There simply is no substitute for people who hangout with your brand and business everyday. The ability to pick up on cultural signs, operational information and the “smell of the place” is a big inherent advantage of building your community management operation in-house. But there are many situations that I’m prepared to give way on this rule.
We’ve tumbled together a top 11 list of when outsourcing some, if not all, your community management operations makes sense:
1. Content Gap(s) – lack of content quality and frequency is the biggest sin of new media practitioners (source: The Buzz Report, Wikibrands, 2013), generating content that provides traction in the quick-clicking digital environment can be more artistry than science, and sometimes best left to the pros.
2. Talent Gap(s) – particularly at the inception of new community/social programming, there may be a dearth of skills and experience among current staff to not only support but establish the pace, quality and tone of community management – for an interim period, outside experts can really help you wade through the waters.
3. Headcount Gap(s) – so there is the hope, the will and the way, you just don’t have the short and mid-term flexibility to add people – it may be that hiring a community manager from an outsourced source and having them spend a good amount of time in-house is the way to go.
4. Resource Gap(s) – good community management is good sweat equity, there are no shortcuts. In order to generate sufficient content, enough interaction, scale up outreach and cover off key segments, geographies and markets, you might simply need more people at your avails. Sometimes this could also be as a contingency resource for maternity leaves, surprise personnel moves and department shuffling and reshuffling as well.
5. News Overload – perhaps your business revolves around specific holidays, events, sales periods, seasonality, playoff schedules, new initiatives, crisis moments and other short term upheavals, we all realize new media workload is rarely a flat graph of effort. Outsourcing for the overflow oftentimes makes sense.
6. Customer Empathy Gap (s) – you may have the enthusiasm, but if you are a 36 year old male in charge of a community management program for a feminine hygiene brand, there is a blind spot of “lived in those shoes” empathy. Most great community managers live the lifestyle of their brands, sometimes its better to find these people externally than believe your own employees can learn to love the lifestyle (or in the above case, even can) if they don’t already.
7. Celebrity Gap (s) – it can take years to build up on audience of trust, credibility and influence, some brands have reconciled that it is far better to draw on the bank of clout, believability and following built up by people who already are at the centre of existing communities of interest then launch and slowly build up employees with the same attributes.
8. Efficiency Gap (s) – I know I’ve been doing community management work for nearly a decade and it is a labour of love. Over time, you start to pick up clues on how to do more with less time, money and effort. A seasoned outsourced community manager, based on their bank of knowledge, tools and tactics, may in fact be 3-5 times as fast doing the same job as somebody starting fresh.
9. Moderation Gap (s) – fact – many businesses are global. Fact – many destructive conversations can happen on weekends. Fact – weird stuff can happen online when you are at your busiest. Fact – customers don’t care about your issues, they care about fixing their problem, wherever and whenever it happens. Outsourced community managers can extend presence over the course of a full 168 hour week.
10. Language Gap(s) - I hope we’re not all arrogant enough to believe that all our customers prefer to speak English. You simply can’t automate or backward translate the full dynamic nature of digital interactions. Sometimes you need the extended help of community managers who understand natively the language being talked about or transacted in.
11. Efficiency Gaps – there are good reasons that some platform hosts, specialist firms, agencies and/or consultants are more effective as community managers than you are. They can draw on their bank of experiences, systems, tools, processes, service mentality and content building from having operated on plenty of other businesses and clients. The experience you get in-house may be raw and uni-dimensional. The question is – How much is that difference worth?
Let us know your beliefs here and any businesses that are practising the outsourcing of community management well.