Over the past few years, we've seen monstrous shifts in the way small businesses engage their customers, and with those shifts has come a new responsibility for owners: Director of Social Media.

Small business owners rarely get a break from the constant stress of being responsible for...well, everything.  As an owner myself, I know what it's like to live and die by checklists and face the daily barrage that comes with being a small business owner.

So when the opportunity to outsource arises, it's important to consider all the options and risks in order to make a good judgment.

Should You Outsource Your Day-to-Day Social Media Management?

A lot of people will give an unequivocal "NO" when answering this, saying:

  • No one knows your business as well as you do.
  • No one is as passionate about serving your customers as you are.
  • It's too risky to outsource your brand's image.

Those are respectable, sensible reasons for not supporting social media outsourcing.  I would be a little more flexible with my answer. 

My personal view is, "Outsource?  Sure, kind of, under a few conditions."

I don't think outsourcing your social media management is inherently a bad choice, but the relationship with the agency you choose must be nearly perfect for the outsourcing to be effective.

In my opinion, the following are absolute minimum requirements before outsourcing to a social media agency:

  • They should go out of their way to understand your business model, your customers, your overall marketing strategy, and your target market.
  • They should be passionate about the mission and vision of your company -- the very purpose behind your business' existence.
  • They should tour your business and meet your employees.  They should meet your most loyal customers and/or clients if possible.
  • They should become experts on your products, because people will inevitably ask questions on social media, and they'll expect fast, correct answers.
  • They should LOVE your business and want it to succeed as badly as you do.

If you're considering outsourcing to an agency that shows little interest in any of those things, turn around and run.  Fast.

Most importantly, you should approach outsourcing as a temporary engagement.  The agency should be capable of training you how to properly manage social media internally.

Sure, you may keep them on retainer as consultants for handling problems or specific campaigns, but ultimately, the agency-business relationships should end with you and your employees having the ability to effectively manage your own social media.

What Questions Should You Ask Before Choosing Outsourcing?

So, you're entertaining the idea of outsourcing your social media.  What questions should you ask yourself to decide if it's worth the time, money, and effort?  Gotcha!

  • Do I know anything about social media other than it's popular and consumers use it a lot?
  • Does my business have the tools and manpower (or womanpower!) to manage social media in-house?
  • Would it make more sense to hire a part-time social media manager instead of outsourcing?
  • Do I trust an outside entity to represent and promote my products and brand?
  • Do I have time to learn and understand at least the basics of social media so I'm not blindly handing over the reins?

A Judgment Call on Your Part
Unfortunately, there's no right or wrong answer to the question of outsourcing social media management.  As with anything, it depends on the current state of your business, your business model, your financial state, and how comfortable you are with the idea of not having full control of everything in your business.

Take a good, hard look at all the details that go into outsourcing social media management and, please, don't hire the first agency who sits down with you unless they've exceeded the requirements discussed above.  You'll thank yourself later if you approach this very seriously!

What are your suggestions when it comes to outsourcing social media management?  I'd love to hear your feedback in the comments!