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3 Ways to Outsource Social Media without Selling Your Soul

angelI took some flack over my last post about outsourcing your social media voice — which in spite of drawing some very thoughtful comments — I still believe is the wrong way to go for most companies to go.  So now that you know what I think you can’t do, I’m going to share what I think you can do.

Clients need help.   And there’s plenty agencies can do for them.  Here are the 3 areas I believe are smart to outsource, and the smartest spots for agencies to concentrate their efforts.

Accelerate Social Media Literacy – Help your clients develop a better understanding of how to use social media literacy companywide.  Think beyond just marketing and public relations.  When we use social media to conduct day-to-day business, we leave behind a trail of digital breadcrumbs that is discoverable, shareable and leads back to us.

If employees resolve a customer issues on Twitter, or help someone do figure something out, they do it in full public view, others see it, and has public relations value because it builds goodwill.  If I answer buyer oriented questions about on Quora or Linkedin Answers intelligently, I’m not just helping that one person, I’m building my own credibility as a thought leader, and that benefits my employers because others will contact me when they need help solving similar business problems.

The more people who use social media to do their job, the more bread trails they leave behind, and the more it helps you build awareness and generate leads.  When social marketing is done right, it becomes a natural byproduct of sharing. As I said in my previous post, that actual sharing is very difficult to outsource, because it’s the people in the organization that have the ability to answer questions about their area of responsibility. Could you imagine outsourcing questions about shipping procedures to PR?  It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, does it?

Social Marketing Strategy – Second, companies need help developing a strategic approach to social marketing.  Clients are overwhelmed with options, have limited resources, and often lack the necessary skills to determine which channels are mostly likely to yield a short-term ROI.

In Social Marketing to the Business Customer, we lay out a framework for finding and engaging customers, and for measuring and assessing the outcomes.  And it starts, by the way, not with talking, but with listening. You need to know who your customers are, what they’re saying and where they’re saying it before you open your mouth.  And this is something agencies can do quite well.  Companies need help listening.

Content Marketing – And finally, companies need help creating compelling content.  Manually generating a steady stream of compelling, useful content to share on blogs, and via social channels is labor intensive and takes time.

I’ve been releasing a new episode of my www.ontherecordpodcast.com almost every week since April 2006.  After 5 years and nearly 250 episodes, I’ve gotten really good at doing it very efficiently.  But it still takes me at least 6 hours to record, edit, SEO and upload a new episode.  Writing a good blog article with hyperlinks and an arresting, appropriate image take time too.  SEOing the blog article takes even more time.  Companies have an ongoing need to feed the beast, and good agencies make good content.

Find an agency that’s good at creating compelling content.  Outsourcing content creation, as long is it’s done transparently, is perfectly ethical, and frankly, a very smart way to go.  Scott Monty says he outsourced much of the content creation that was used to support the web of Ford Explorer.  But wisely, in my opinion, he kept to the voice of the brand at Ford.

So rather than tweeting or Facebooking on behalf of your client, teach them to use these channels responsibly, help them by creating search optimized content and help them integrate social media strategically into their existing external communications apparatus so they can discover where the opportunities are and strike where the iron is hot.

There are plenty of ways to outsource social media without selling your soul, just don’t let go of your voice.

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