No Social Media 'Snake Oil,' Please

Ann All

Is outsourcing social media a smart strategy?


Back in December, I spotlighted a couple of E-Commerce Times articles that attempted to walk companies through the particulars of doing so. Like several of the experts quoted in the articles I agreed that outsourcing does make sense for many companies since social media isn't likely to be a core competency. After all, even companies with internal marketing staffs regularly bring in specialists to work on traditional marketing campaigns. And social media is hardly traditional. It's a nascent area, and one that's still confusing on a lot of levels.


A recent Mashable item by Tom Smith, founder of Trendstream, a consultancy specializing in social media, presents six reasons why even big companies with formidable marketing divisions struggle with their social media campaigns. Among them: No one is sure exactly who should be responsible for social media, as it includes elements of marketing, PR, communications, content production and Web development. Unlike traditional marketing channels, social media rarely involves short-term objectives. The metrics used to measure success aren't as straightforward as those for more conventional media campaigns. The list reinforces the idea of bringing in some external expertise.


In the course of debunking six "myths" about social media on her whatsnextblog.com, B.L. Ochman also came out in favor of outsourcing at least some aspects of social media.(His myth No. 4:You can do it all in-house.) Still, a few of her other myths get to the heart of some well-founded concerns about outsourcing social media.


Myth No. 2 , for example, is: Anyone can do it. She notes that among those following Robert Scoble on Twitter are 1,652 social media marketers, 513 social media consultants, 272 social media strategists, 180 social media experts and 98 social media gurus. (Raise your hand if you're among those who are sick of hearing the word "guru" used for anything other than a spiritual guide. Mine is up.) Ochman writes: "How many of them have actually created a successful campaign for clients using social media tools? I bet you'd be hard-pressed to find half a dozen with real track records." Exactly.


Forrester Research's Jeremiah Owyang addressed the same topic in a recent post on his Web Strategy blog. After noting that "self-proclaimed gurus have appeared from everywhere," Owyang writes that the recession will cause companies to more carefully consider whom they entrust with their social media strategies, whether those folks are in-house or outside specialists. Real practitioners will "focus on moving the needle to create actionable programs that generate leads, increase sales, decrease support costs, or make innovation more efficient."


Let's hope so. As I wrote in August, concern about quantifiable results remains one of the biggest sticking points for companies considering adopting Web 2.0 tools and technologies (including those used for social media). There are many opinions on how the recession will affect Web 2.0. Like Owyang, I tend to think the recession will force companies to more carefully consider their Web 2.0 strategies. (Nothing kills the inclination to try something just because it's trendy quite like an awful economy.) And that includes getting someone who can back up the "guru" title on his or her LinkedIn profile with actual qualifications and a track record of success.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Feb 27, 2009 11:27 AM B.L. Ochman B.L. Ochman  says:

Hi - excellent post - thanks for including me. but, ahem, B.L. Ochman is not a man. :>)

Feb 27, 2009 11:34 AM Ann All Ann All  says: in response to B.L. Ochman

Oh, the shame. I will change your gender in this post and in an earlier one in which I name-checked you. Though social media is one of the areas I occasionally write about, it's not my primary expertise -- as is obvious from the fact that I wasn't familiar w/ your impressive bio.

Feb 27, 2009 11:48 AM Loraine Lawson Loraine Lawson  says:

I've noticed that social media is attracting a huge amount of snake oil salespeople. I wonder if, at this point, anybody really knows what it takes to be successful at social media - and is it really any different than what it takes to be successful at marketing in general.

Frankly, I can't see why you'd outsource it. I can't imagine companies are reaping such huge benefits from social media that they can't just tack it onto somebody's existing job. I'd love to see some proof that paying for a social media campaign pays off.

Mar 2, 2009 12:28 PM Axel Schultze Axel Schultze  says:

Outsourcing Social Media? I'm not sure.

Here is a consideration:

Hire experienced people who help you create a strategy, create a plan and advice you execute that plan. If that is considered outsourcing that's fine. Make sure you know who you are hiring! Don't trust anything but the social web itself.

But you should avoid under any circumstance to outsource what you need to do in social media - it's like you have no time for your partner and therefor send a friend

Not sure that would be a good idea either.

Just my 2 cents



Mar 4, 2009 4:31 PM Angela Dunn Angela Dunn  says: in response to Lynda

BlogBrevity says: Even the true social media marketing "experts" (http://tinyurl.com/7xvk42) are reticent about using the term "expert." The landscape is constantly changing. Marketers need to remember that social media content must align with business goals and user needs to be successful. Creating "relevant" content will engage the customer and deliver on social media campaigns. Those who enjoyed a brief honeymoon because they jumped on the bandwagon first will be weeded out again by those that deliver with an authentic voice. The customer's voice has never been more powerful.

Mar 4, 2009 8:22 PM Lynda Lynda  says:

Outsourcing SOME things can be a solution (but be careful what you do outsource as you don't want to be giving a stranger your voice), but I find wiht the many companies I work with as a social media consultant, that the main problem is not time, it's not who does what - but what it really is, is that they haven't taken the first steps, to outline their goals and develop a well thought out plan. If they do that, everything else falls into place.

Sep 7, 2011 10:48 AM Maria Peagler Maria Peagler  says:

In my experience, entrepreneurs looking to outsource social media are those focused more on sales than on marketing. They want the "immediate dollars" rather than the long-term relationship, and they're willing to let someone else handle the details.

Big mistake.

No one is ever going to represent your company better than your own staff.  If you've hired well, let those great team members shine on your social media platform.  Sure, they may need some training, but we all do when it comes to something new.

Thanks for the article.

Maria Peagler




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