Outsourced community management: Agency to B2B social media communications strategy

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By Alexandra Reid

Outsourcing community management is a cost-effective way for companies to run successful social media programs even if they don’t have the internal social media resources to support such activities on their own.

Sometimes a company’s marketing department is in the midst of developing internal resources and engages with a third-party community manager to provide strategic and practical guidance to help them get their footing before taking over social media activities later on.

Other times, a company is too small or new to have its own marketing department, but realizes the benefits of social media as a relatively inexpensive marketing program. It hires an experienced, external community manager to run its program, saving the cost-heavy training and trial-and-error activities required to learn the platforms on its own.

Here at Francis Moran and Associates, I am responsible for developing social media strategies and also, if clients require, carrying out those strategies on their behalf. I’ve done this for large enterprises based right here in Ottawa as well as tiny startups located as far away as the U.K. Regardless of how much space there is between agency and client, the processes required to carry out successful outsourced social media activities are the same.

Lay down expectations at the outset

The first step to successful agency-client social media communications is laying down expectations in the social media proposal and strategy at the outset of the program. The strategy, as well as a follow-up conversation, should answer:

  1. Who will take on what roles?
  2. What activities will be carried out and by whom?
  3. How often will social media activities be carried out?
  4. At what time each day will activities be carried out?

In addition, will the client be responsible for writing its own LinkedIn answers and blog comments, will the agency write responses on the client’s behalf, or will this be a shared responsibility? If the client is responsible, who will the participants be? Is this activity consistent across all social platforms, or will participation be divided and/or shared? How often are social media activities required throughout the week? Who has time to take on these activities consistently? If the agency is responsible for uncovering opportunities for the client to engage, what times can the client expect those opportunities in its inbox? How quickly will it need to turn them around for posting? Will the agency post or will the client post after the agency has reviewed?

The answers to these questions just scratch the surface of the kinds of details that must be ironed out at the outset of an outsourced social media program for communications to be smooth and effective.

Establish a single point of contact

Depending on the size of the organization, you may need to establish a few points of contact for each major department, such as sales, marketing and the c-suite. However, communications are most efficient when there is one person who acts as a direct line to the company. This person has committed to the agency to respond promptly to social media notifications, direct posts of interest onto the appropriate parties in the company to respond, and relay that content back to the agency to proof read and post (if those are indeed the expectations laid out in the proposal and strategy).

Decide means of communication

As I hope you are well aware, there is a plethora of new tools available today that help agencies and clients communicate. We have email, collaboration platforms, Skype and social media platforms, to name just a few. I’ve used every one of these tools to coordinate social media activities with clients. As there are so many messages flying back and forth between agency and client, there needs to be a system in place to ensure messages don’t get lost in the kerfuffle. Decide on one platform that works best for everyone and hold to it. If you have to get in touch with multiple people at an organization, email can sometimes be the best option as most people are familiar with it. However, if you have a sole point of contact, I recommend using social media platforms themselves for communications. For example, I direct message tweets onto a client for her to review and then post on the account. Everything is done in one place, making it one seamless process.

If you are a B2B company looking to get involved with social media but do not have the internal resources to support such programs, I encourage you to give us a call.

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