Does Outsourcing Social Media Make Sense?

Ann All

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.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Dec 31, 2008 11:42 AM Craig Cannings Craig Cannings  says:
The interest and excitement of Social Media is building quickly among businesses. Small businesses are certainly dabbling in Social Networking in such sites as Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin, but many have not established a clear strategy or game plan to maximize the potential of this powerful new medium. So, a Social Media Consultant or Specialist can offer some clear direction on the most effective and targeted ways to leverage social media for their businesses.I think Social Media Marketing will be one of the most prevalent outsourced tasks on the web in 2009!Craig Canningshttp://www.vaclassroom.com/socialmarketing/ Reply
Dec 31, 2008 4:39 PM Virtual Assistant Services Virtual Assistant Services  says:
Offshore virtual assistants are ideal for Social Media networking. An effective social media networking campaign can be very time consuming and cost ineffective if handled internally. Reply
Dec 31, 2008 4:43 PM Gaurav Mishra Gaurav Mishra  says:
@Ann: You are right. Offshoring social media is not a trivial decision and it won't work for everybody. However, for large B2C companies, the options will be to 1) not engage with social media and 2) outsource/ offshore parts of social media. Reply
Dec 31, 2008 6:54 PM Mary H Ruth Mary H Ruth  says:
My thought is that companies of any large size will soon have to have SM experts on staff, but smaller businesses will do well to do it themselves or outsource - the latter if their time is limited. But outsourced work will need to be done by someone who can reasonably know the company well, and 'speak its language.' This may be an overseas resource, but it's more likely to be not only a compatriot but someone in your region of the country. Reply
Dec 31, 2008 8:37 PM Tiffany Odutoye Tiffany Odutoye  says:
Developing a Social Media strategy and executing it over a period of time is one of the ways that companies can make an impact and share its voice. However, the very nature of social media requires that a personal connection be made, and a relationship maintained, or your voice can be watered down and less effective. To that end, it may be prudent and cost effective to outsource part of the task to a "Social Media Marketing Specialist" who has a vested interest in your brand and business. Finding the right partner is key and may be a challenge offshore.Virtual Partner offers a collaborative solution, or you may want to check out the marketplace of VAClassroom.com (http://www.vaclassroom.com/marketplace) -- they specialize in training and matching talent to your needs. Reply
Jan 2, 2009 1:54 PM Susan Weeks Susan Weeks  says:
Like any business activity, social media needs an effective strategy, well implemented, to achieve its expected targets. As with many business activites, social marketing is ideal for outsourcing - the emphasis being on placing the work with a provider who can best perform that role - their location as described by terms such as 'off shore', 'home shore', 'near shore' and so on can be very confusing. I am a native english speaker living in france, but my location is irrelevant in terms of my being able to provide a suitable and effective outsourced social media service. Reply
Mar 17, 2010 10:21 AM data recovery data recovery  says: in response to Susan Weeks

interesting discussion.

I use my team of outsourcers to add my friend requests in facebook and to identify people to follow in twitter.

I'm not comfortable with having them communicate on my behalf though.


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