Ever since brands and businesses began to embrace Social Media there has been a lot of discussion around whether it is more effective to build an in-house team or to outsource Social Media services. As a seasoned Advertising and Marketing executive, our friend Diane Epstein has worked at big agencies and small ones - most recently at Big Fuel, an agency dedicated to providing Social Media strategy and management to big brands.
Diane has a unique perspective, as she has always been inspired by finding nontraditional solutions for traditional marketing challenges. I sat down with her to discuss outsourcing Social Media services. Her insights are here:
You worked at a Social Media agency for a few years. What kinds of clients did you concentrate on?
Diane: I worked on a variety of clients with a focus on large, global clients (Philips, Gore-Tex) looking to organize and streamline their global Social Media footprint and national clients (T-Mobile) looking to grow and improve the efficacy of their Social Media channels.
What advantages do you see for businesses and brands to outsource Social Media marketing?
Diane: Since Social Media is still relatively new, most companies aren’t yet equipped with the resources or skill sets to manage their Social Media Marketing in-house. This will undoubtedly change as the field matures. Also, because Social Media touches every aspect of marketing from PR to advertising to customer service to crisis management, it’s often helpful to have an objective 3rd party manage the activity across various internal divisions. This minimizes fiefdoms and politics.
What we some of the most important lessons you learned while you were there?
Diane: I learned several lessons, but especially these two:
1. Unless Social Media is designated a priority from the top down (by the CEO, ideally) it will continue to languish as a “nice-to-have” but not essential discipline, delegated to the most junior people in the organization. The companies that have been most successful in Social Media have prioritized Social Media as a way to gain competitive advantage.
2. The size of your Social Media following, although easiest to measure, is not the most important statistic. Don’t forget about user sentiment and user engagement.
What advice would you give to a company who is making the decision about whether to build their own team in-house or to hire an outside Social Media agency?
Diane: I would recommend that they start with an outside agency to develop a framework and establish best practices. As the company becomes more confident in the space, they should then consider bringing some aspects of the work, like community management, in-house. (At the risk of sounding self-serving, I think there is always a role for an independent, objective specialist agency in the mix!)
What are you working on now?
Diane: I am currently Partner and CMO at an Internet startup called Tunespotter which will launch early next year.