Does Outsourcing Social Media Make Sense?


I've written before about companies' relative indifference to social media. In its report about online customer communities released earlier this year, Deloitte mentions a lack of full-time staff dedicated to such initiatives as a shortcoming. Though companies like Southwest devote staff to monitoring channels such as Twitter, Facebook and Flickr, many companies lack the internal resources and/or expertise to do so.


So companies may want to outsource this function. Frank Casale, CEO of The Outsourcing Institute, tells E-Commerce Times that social media is an ideal candidate for outsourcing because it's not a core competency for most companies, it's constantly changing, and there are lots of specialists that provide such services. Other experts interviewed in the article stress the importance of working with the right provider and understanding the goals of your social media strategy before entrusting it to an outside provider.


A second article on the same theme discusses whether it's advisable to offshore social media services. Gaurav Mishra, a Yahoo fellow-in-residence at Georgetown University's Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, says that while strategic consulting and customer-interaction services are best performed onshore, it makes sense to offshore labor-intensive tasks such as data mining to low-cost countries. A caveat: The offshore work force must be proficient in the language spoken by the client company's customers.


Andrew Frank, a Gartner research VP, isn't so sure. He notes that working with social media is a "fluid and sometimes volatile process" that demands not only strong communication skills, but a clear cultural affinity. He says:

Keep in mind that social media relations are human relationships, not static communications, and the stakes of getting it wrong can be quite high.

Indeed, the same emphasis on human relationships is leading a growing number of Western companies to scale back on their offshore contact centers and move these services closer to home, as I wrote in July. There's no question that getting social media right is a tricky proposition for companies. A recent discouraging statistic from Forrester Research: Just 16 percent of people who read corporate blogs say they trust them.


Oddly, since the article focuses on the issue of outsourcing, it also offers a short list of companies that sell technology platforms that are used to create and monitor social media content. While I suppose such a list will come in handy for companies that want their providers to use specific solutions, I assume many companies would prefer to rely on providers' expertise to select the most appropriate tools.