Recently, one of my clients was on a social media panel at an industry event. Someone asked about using a third-party (like an agency or consultant) to manage a company’s social media. The person asking the question didn’t believe an outside person could effectively manage social media.
In an answer that quite possibly made my week, my client explained that if someone had a bad experience and is now against working with a third-party, it just means they’re working with the wrong team.
At Geben, we’re focused on partnering with our clients. (That’s actually why we’re very selective about the clients we decide to work with. If someone isn’t committed to creating a partner-level relationship, they’re not a client we’re interested in working with.)
The best client/agency relationships are the ones that function as partnerships – not agency/vendor. However, having worked for and with other agencies, I know many firms aren’t structured to be true partners. It should feel as if the agency is an extension of the internal team. As my client said during the panel discussion, he feels like we’re in the same building, even though we’re hundreds of miles away.
Outsourcing social media is a calculated risk, but for many companies that want to excel in today’s social world, it’s a smart business decision. If you’re thinking about retaining a firm to manage your social media, ask yourselves these questions first:
- Does that person understand your industry, company, brand, and approach to business so much that they can truly represent and convey your voice, perspective and intent?
- Does that person’s approach to social media align with your own? For example, if you believe social media can’t only occur during the standard workday, will the social media team be available during off-hours and weekends to manage your online community, post compelling content and respond to questions?
- Do you have a plan in place to keep the person abreast of company decisions and culture so he/she can effectively convey that online?
- Does the social media team have access to the right people internally? For example, if there’s a product question, who do they contact? If someone has a customer service question, who should that be directed to?
- Will the person managing your social media be able to spot a potential problem and know when and how to properly disengage or seek assistance?
- Do you see this person as a partner? And, does this person see themselves as a key member of your team?
- Do you trust that person?
(Also, you may also want to check out these 10 questions to ask before hiring a digital consultant from an article I wrote for AmericanExpress OpenForum.)
Developing partner-like relationships with clients requires a deeper investment of time and resources, especially in the beginning. It also requires the PR person to be more available and accessible. (It’s definitely not a 9-5 gig!) However, if you can build that kind of meaningful relationship, social media can be effectively outsourced and still generate the results you need for your business.
But, it starts with discovering the right partner and establishing a solid relationship.
Whether you’re outsourcing social media or using a PR firm for other services, let me ask you this: If you don’t feel like your current agency is a true partner, perhaps it’s time to evaluate if you’re actually working with the right team?