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Outsourcing Intimacy – Making the Case for Internal Social Media

Are you farming out your social media activities? You may want to reconsider.

Do a search for ‘social media agency’ and you’ll get more than a few results. 23 million in fact. There are an awful lot of people out there clamouring to handle your social media presence for you, and they make a pretty strong case as to why you should let them.

Having an effective presence in social media is time consuming, and internal marketing departments are typically already stretched pretty thin covering traditional marketing efforts. Hiring an agency to handle your social media activities would seem like an ideal solution. It’s quick, easy, and gets the job done for a nominal fee. But be aware that there are a number of factors that make an equally strong case for handling social media from inside your company.

The first is quite simple: Someone connecting with your business will want to connect with YOU, not someone sitting at a desk at an agency, far removed from your business. For example I know that for myself personally, if I want to ask someone at Apple a question, I sure don’t want to talk with their ad agency. I want the same experience online that I would be able to obtain if I walked in to an Apple store and sat down at the Genius Bar.

Another reason to keep social media internal? The people working at agencies just don’t share your passion for your product or the industry that your business serves. But what’s most important is they don’t share the same passion for your customers. They can’t, otherwise they’d be in your business and that would make them your competitor. It’s not to say they’re not capable marketing people. It’s just that they’re coming at your customers from a very different angle than you are, so they can’t possibly understand them the same way you do. What ultimately makes your customers WANT to connect with your business is the experience they had with your business, not the experience they had with your ad.

Need an example of a worst case scenario?

Just look at the recent snafu that Chrysler ran in to. An employee at the agency they had hired to manage their social media not only made a grievous error in judgement by posting a rogue tweet with the ‘f-word’ in it, but the obscenity was directed at the driving ability of the entire city of Detroit. DETROIT. Motor City, the birthplace of the American automotive industry. Think that someone who actually works at Chrysler would have made that same mistake? Possibly, but I really doubt it.

Now, I certainly don’t want to give the impression that Agency = Bad, because that’s really not the case. They excel at certain tasks, and one of those tasks can be training you and your people on how social media works. They can train you on the right language to use, the importance of replying and acknowledging your community’s activity, and they can show you the methods and tools to use in order to be successful. They can show you how, but they can’t do it for you.

Ideally the agency you choose should support you in your efforts, as a guiding hand through the complexities of social media. Providing advice, education, and suggestions on what to try next. But the conversations? Those should be yours to have.

Social media is the most intimate way a business can maintain a relationship with its customers. We’ve never had the ability to connect so easily, on an ongoing basis, with customers and businesses as we have today. Does it really make sense for your business to outsource that intimacy? Every company should be asking that question and choosing the path that’s right for them, and for their customers.