Why I Won’t “Do” Your Social Media

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As someone who consults and speaks on social media, I still get the newbie customer who wants me to “do” their social implementation for them.  What does “doing” their social media mean?  It’s means potentially representing every facet of their company with every potential new and current customer that are out there on the Social Web.  Last I checked we were spending 22% of our Internet time in social media, so that’s a huge amount of influence that I could yield.  Not to mention the fact that I can yield power controlling the brand image for a company, something they may have invested countless dollars in, and representing them in front of hundreds of millions of customers who can help spread whatever word I tell them.  Definite ego trip.  I could certainly make money from it.  But it’s not the right thing to do, so I won’t do it.  Here’s why:

First, let’s look at the problem of “doing” someone else’s social media from my perspective.  This is a true story based on a phone call I recently received from a prospective customer: (Q is the customer, A is my response)

Q: I found your site on the Internet.  Do you offer social media services?

A: Absolutely!  How can I help you?

Q: We are looking for someone who can do our social media for us.

A: (pause) OK. What exactly does that entail from your perspective?

Q: Oh, we just need someone to post on to Facebook, Twitter, and stuff.  That is something you do, right?

A: Well, I work with businesses on their social media strategy and teach them how to do it themselves and become self-sufficient in implementing it.  However, depending on what you want to do, I may be able to refer you to someone who may be able to help you.  May I ask you, what content are you looking to post?

Q: We are an XXX company, so we have photos and videos that we’d like you to post for us.

A: OK. So you send me content and I post, right?

Q: We would obviously want you to expand upon the content and post it effectively.

I think you see where this conversation leads.  Early on in my social career, I created tweets and blogged for a certain company.  They gave me no instructions except to simply create blog posts and tweets for them.  There was no strategy nor real guidance – I was just supposed to “do” it.  What the heck was I supposed to blog and tweet about?  You see the picture?  That gig, as you can imagine, did not last long!  That’s why I am 1) passionate about educating businesses that they need to have a social media strategy in place, and 2) equally passionate about not doing other people’s social implementation (unless, of course, there is a long-term relationship in place where I have worked with them on a strategy and they are considering having me in an internal strategic advisory role to deeply educate their staff).

If I was to further expand upon this in more detail, here are the primary reasons why I won’t “do” your social media:

Social Media is a Commitment, not a Campaign

I cannot emphasize this enough, so apologies if you’re sick of seeing me write this, but it really does bear repeating.  There are many who feel that they can simply “do” social media by using an “agency” and outsourcing “campaigns” to them.  I know many talented and intelligent people who work at agencies and have had great successes implementing campaigns, and I have a great deal of respect for them.  I have friends at PR firms who I highly value for their expertise.  While campaigns for certain digital properties do require technological expertise and manpower, and PR campaigns would be served well using a communications pro who has both new media connections and understands how to effectively communicate with the public, social media requires someone who can represent your company and brand, not the message itself.   Consumers who respond to your Facebook Page are not requesting a press interview: They have issues regarding your customer service, product feedback, potential interest in employment opportunities, sales inquiries, questions, opinions, advice, complaints…why would you want to have these messages, both outgoing and going, be filtered by a 3rd party?  Social media requires a long-term commitment to your customers, both present and future.  It’s not a campaign.  So don’t treat your internal utilization of it as such.

I am NOT Your Brand

Needless to say, every company has their own unique branding, product mix, history, and legacy customers.  You have your own view of the world.  Without having worked at your company, absorbed your history and culture, received training in your products, developed relationships with your key staff, and actually had my own personal successes internally, how on earth could I ever responsibly represent your brand to the hundreds of millions of consumers in social media?  Of course I couldn’t.

Do I Speak YOUR Language?

I compare my current work of consulting with companies on their social strategy to the work I did launching sales organizations from scratch for foreign companies in Asia.  Each of my bosses had a similar complex problem: How to sell their product into a local market in Asia where they had no brand recognition, customer base, or presence at all.  I could help them because I spoke Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, had experience working in similar industries, and had vast business experience knowing the ins and outs of selling into each culture.  Similarly, I can “speak” the languages of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and I certainly have a great deal of experience and expertise in doing it.  I have a solid background of business successes.  But I am not your employee. I may speak the language of social media, but it doesn’t mean that I can speak YOUR language.

There are many companies who will pay agencies or consultants to “do” their social media for them, and many businesses will happily take their money.  Social implementation definitely doesn’t scale, so I can see the need for people to find ways of outsourcing this “work” to others.  I also realize that many small business owners fear that social will take up all of their time, so maybe they feel comfortable in outsourcing it.  And, like I said, despite the fact that they are 3rd parties, I have seen some agencies do some great work.  (On a side note, when I asked one agency that I have a great deal of respect for why they will “do” social implementation on behalf of others, they answered, “I know…but it helps pay the bills.”)

I tell businesses, “If you don’t see the potential benefits of investing in social media, don’t invest in it.”  If you do, invest in it the right way by using your own employees to deliver the message to the public.  Have your social media strategist manage the agency that you may want to work with on a campaign for whatever reason and own the internal ROI of the project.  The phenomenon of growth in online social networking websites is not going away, so stop treating it like it’s a nuisance and outsourcing 100% of it’s implementation.  Instead, stop and realize the long-term benefits of directly engaging in social media.

Now it’s your turn: What do you think?

Neal Schaffer
The Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Maximize Social Business, Neal Schaffer is a leader in helping businesses and professionals strategically maximize their use of social media. Neal is the author of three social media books, including the recently published definitive social media strategy book Maximize Your Social. Forbes lists him as a Top 35 Social Media Power Influencer and AdAge lists his blog, Maximize Social Business (formerly known as Windmill Networking), as a top 100 global marketing blog. Neal provides social media strategy consulting and coaching, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and a Grammy-award winning musician. He has presented worldwide on social media at more than 150 events and also teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University. +Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer

@nealschaffer

Author, @MaxYourSocial | Founder @msocialbusiness | Trilingual Social Media Strategy Consultant, Coach, and Speaker | 日米ソーシャルメディア専門家|G+: https://t.co/BqaJvubiP8
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Comments

  1. Karen Clark says

    I agree 100%. People are always surprised when explain that I won’t do it for them. My job is to educate and empower them but this is ‘social’ media, not faceless passive advertising. They need to be hands-on.

  2. Dianawei says

    haha Awesome, definitely agree! Social Media is relationships, and short relationships aren’t usually what people like to aim for. Thanks for saying it how it is!

  3. says

    I think you have been talking to the same people who call me! I try to make a comparison between having someone pretend to be them on Twitter and having someone pretend to be them at networking events. They usually get it, but somehow find it much creepier to think about someone impersonating them at an event than to imagine someone impersonating them online.

  4. says

    I think you have been talking to the same people who call me! I try to make a comparison between having someone pretend to be them on Twitter and having someone pretend to be them at networking events. They usually get it, but somehow find it much creepier to think about someone impersonating them at an event than to imagine someone impersonating them online.

  5. says

    Thanks so much for articulating the struggle I have with clients regularly! I am definitely going to reference this post in the future. I was just asked yesterday if I could refer a firm that could “do” social media for a partner organization, now I almost want to refuse to give a referral, but I don’t think that’s good business. What do you think?

    • says

      Hey Kristen, great question! I was just tweeting with someone about this, so here’s the tweets :-)

      Q: I liked the article on Why You Don’t Do Social Media. I am thinking you are not real popular with agencies, then? :)

      A: I don’t do agency work, and when a consulting client needs an agency, I make introductions. I respect the ecosystem ;-) I have a lot of respect for agencies – I just see the world of social media completely different, that’s all.

      Hope that answers your question ;-)

  6. says

    Thx so much, Neal. Your points are so well expressed. To me, this is one that is so important for people to “get” who want to use social media: “Social Media is a Commitment, not a Campaign.” Aloha. Janet

  7. says

    Neal, great post. As a current client of Neal’s he is dead on regarding teaching a person to fish. I knew we needed to be a leader in Social Media for us and our clients in the CPG industry and it was not about ‘doing Social Media”. Neal put together a great strategy, we now have an online community manager to begin implementing our strategy. She knows our company and our business (CPGjobs.com). Neal is there for consulting, but it is up to us to engage. Neal thank you.

    • says

      Thank you so much for the support Michael. I had been thinking about this blog post for several months but was finally able to word it properly. I’m glad that it resonated with you, and excited to see the growth of the community you are growing for the CPG industry!

  8. says

    Extremely well said! I couldn’t agree with you more about this. I get companies asking me to ‘do’ their social media for them all the time. They want me to shoot the video, edit it and then post it. They want a marketing mule, not me.

    Thank you for this.

    • says

      Thanks Paul. I had been working on that post for a few months, but glad I finally published it because it sounds like a lot of us are in the same boat! I’m not a marketing mule either ;-)

  9. says

    Spot on, Neal. What’s more frustrating is when I believe in the organization and can accurately speak on behalf of their brand, I convey there is a cost for me to do that effectively — but the organization isn’t willing to pay me that amount. Makes you wonder how important it is to them, eh?

    • says

      Thanks Ari…and, you bet, no one can speak better for the brand than the brand themselves!!! It’s funny because I have found the same thing – companies just want an “intern” to do it for them on the cheap. It’s almost as if they’re blind to that 6-letter word that goes before “media”!

  10. Sleenie says

    I totally agree with you 100%. Early on in my involvement with social media, I was carrying on a conversation with someone I had some respect for. I was pleased that we were developing this online relationship. Later I had an opportunity to meet her in person and it turns out she had no idea who I was since she had someone “doing her social media”. I felt cheated and used and lost some respect. BTW, this was a doctor a company in the sencs we think of them.

  11. says

    Neal, I am a business student at Western Michigan University currently studying internet marketing with @Dr4Ward and subscribe to your blog. I decided to comment because I think this article is spot on. It astounds me that companies are willing to dish out the big bucks in hiring someone to run their social media ‘campaign’. Yes the days of print ads and radio commercials seem to be dying, but I agree with you that when a business wants to dive in and start social networking- it should be done by the small business owner themselves or the marketing department for a larger company. By doing so, a company can directly respond and communicate with clients/customers via twitter instead of bombarding them with ‘25% discounts if this twitter ad is mentioned’. Of course time is a precious resource that can never be recovered but in all honesty I think many consumers would appreciate or even encourage the business owner/marketing department tweet themselves. Not only would a consumer feel like a ‘valued customer’ by receiving direct offers or inspirational messages by the owner/department, but a strong bond would be made because of it- ensuring customer loyalty and that consumers business for years to come. Of course I am no expert and obviously have a significantly less amount of knowledge on the topic than you but I just thought I would throw in my two cents. Nice post and I look forward to reading more. #mkt3730 #in

    • says

      Hey Stephen, thanks for stopping by and commenting! So you study with the famous @Dr4Ward? Would love a chance to meet him someday…

      I am really glad that you find resonance with my blog post. The funny thing is that a lot of university students I meet are confident that they can “do” social media for businesses, so I am glad that you see the situation is not as simple as that.

      Your comment is filled with expertise, so it sounds like you’re getting a great education! Looking forward to your future comments, and let me know if I can ever be of any help to you!

  12. says

    Great points. So many companies and managers think like this. It’s startling to think that this attitude represent the total disconnect that companies can have with the idea of what social media is.

    I’m also in @DR4WARD ‘s #mkt3730 class mentioned below by Stephen. #in

  13. says

    Hi, Neal, great post, as usual!

    Brands are built from the inside, so I agree that the complete outsourcing of the Social Media presence should never be an option.

    However, I also believe that there’s room for partial outsourcing – especially in content production and curation. I am a big defender of the 80/20 law (Pareto principle) when it comes to the Social Media presence, being the 20% the part related to the company’s activity (cases, new clients, features, awards and so on). This kind of content may be produced inside the company, but we all know that that’s also a big part of what PRs do for companies.

    I’m providing for several companies the other 80%, meaning, content that, despite not being directly related to what the company does or sells, it generates Value to their Blog readers/followers/fans.

    And it’s being quite successful because it’s a kind of activity that makes no sense for them to hire people inside their organization to do that. They keep their focus, and the people that follows them get what they really expect: interesting information, upon which they can share ideas, oppinions and insights.

    Once the reaction happens, the organization is warned, and them moves on to engadgement.

    So, I beleive that ther’s some room for this kind of outsourcing.

    Keep up the great work!

    Tiago Veloso

    • says

      Thanks for your comment and unique perspective. My blog post was not a call against outsourcing any work to the outside world. After all, I am called in by companies to help create their social media strategy, so that in itself is a type of outsourcing. I know of a large company that outsources social media monitoring to an agency because the agency knows Radian6 inside and out and can devote a team of 10+ people just to analyzing all of the conversations regarding that brand and highlighting only the important ones to respond to on a regular basis. My post was really about thinking twice before your outsource your “brand,” which in social media means your tweets, Facebook posts, et. al.

      Content creation is a tricky one. I argue that companies have enough stories and experiences that they should be able to create that content internally. Having an external coach guiding them, managing them, and then helping them optimize their content creation for social media sounds like something that could be potentially outsourced.

      Tiago, as you know there is no one “right” or “wrong” answer when it comes to social media, so I value your readership and inputs! More importantly, I am ecstatic to hear that your business is booming! Please keep in touch…

    • says

      Thanks for your comment and unique perspective. My blog post was not a call against outsourcing any work to the outside world. After all, I am called in by companies to help create their social media strategy, so that in itself is a type of outsourcing. I know of a large company that outsources social media monitoring to an agency because the agency knows Radian6 inside and out and can devote a team of 10+ people just to analyzing all of the conversations regarding that brand and highlighting only the important ones to respond to on a regular basis. My post was really about thinking twice before your outsource your “brand,” which in social media means your tweets, Facebook posts, et. al.

      Content creation is a tricky one. I argue that companies have enough stories and experiences that they should be able to create that content internally. Having an external coach guiding them, managing them, and then helping them optimize their content creation for social media sounds like something that could be potentially outsourced.

      Tiago, as you know there is no one “right” or “wrong” answer when it comes to social media, so I value your readership and inputs! More importantly, I am ecstatic to hear that your business is booming! Please keep in touch…

      • says

        Exactly my point, Neal: there’s a natural limit to relevant content production in most companies, and then you have the posting frequency issue, which is something evreyone agrees that it’s one of the basics for Social media. So, Minimum Content production is working so far as a good way of achieving that frequency, respecting, of course, the uniqueness of each company.

        Thanks for your work, and precious insights, Neal, and let’s keep in touch!

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