Small business and B2B social media: insource or outsource?

If you’re a small business owner who sells to other businesses, you may wonder if social media is worth the effort. It takes time to manage social media accounts. Only 40% of small business owners in a recent Wall Street Journal poll have dedicated social media staffers. It takes even more time to generate content so that you can start some kind of conversation with your networks. Other research indicates that social media has become the number one content marketing strategy for B2B companies, but 29% of them are crunched for time when it comes to content development.

So, does it make sense to outsource your social media management? Maybe. Conventional wisdom states that that no one else is as passionate and knowledgeable about your brand as you are – both of which are true. Many small B2B companies are just starting out in social media. If you are one of these fledgling social sellers, it may make sense to look at hiring a part-time social media director or a small consulting firm to get started. An outsider who can work side by side with your people will be a better brand advocate and a great resource for training inside employees as the program gets off the ground.
Chris Abraham makes a great point – several of them, in fact – about the disadvantages of insourcing social media: not everyone within your organization is going to be a phenomenal brand ambassador. And those staffers who are initially committed to providing social media content may find that it becomes a “do last” task as other projects take over their work life.

How about content creation – should you look for outside help here, too? This issue seems to be only slightly less contentious than the idea of outsourcing social media management, but the same logic applies. Businesses need to balance the availability of internal expertise against the efficiencies gained from outsourcing. Here are some great guidelines from PR2020:

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below, or take the easy way out with this poll:

 

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9 thoughts on “Small business and B2B social media: insource or outsource?

  1. That is a great chart that helps clarify how to best divide responsibilities if one chooses to outsource (but not all) of the social media responsibilities. I think this would be helpful as well for sole proprietors as well. Personally, I know the more artwork that I do that I promote over social media, the more people will know about it and hopefully attend shows, yet I want to make art in my free time much more than talk about it. I am looking at finding someone that can do that for me a few hours a month. What would be the point for me to do it if someone else might actually be better at staying more accountable with it? This info above combined with my inspiration from attending an Andy Warhol exhibit last year really helps me dial in how outsourcing marketing but still keeping the personal touch can work. Here are five things that can be observed from how Andy Warhol marketed himself http://www.antemeridiemdesign.com/articles/5-lessons-in-branding-from-andy-warhol.php.

  2. It’s true – no one knows a brand quite like the employees do. But while that is true, we must realize that it’s possible that communication from employees may not sound authentic. Customers are more receptive to marketing-type messages, as long as they comes from their peers. Companies must be careful and be very selective when picking “outsiders” to handle the work that’s traditionally handled by “insiders,” but also be careful that the work performed by insiders doesn’t sound like so.

    • Alexis, great point, and one I hadn’t considered. I was thinking that the outsider message would sound less authentic because they are not familiar enough with a brand’s products, target market, or image. But it sounds like you’re saying that the insider messages may sound too self-congratulatory and not customer-focused?

  3. I think it is important that even if brands turn to outside firms for guidance, they create a partnership with internal communications and marketing to ensure that the social media reflects the culture of the organization as opposed to the culture of the outside expert.

    • Mike, that’s a great point. I have seen consultants come and go – the most successful ones were those who were able to bring new ideas in that did not diminish or disregard the company’s resident expertise.

  4. We are a B2B company in a very regulated industry and we have a global communications department of 8 (5 in the US and 3 in Europe). Trying to maintain a presence on social media has not been the easiest. Our social media “team” consists of two people. While we do get some help from our external PR agency, it is very unlikely that we would rely on them completely to handle our social media. We use Hootsuite for most of our posting and it has been very helpful. Do you think timing of posts matters with a global company?

    • Oooh, good question. I’m sure it does matter. Could you post the same content (slightly varying the post title) at different times of day? In other words, people in the Americas are sleeping during the South Asian workday, and vice versa. Alternately, you could have different social media accounts per world region. This would ensure that messages are relevant and timely, but could be difficult to maintain in terms of consistency. The hybrid global/local hub and spoke design advocated by this author seems like a good solution.

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