There is no doubt that outsourcing is a great way for businesses to increase quality, reduce overheads and improve their profit margins. Outsourcing common tasks such as packaging, distribution and basic manufacturing have become commonplace in the majority of industries. However, outsourcing your social media is something else entirely, right?
What follows is a more detailed look into the benefits of outsourcing, the potential flaws and a detailed look at whether outsourcing social media is a sensible choice for YOUR business.
The Reason Outsourcing Works
If you deprive yourself of outsourcing and your competitors do not, you’re putting yourself out of business. – Lee Kuan Yew (1st Prime Minister of Singapore)
Outsourcing allows businesses to pay specialists complete specific business processes so they don’t need to manage them in-house. If done well, this can result in better results at a lower cost.
So, why does it work? Well, when you choose to outsource a specific business process, packaging, for example, you can carefully choose who you outsource it to. It means you can find a company that specialises in this exact process. They will be able to source the right packaging, have the right machinery and systems set up to complete the job to a high standard, and you will only pay them for the work they do for you. To get the same level of service without outsourcing, you’d need to employ a team of people, including managers with specialist experience, invest in buying the machinery, find your own package suppliers etc. etc. Unless you are packaging on a huge scale, you are almost certainly going to be better off outsourcing.
Which Processes Should You Outsource?
In the right situation, outsourcing can make a huge difference – especially to small or medium sized businesses. So, how do you determine which situation is right for outsourcing? How do you know which processes to outsource, and which to keep in-house?
The benefits of outsourcing THE RIGHT services can be huge. Just think about how much stress, time and hassle is saved across the world just because companies choose to outsource their accounting. Though there are probably exceptions, it’s fairly safe to say that almost ALL businesses with fewer than 10 employees outsource their accounting, at least in part, to a professional accountants firm.
So, what makes this such a no-brainer for businesses?
Well, for starters – no one likes doing their own accounts. Spreadsheets and numbers just aren’t exciting. On top of this, accounting is perceived to be a hugely important business process. Get it wrong, and you could be in big trouble.
Though all of this is true, the main reason outsourcing your accounting responsibilities is so appealing is that you are able to have the benefits of a team of professionals, each with highly specific knowledge, and an entire professional toolset (payroll software etc.) at a price that is generally very affordable. We pay our accountants a couple of hundred pounds each month, and it’s among the best services we spend our money on. Without them, we’d have to hire someone to deal with our accounts. Without the right resources or expertise, this could easily end up being a full-time job for someone we’d have to pay something in the region of £25,000 per year (plus holiday, pensions, sick days etc. etc.). For us, it really isn’t worth thinking about.
Is Outsourcing Social Media the Same?
Though some businesses are still resisting, social media is fast becoming almost as much of a necessity as accountancy. If potential customers can’t find you online, or if they find you to be inactive on social media, this will have an increasingly negative impact on your sales, and business.
Social media is different to accountancy in so many ways. For a start, accounting has always been something businesses have had to deal with. In contrast, social media has only been around for 10 years – and it’s only just starting to become a business necessity. However, there are also some similarities. Like accountancy, anyone can ‘have a go‘ at social media. Most people can now send a tweet. You might even be able to do it from your phone. The question is, ‘is this the best option for your business?‘
When you engage in social media as a business, it’s completely different to using it on a personal level. It’s a business communication channel. This puts it on the same level as your website, company brochure or business proposals. How you appear on social media will have a direct impact on whether people choose to do business with you in the future. What’s more, without the right approach, expertise and tools, you will simply be shooting in the dark. You won’t know who to target, how to target them, or whether what you’re doing is working…
Like accountancy, running an effective social media campaign requires expert knowledge, time and advanced specialist tools. To do it properly, most small businesses would not only have to spend a considerable amount on the right tools, but also employ a dedicated social media manager to run it all (again, costing £25,000+ and all the additional costs that come with a full-time employee). When you consider this, outsourcing the management of your social media for a couple of hundred pounds a month starts to look a lot more appealing, right?
What Are Your Options?
For the sake of continuity, I’m going to stick with the accountancy analogy.
For companies looking to outsource their accounting, there are lots of options – each with pros and cons, and a different price tag. You could choose to use a freelance bookkeeper. They would be cheap, flexible and do most of what you needed from them. However, the possible downsides might be them not having the right tools, you getting pushed to the back of the queue when they got busy, or you not being able to contact them at all if they get ill or go on holiday.
The alternative to this is to use a larger accountancy firm. They would have enterprise level tools, true expert knowledge and the human resources to answer your questions quickly, and without fail. the service you’d receive would be more effective, more reassuring and more professional – but it would cost more.
Social media management is exactly the same. There are plenty of options for you to consider. If you post an ad on any of the freelancing jobs boards online you will find people clambering over each other to help you with your social media marketing for anything from £10-£50 per hour. For some business, this might be a good option – but for the same reasons that the freelance bookkeeper would frustrate most serious business owners, a freelance social media manager is rarely a viable long term solution.
The equivalent of the professional accountancy firm is a social media agency. And, like accountancy firms, social media agencies come in all shapes, sizes and (most importantly) costs. A social media agency will have access to the very latest, and most effective tools on the market. They will also have true expert knowledge, not only in social media strategy, planning and writing, but in creating graphics, offering customer support, creating videos etc. etc. They will provide a reassuring, effective and professional service, day in, day out.
The only downside to working with a professional social media agency is that it can be costly. Costs of using an agency will vary greatly. Unless you have thousands to invest each month, you should steer clear of the city-based agencies. What you should be looking for are small agencies who are willing to work closely with you, get to know your business, and offer you packages that make sense for your business.
Is It Safe to OutSource Social Media?
One of the questions we get asked most frequently is ‘how can you write about our business?’
While this is a valid concern, our answer is simple. like the accountant with their payroll and spreadsheets, online communications are our core business. We spend every minute of every working day thinking about social media, online content and getting more traffic and business for our customer’s. When we start working with a new customer, our whole team will spend hours researching their business, industry, and competitors. We will look carefully into the tone of voice that will work best for the customer, and produce in-depth content plans before we even begin to write Tweets or Facebook posts.
To be honest, by the end of our planning phase, we are often much better placed to talk on our customer’s behalf than the customer themselves. When was the last time you sat down and did a thorough analysis of what all your competitors were doing online? Have you ever done a ‘tone of voice’ analysis for your company? Though we couldn’t run your company the way you do, we can certainly talk about it!
Choosing whether to outsource your social media, and then who you choose to outsource it to, is going to be a very personal choice. What works for one company might be completely the wrong option for another. However, in our experience, if you want to see results from social media, you need to treat it as seriously as any of your other business processes – in which case, outsourcing it to experts is certainly worth considering.