Today many companies are relying largely on the social media agencies to manage their social media channels and to monitor the conversations about their brands. They consider outsourcing, social media activities to third parties because they lack the expertise internally to manage social media campaigns. These specialist agencies save time and cost. Even though, there are clear benefits in utilizing the specialized knowledge, the companies should also be wary of the risks of outsourcing social media functions.
Why companies need to be careful?
While outsourcing the social media functions, the company should understand the fact that social media relations are human relations, and they will be bound to pay quite a high price if there are any goof ups. The company should make sure that the service provider clearly understands what the company is trying to achieve by engaging themselves in social media. On the contrary, service providers should also put an effort to understand their clients and the audiences before they strategize and execute social media plans.
When outsourcing, social media functions, companies should consider some issues like:
- Who should be authorized to respond to a defaming post on the blog?
- What should be the minimum response time to a query?
- Who will be monitoring the social media pages like Facebook and Twitter outside the office?
- Who will approve the Twitter comments?
- Will the community feel the conversations made are authentic?
- Whether the agencies are well equipped to respond to customer queries?
- Whether the outsourcing companies have received adequate training? Etc
The analysts are of the opinion that there is no one stop solution to manage all the social media risks. Companies can reduce the potential risks of outsourcing, social media functions by having proper social media policies and guidelines for their staff and contractors.
How to manage risk?
The companies can reduce the risks of outsourcing the functions to third parties by detailing the risks involved, tolerance levels, crisis response procedures and branding guidelines in the contract. This can be different for each firm depending upon their business values and capabilities. For example, the policies and guidelines that suit Raymonds can be different from the policies of Coca-Cola because of the different nature of their business.
Companies can prepare in advance the procedures and policies on how the agencies should respond to different social contexts and scenario, and ensure that they are communicated to the agency and are a part of the contact deed itself. If a problem arises, the company should decide how to react. Empowering their partners to react to the comments, at times, will prove to be a burden for the companies. Hence, the company can decide in advance how to handle such situations. For example, the company can adopt a traffic light system, where in green issues (less risk) can be dealt by the agencies, yellow issues (moderate risks) will be dealt by the legal teams and red issues (high risks) will be directed to senior management.
It is the responsibility of the companies to train the agencies on the procedures and guidelines that should be followed in managing the company’s social media functions during the contract period. The companies should also be alert in monitoring the agencies as social media communities are their business assets.