Social Media: In-House or Outsourced


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Social media is hot, and sometimes it can feel like an arms race across businesses of all sizes to start using social media. There are many caveats and best practices to listening and engaging correctly; although it’s still a developing field and best practices are formed every day, there are certain spoken and unspoken rules and approaches. With that said, it’s imperative that brands adopt a smart strategy and thoughtful execution of social media. Because social media should be integrated with all groups and silos inside the organization, having an internal social media leader more than makes sense. Last week, I wrote about different end goals of social media: the slow and steady, daily engagement vs. the more time-constrained campaign, aimed at generating buzz. Because your daily engagement is the piece that’s essentially your lifeline to the world, your partners, your customers, I do not recommend outsourcing it. It is, however, more acceptable to outsource creative campaigns.

Here are five reasons you should do social media in-house:

  1. Culture: Only you know yourself as well as you do. If your internal culture is strong, every person should know what the company stands for and what its values are. They will also know what your organizational mandate is as far as customer support and how you interact with other people in the social sphere, as well as in traditional channels. It’s more difficult to act as a steward of a company if you don’t live inside this internal culture, if you aren’t privy to internal workings, things you do well, and areas for improvement. If you are providing support in social channels, for example, you simply may have a better grasp on how long things can take to fix if you are internal vs. outsourced support. Of course, bug tracking issues like Jira and general support forums like GetSatisfaction do more to align internally; however, there’s just a certain level of magic that’s there when you are on the inside. I wrote about hiring the right social media person; and to truly be a brand ambassador, I believe you have to be internal.
  2. Transparency: Just like you can get more visibility into what others are doing, others can get more visibility into your world when you are internal. Of course, an outsourced agency will share what they are working on, and SCRM tools allow everyone to work from the same customer record. However, the level of transparency is just not the same when you take things external, no matter how you slice it.
  3. Collaboration: Because social media is not a silo and internal collaboration is key, an internal person is naturally going to have an easier time working with the right people in the organization. Access to the right department heads is also going to be key, and is simply easier when done internally. All organizations, company, especially the larger ones, have their own cultural and communication norms, and even office politics, observing which will is also inherently easier by an “insider”. We can all debate the importance of flat organizations and seamless collaboration, and whereas we are moving in that direction with SCRM programs and social business and collaboration tools, we are far from the ideal. Also, internal cultural Idiosyncrasies will always exist, no matter what tool or process you enact.
  4. Support from the C-suite: right along with #1, it’s key, especially in large organizations to have support of the C-suite, in order to do social media on a meaningful scale. Of course, many companies have started grassroots programs that blossomed into full-scale social media initiatives. Yes, that’s a great place you can start — if you have social media savvy folks, they can certainly start providing support in social channels, blogging, creating content, developing a set of social media guidelines. Once you start, you should be tracking your success, because that’s what’s going to garner you the executive support you need for a full-scale operation. It’s easier to start from the inside, get buy-in and grow vs. getting buy-in to outsource. There’s simply more transparency, and the C-suite just may feel better that they know what’s going on. Their concerns and fears may be calmed knowing that they can have access to internal social media resources at all times.
  5. Building a future: having an internal person means that you can also get others energized from the inside, and you can make plans to grow your social media team over time. You should plan to do this; however, as you consider growth plans, make sure that you are not creating a social media silo. Rather, you should make social a part of everything you do and not leave it up to your social team to be the only social voices for your company.

However, finding the right social media leader is difficult and time-consuming. Of course, many companies are lucky to have social media leaders sprout up from the inside. But what do you do when you really need to bring in an external hire, for one reason or another? If you are in a situation where no one internally feels comfortable about his / her social media “chops” or no one has the extra resources to dedicate to it, it’s OK to ask for external guidance. Recruit a social media company that can help you create a social media strategy, even if it’s just for the next 3-6 months, and get their help executing. However, you should use them as guides, social media “sherpas” of sorts, while you also get someone internal to collaborate with the agency. If you have a really gifted support person, have this person work with the external resource on execution, but don’t just hand everything over to an external firm.

The above is mostly about daily engagement, for support, for building relationships and building advocacy. For creative social media campaigns (think Old Spice Man), it’s completely OK to outsource the creative. In some ways, I’d actually encourage that. A good agency that’s worth its salt will understand what works in your sector and can help jump start your creative process. Whatever you do, please be judicious in selecting your external partner (do your research, listen to social media word-of-mouth, ask your network). After selecting one, establish visibility into what they do and make sure you are tracking, measuring and course-correcting constantly.

Have you ever had to make an in-house or outsourced decision? Let us know how it went, what worked, what didn’t. What are some success factors?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Maria Ogneva
I'm the Head of Community for Yammer, the enterprise social network used by 100,000 organizations, including more than 80% of the Fortune 500. At Yammer, she is in charge of social media and community programs, fostering internal and external education and engagement. You can follow her on Twitter at @themaria or on her blog, and Yammer at @yammer and company blog.


  1. Thanks for the commentary, Maria.

    Convergys is intimately involved in the “listening and responding” aspects of social media, from a customer experience and service perspective. It’s increasingly vital to show clients not only “how” customers are being served, and how their experience is being improved, but to link those experiences to savings in deflecting contacts through more expensive channels, such as the call center.

    Cost metrics are certainly important, but often times we get so caught up in the dollars and cents that we don’t address the fallout from “not” engaging customers in their channel of preference … in this case social media.

    According to our recent 2010 primary research, less than 1% of customer service interactions are contained within social media. However, 24% of customers said they had already tried to use social media for customer service, and another 6% said they will if it proves to be a reliable channel of engagement. It’s no shock that these figures are driven by young consumers, as 47% of Millennials have or would use social media, compared to 8% of seniors and 16% of baby boomers.

    Thinking beyond service, customers are no doubt using social media as a way to tell their friends and colleagues about “bad” experiences with companies. Eighty-percent of consumers that had a recent bad experience went viral, and 12% leveraged a social media tool, such as Facebook or Twitter. Social media enables the average consumer to reach 45 people, and 14% of consumers recalled someone telling them about a bad experience on Facebook in the last 3 months.

    Consumers are just reading about bad experiences, they are keeping mental notes that guide their future behavior. Of the 14% of consumers that could recount reading about someone else’s bad experience on Facebook, 52% said they avoided doing business with that company and another 10% actually terminated an existing relationship.

    I’d argue there are two ways companies need to “listen and respond” to consumers on social media. First, probe for customer dissent, and engage unhappy parties to resolve their issues. This not only turns into an opportunity to “save” customers that are likely to defect, but gives wowed customers an incentive to go public with a positive impression, as they likely aren’t expecting to be delighted. Second, look for opportunities to engage customers before they utilize more expensive service channels, both to improve your bottom line, and to bolster customer satisfaction by serving customers in a channel they prefer.

    For more information on Convergys’ Research, visit
    Feel free to email [email protected] for additional information.


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