Social media consists of various networks that rely on the sharing and publication of user-generated content. Some of the more popular social media applications include Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube. However, small businesses may use a handful of other social web and mobile applications (e.g. Pinterest, Foursquare, WordPress, etc.) to promote their corporate brand and drive sales.
Despite being praised as a cost-effective tool for companies with small marketing budgets, social media can require significant time and manpower to maintain. As a small business owner, posting once a day may not be enough to deliver the web traffic or sales needed to generate a profit. Recruiting a social media consultant or freelancer can offload time-intensive social media tasks so you can focus on other crucial areas of business.
Benefits of Outsourcing
Outsourcing frees up your time, exposes you to industry expertise and best practices, and increases brand awareness. Likewise, outsourcing your social media to a consultant or independent contractor will not only help you manage your company’s online profiles, but also help you formulate a comprehensive social media strategy.
Hiring an outside social media specialist can also give you an advantage over other competitors who are absent or inactive on major social media channels. Posting photos, informative tips, news stories, blog posts and other company updates will position you as a leader in your industry, increase brand exposure and offer more opportunities to connect with prospects and customers.
Drawbacks of Outsourcing
While there are obvious benefits to outsourcing social media, some small businesses find that the risks and costs outweigh the benefits.
One disadvantage is the risk of leaking sensitive or confidential company information. These risks increase considerably when private company information is shared with and posted online by a third party. When outsourcing, you relinquish a level of control over your brand name and image to somebody who may not be familiar with your company’s brand. Because someone else is updating your Facebook feed or tweeting on Twitter, a public blunder or unsavory post can create PR headaches or even a public backlash against your company.
It’s also important to consider the return on investment for paying someone other than an employee to build your social media presence. How will you measure this return? Do you currently have evidence that social media increases your exposure or your sales? You’ll need to decide if the cost of outsourcing social media is worth the number of online followers and publicity you’ll gain in return.
Deciding if Outsourcing Is Right for You
Before outsourcing your social media campaign, first ask whether you have the time and staff needed to maintain all of your social media websites. If you find that posting a photo on Facebook and uploading videos on your YouTube channel takes up a small portion of your workday, then you probably don’t need to outsource.
On the other hand, if you maintain several social media sites that require a close eye for brand consistency or for customer engagement, or if it’s taking more than an hour a day to respond to your social media followers, it may be time to hire a consultant or freelancer, even if it’s only part-time. Many small businesses use social media as a venue for customer service, and in this case, a slow response time may be extremely damaging.
With the help of a social media calendar, you can assign the task of posting fresh and relevant content to a third-party agency, consultant or independent contractor. Social media consultants and freelancers can also help your business find and develop its online voice (e.g. quirky, conservative, authoritative, etc.), particularly if you’re in the early stages of building your online brand. They can also help you develop a policy and procedure for responding to customer complaints via social media channels.
Where to Outsource
Within the last decade, the list of online and offline outsourcing resources for social media has grown tremendously. Even if you’re ready to outsource your social media marketing to grow your online audience, choosing the right company or consultant can be overwhelming.
However, this diversity of options can also work in your favor, especially given the numerous outsourcing services ready to serve business owners’ specific needs, budget and work style. If you’re looking to find an agency or independent consultant who can help you build and maintain a vibrant and successful social media platform, consider the following options:
- Freelance Switch – An online community of freelance experts offering services ranging from blogging to graphic design and software development. There’s no cost to post on Freelance Switch’s online job board.
- iFreelance – Another online platform connecting employers with professional freelance writers and marketers. As an employer, you can post projects on iFreelance for free.
- Mint Social – A leading social media marketing firm that provides brand management and consulting services.
- oDesk – Upon visiting the homepage, you’ll immediately find that oDesk offers “WordPress Experts,” “SEO Specialists” and “Article Writers” for hire. As of November 2013, oDesk had approximately 4.5 million registered freelancers. Posting a job on oDesk is free.
- TopHatRank.com – An internet marketing firm with a product offering that covers social media marketing as well as search engine optimization, content marketing, graphic design, analytics and reporting.
For a more exhaustive list of social media marketing services firms, visit TopSEOs’ list of the 100 “Best Social Media Marketing Services” firms as of November 2013.
If you don’t have the budget to pay a social media consultant or independent contractor, then it’s time to look for alternate solutions. Turn to employees who can handle administrative tasks such as uploading pre-written posts or monitoring user activity. If you don’t have employees, consider offering an internship or volunteer program for qualified college students or local residents looking to build their social media skills with a reputable business.