing maturity, you shouldn’t look at your efforts on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube as a little experiment.

What now? This is the ideal time to turn to a reputable social media marketing agency with a strong portfolio of work and case studies. If you can find an agency with some relevant experience in your industry, that’s a plus. A strategic agency will start with assessing your brand, messaging and company assets as well as the competitive landscape to determine opportunities and potentially challenges that you can address head-on. They’ll design and build your social media channels properly and set up the processes so you can co-manage them. They’ll also train your staff to participate in social media communications and marketing and supplement your company’s efforts over an extended period of time until you’re ready to ramp up internally and bring the work in-house. Or you may decide it is more effective in the long run to keep outsourcing.

When not to outsource

If you have assessed both your internal needs and assets and external social media landscape and have put a comprehensive social media strategy in place, plus have ramped up internally with experienced or well-trained staff to handle social media duties, then you’re probably set.

How are things going with your company’s social media marketing efforts? When did you or would you bring in a social media marketing consultant or agency to help?

stock xchng image by user hoefi

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