Should I Outsource Social Media and PR? No. Not Necessarily.

Should you outsource social media and PR? A recent article in Entrepreneur Magazine says yes. I say no, with reservations. In the article, Kallen Diggs, a successful entrepreneur and business advisor, argues for outsourcing stating (at the most basic level of argument) that social media is a time suck that should be delegated. The second point is that PR is hard. Both of these things are true — if you dont have the proper strategy for planning your social media and PR approach. I’m going to tackle each of these independently to share my differing point of view.

Regarding social media, the reason that social media is a time suck is that people are doing it incorrectly; and when you outsource social media this problem is simply being transferred to an outside source.  What is instead needed is: a social media strategy planning document to help crystallize the social media goals of the brand, batch planning and processing of those posts, an automated scheduling tool and any tool that can help streamline and connected with the community. When done correctly this should be able to limit the time spent on social media and increase the efficiency.  Later this month, as part of our e-course program, I’ll be releasing a social media planning document that I think is the cornerstone of this approach. We will also be sharing points on batch planning, scheduling tools, etc.

Yes, that’s the approach you need, but why not outsource that? The reason is that your social media channels are your front-line engagement with your customer audience. For those without a brick and mortar, it is the only way to understand your customer, engage with them and most importantly learn from them. It’s not just another advertising channels, its a two way learning street and if you outsource it you are missing valuable learning lessons.

What’s more, when you outsource social media channels, you are also walking out of your “virtual”kall shop – someone else is running your presence, engaging your audience and deciding who you are online. That’s a task that we shouldn’t allocate to junior employees and we definitely shouldn’t outsource to people who are not intimately familiar with your brand — and I am saying that as someone who used to run a social media agency!

Regarding PR, I think outsourcing is interesting here. Yes, there are people who will have MUCH better relationships with reporters than you. And, if you are serious about driving PR coverage than I don’t even recommend trying to use a source like HARO. HARO can also be a time suck (like Diggs’ point about social). In fact, the best strategy here is actually to work with a professional because they will have the relationships and the resources to really drive coverage for you. Plus, they are natural storytellers (the good ones) and can do the type of storytelling that will position you in ways that you never thought possible.

As someone who currently runs consumer PR at Microsoft, I get this. I do have a set of skills that the average entrepreneur does not possess and outsourcing PR to a professional brings in a person with those skills. However, if you are in a position to have in-house PR I think you are much better suited than trying to outsource it and again this is fundamentally because you know you. An agency will never know you the way you know you and relationships in the hands of an agency will never be your relationships. They will always be first and foremost the relationship of the agency.

As such, I would formulate a different recommendation. Rather than try something like HARO, set a strategy. Determine what the five publications are that you think would be most impactful to your audience. Read those publications (this isn’t a time suck — its getting to know your audience better and understanding what Jennifer Braunschweiger calls the emotional right now) and then determine what pages of those publications you would best fit in. Then reach out and email the writer (search their name online and likely you’ll find contact info if not, try first.last@publishingcompany.com) of those pages. This will help you to build a relationship and generate impactful coverage i.e. you’ll be getting the system to work for you, rather than just be a byproduct of what the system is asking for.

So, in conclusion – sure you can outsource social media or PR and some people will do things better than you. However, do you want to give up the storefront of your brand on social? Do you want to miss out on valuable customer insights? And do you want to want to wait for the system or would you rather make the system work for you?

 

 

Cross-Pollination:How to Identify Partnership Targets – The Listicle

In last week’s blog post on Cross-pollination, I discussed the idea that you should think about social media beyond your platforms- social media is about the broad community and partnerships can  be a simple way to grow big community quickly. It’s the most underutilized tool to grow your social media channels and your in real life channels. In today’s post, the following listicle tells you how to grow your social media following through partnerships.

  1. Do some preliminary research on your community and ask them what brands they have an affinity with.  This can be accomplished via free easy tools like a poll on your Facebook page, a SurveyMonkey survey or via slightly costlier social media data tools like Networked Insights, or Sysmos.
  2. Once you’ve identified a few brands that overlap – take a look at what you have to offer that company. If you are a large company, money can be a fast and easy motivator towards partnership. If you are smaller, think about what you can provide them. It could be things as simple as a new audience, the introduction to a devoted fan base, your skills as a social marketer or a number of other skills. In short, you are determining what skills and resources you can bring to another business.
  3. Once you’ve established your value proposition (i.e. the good things you can bring to another brand), you will want to reach out. The best way to reach out is if you have a warm contact at that other company especially someone who is already in social and shares your philosophy. Warning: This is difficult (referring to paragraph 1) as most people still think about social media and think only about their platforms. Rather than create community, they are focused on creating more original content about themselves.
  4. Hold a discussion with your new internal contact about how cross-promoting on each other’s social media channels may help to bolster your community, increase the wealth of interesting content and yes, drive sales.
  5. There are a lot of ways to create social media partnerships and they can be as simple as cross-promoting content to as complicated as co-creation, co-advertising or the co-production of a new product. So scale up or down according to the warmth of the relationship, the interest in community development and your experience. It’s often simplest to start small out of the gate and grow your integration after you’ve had a few small wins under your belt.
  6. Set up early what you think a “win” would be i.e. what type of metrics would you be looking for from this relationship and how do you get there. This will help to firmly establish the relationship and to ensure that everyone is agreeing to and looking towards the same end goal. The simplest way to derail your business partnership (in social, or frankly anywhere) is to not have clear established goals that you are both working towards.
  7. Create. Enact. Measure.
  8. Repeat with other new and interesting brands.

 

To make sure you’ve got it, use the below checklist in the process of creating a social media partnership:

  • Research your audience: what are brands they care about.
  • Determine what you have to offer in a partnership deal
  • Develop the warm relationship with a new brand
  • Discuss ideas and concepts for development
  • Set early metrics for success and ensure alignment
  • Create. Enact. Measure.

 

Chatbots: the Future of Social Media

The rise of chatbots has made the news cycles as of late, whether its the rise of the DIY chatbot or the media swirl around Microsoft’s Tay. For those of you who don’t know, bots are the next fade in the rise of changing the way we use digital and social media to communicate with each other: the bots replace both human engagement and search interface to readily provide information for customers.

While this has seen interesting applications from resume bots (Estherbot) to scheduling/personal assistant bots (X.ai), I am predicting that this will have a broad and changing implication for how we engage across social media and apps in the future. Social media has required a huge amount of human time to create and engage with individuals — in large part this is the time required for 1:1 engagement and for creative social media content. A bot could effectively reduce the time required for both of those things but for it to be effective, the bot must require the creativity necessary for it to have real value to the community.

Value is something that is primary to setting up a social media strategy and you see it prominently in the Social Works System One Pager. You must have a value add for your community and in this case to engage with a chat bot, the bot must do something to provide value. Ideas include:

  • Becoming a “human friend” i.e. listening to and responding to chats and comments in a fun engaging way.
  • Making content easier to understand.
  • Providing always on customer service
  • Engaging with fun games and other entertaining means to provide distraction to a consumer.

As we plumb the depths of this work further, it will be fascinating to see who adopts and does not adopt bots as part of their integrated social plan. We are predicting that chat bots will become a fundamental part of how we use the internet – the question stands of whether or not it will change the way the internet reacts with us.

Have you considered using a chat bot? What stopped you or what propelled you to give it a try?

Cross-Pollination Thinking About Social Media Like a Biz Dev Manager

When people talk about social media they focus primarily on the platforms. What they speak less often about is the community i.e. the intangible focus of the primary platforms. Community is ultimately the creation goal of social media and we believe we need this community because it will do what?

That’s right: drive sales.

Like all communities, though, it has a relatively finite size. There are only so many people who will have known of or heard about your brand and that size of people will not increase rapidly but slowly as new people are introduced or discover your brand. The community rate of increase can be scaled up by introducing things like advertising or by thinking about community in the same way that a business development manager thinks about growth.

Business Development focuses on identifying and creating partnerships that can be leveraged for driving revenue, increasing distribution or enhancing a product. These are principles that can be similarly used to increase and enhance your social media channels to also drive revenue, increase distribution and enhance a product (in this case the product would be your social media platforms). If you take this partnership based model, you can begin to grow your community exponentially by also dipping into the communities of other people.

Social Media Growth Through Partnershsip

The dark blue spaces show where you overlap in your community and this is where you should begin to identify other communities that may be of interest to your current community and where you have the potential for growth. However, you have the possibility of getting the entirety or a large portion of the rest of the partnership community if you execute the partnership in the right way. This is something that people routinely forget.

In the next post, we will share how to identify partnership opportunities, find the right partners, build social media partnerships and put this into practice.

Have you tried this model to grow your audience? Learn more in our e-course coming soon!

Creating Social Media Content

A few months ago, as part of a project I’m working on with my technical co-founder, we discovered that small business owners spend, on average, an hour a day on social media content creation (i.e. posts, tweets, instas, podcasts, etc). That’s a lot of time! A lot of time that could be spent otherwise growing your businesses in more direct and tangible ways.

Do you know that an email marketing newsletter is still more effective than a social media account in turning sales leads into sales?

In order to reduce the amount of time people are spending creating social media content, I’ve created an Instagram account with daily recommendations on what to post. Think of it as a “work out plan” for your small business account. In the same way you do a legs day or a back day with a fitness plan, we’ve created an account that will help you build your social media audience without floundering around. Think of it as simple actionable tips to get your page up and running and reduce the time you are spending online.

Social Media Content Creation Tips

Check it out here: https://www.instagram.com/socialworksco/.

Update: We have a new e-course coming out that tackles this and other struggles in creating social media content, in creating a social media strategy and in growing influencers.