Not a day goes by that I don’t see yet another social media management service pop up.
Making promises such as: “We’ll take over your social media, freeing up your time to focus on growing your business,” “We’ll engage on your behalf,” “It drives sales.”
That’s the clarion call of companies which promise to ‘manage’ your social media.
It’s an easy in-road for, quite frankly, inexperienced marketers, to make a fast buck. It’s snake oil without the bottle.
And while companies that ‘specialise’ in social media diversify into other realms they have no experience of, rather frighteningly, experienced PR and marketing companies are taking the social media route straight into their clients’ bank accounts.
And before you ask ‘do I not run a PR or marketing company myself?’ I do, but I have quite clearly nailed my colours to the mast on this and I wrote in January 2013 “Why you shouldn’t outsource your social media. Even to us.” And I mean it today as much as I meant it then. As far back as 2013.
So just why do I think it’s the wrong thing to do when it seems every other marketing or PR company, and many other people with little or no experience in marketing or PR, offers this service.
Firstly, the dichotomy of social media. How many times have you heard the phrase “it’s not called ‘social’ media for nothing?” It’s a phrase which is supposed to mean ‘Media is different when it is social’ but it isn’t. Social and Media are two extremely important marketing tools, but putting them together has created a hybrid mass of oil and water that just wriggles all over the place trying to find itself.
It works for consumers because it’s a mechanism for involvement, discovery and comment, but when it comes to business, it’s essentially an advertising platform, and while there are clear boundaries for ads in traditional media. networks such as Facebook have allowed businesses to muscle in on the newsfeed and make it all about them.
Running your social feed
This is perhaps one of the first things marketers will offer as a service, to run your social feed, and perhaps the most dangerous.
It’s quick and easy to gain admin privileges to your account, and the perception is that it takes away the worry of running your Facebook, Instagram and Twitter profiles. You believe that somebody skilled is handling this in your best interests, growing your following, and the belief that it will generate more business.
This is a huge mistake, and probably the single biggest reason why the newsfeed has got into the state it is in, ie, totally ineffective for businesses, to the point, where its days are numbered.
The other aspect is expectations.
There’s no ‘expertise’
I know from experience that company bosses believe that there is a social ‘trick’ that leads to more sales. They believe that there are people out there that ‘know the code’ and can unlock these features. For £100, £200, £300 a month. I’m not sure what the going rate is.
Let me tell you now, driving sales is extremely hard. Not impossible, but entirely dependent on your business, not your social media profile. Engagement on the other hand is relatively easy, but the misnomer is that engagement drives sales. It doesn’t. It may contribute by a minuscule percentage, but remember your monthly outlay when calculating your ROI.
With an average engagement across Facebook of less than four per cent, your money is being spent on addressing a very small portion of your audience. Companies such as Lush are realising this and rewriting their marketing plans (We don’t need the newsfeed to be social)
In the UK, there are companies who provide ‘Daily curated content, posted 7 days a week to Facebook and Twitter.’ They promise that this ‘legitimises your business and provides authority’ for £50 a month. Pay more and they post more.
Except this management service doesn’t legitimise your business at all, and it certainly doesn’t provide authority or authenticity. If anything, it degrades them.
Fake it till you break it
Do you want the first contact with your company to be a fake?
However you look at it, outsourcing is faking it.
It’s not you speaking and when marketers are running the accounts for multiple customers, your updates become a commodity and there’s very little brand passion. By my calculation, it take 15–25 minutes to write a good social media post and prepare a picture
We have a saying at my marketing company Canary Dwarf, ‘You do the social, we’ll do the media.’ And what we mean by that is that we think that no-one but your company is in a better position to be social with your customers. Just as if you went in to a shop, you would expect the people working there to be pleasant, communicative, and knowledgeable about their products.
So we expect you to do the social aspect of ‘social media’ and we’ll do the media part, such as the campaigns, the advertising, the video production. The social aspect and media aspect are very separate.
Urging you to take on the social has a long-term benefit. Paying a marketer means you are at square one when they’ve gone.
Social is connected to customer service in the same way marketing is connected to sales. Marketers can provide some support in this area, but they should never be taking the reins.
Respect and value
The whole point of social media is that it’s supposed to make your customers feel respected, valued and the minute they realise their friendliness is being outsourced it erodes that respect and value.
There are occasionally reasons why an agency should post to your page, such as part of a planned media campaign, but someone else trying to be social by proxy is a big fraud and your customers will not thank you for it.
All this talk of social and media demonstrates what a vast chasm exists between the two words, despite being led to believe they are intrinsically linked.
And the dark side of this level of trust is that admin privileges are being used to bolster your marketer’s other customers’ pages, having this level of control means that they can like other posts and pages ‘as your page’ and vice versa. This is an abuse of trust, and it only serves to benefit the marketer when reporting numbers.
I’ve called this practice the private social network after the private blog networks that blight search engine optimisation. Fake blogs are set up to provide a website with a constant stream of positive links and comments which in turn helps the website get a better ranking in search engines.
A marketer running tens of social media accounts can use them all to produce what looks like a healthy level of engagement, but in fact is totally fake. And it happens more frequently than you realise. So it could be said there is a ‘trick’ after all, but if you’re the one paying the bill, the trick is being played on you.