Social Media – the Latest Revolution in Outsourcing?

Social Media Outsourcing

A large number of businesses are now relying on social media to converse with their consumer base. They use it to inform clients about new tidings in the business. The avenues of choice are varied, whether it is Facebook, Google+, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn or any other site, social media has become the medium of choice to deliver messages to customers. Is communication however, the only benefit that is attracting the organizations?

Other than the media being solely a shop-front or a messaging board, there is a lot more to gain from the domain. Numerous businesses have known this fact for a long time now. The challenge therefore lies in how to cash in and maximize the potential of the medium at the best possible cost price.

Is outsourcing the key to the social media madness?

Outsourcing providers, especially ones that specialize in data analytics, are offering Social Media optimization to companies. The development and implementation of strategies is not an easy task as it requires an understanding of the medium and everything that it entails. The service providers by virtue of the nature of their job claim an in-depth understanding of how the social media works. This whole avenue of outsourcing is known as Social Media Outsourcing.

What is SMO?

The engagement of a third party service provider solely for the provision of social media services is the foundation of the domain called SMO. Although the full range of SMO services has not been clearly defined and set forth, the following services covered under the umbrella are, co-ordination, monitoring, intelligence, sales generation and customer care services.

The scope of the services is explained below.

  • Co-ordination – The service provider sends out messages on behalf of the organization across various social media platforms in a coordinated manner for maximum impact.
  • Monitoring – Social media is a powerful medium of publicity. The avenue is unfortunately not one that can be completely controlled by the company. While word of mouth publicity is heralded as the best form of publicity, the opposite also holds true. Service providers offer to monitor the chatter on social media to identify risks to the brand, customer concerns, opportunities and areas where improvements can be made.
  • Intelligence – The providers will be able to mine the social media to gain an understanding of the consumer base. This information will further help companies implement better sales pitches designed for the target audience.
  • Sales generation – An active communication online through the social media will help further sales. Targeted communication can help drive sales. Providers recognize and target the most effective platforms for this kind of communication.
  • Customer care – Where there is a business, queries and issues with the products are bound to arise. A business is known to being service oriented when these queries and issues are resolved before they turn into discontent. The service provider can help streamline the queries and issues so that they can be resolved at the earliest avoiding discontent altogether.

Is SMO an extension of the traditional contact center?

The SMO, when broken down completely is nothing but a means of establishing contact with the customer base of an organization. This was initially the scope of work assigned to the contact centers. This view of the SMO as an extension of the traditional contact center is not a stretch depending on the range of services provided by the SMO provider.

Given that the form of communication that is currently prevalent amidst generation ’Y’ is through the social media, organizations are bound to accept the SMO as a form of contact with their customer base.

The major point of difference between the two avenues is that SMO involves a combination of intelligence gathering opportunity and contact through social media. This combination opens new business avenues for organizations.

Tips for businesses considering SMO

Since SMO is a relatively fledgling industry, it is best for businesses to understand the avenue before indulging in it.

  1. Develop a social media strategy – Drawing up a plan to use certain avenues of social media and how best to utilize each of them, is crucial for a business. This plan will make the discussions between the partners easier as it will give the service provider a clearer picture of what exactly they are required to do. For example, if gathering intelligence about customer feedback on certain products and services is required to be a part of the SMO service, then it should be a part of the strategy drawn up by the organization.
  2. Coordinate with customer contact approach – If there is a contact center element sewn into the SMO plan, the two should coordinate. Adequate communication between the two plans will help customers receive unified messages and consistent standards of service across all platforms of customer contact.
  3. Determine the kind of intelligence to gather – While drawing up a strategy, it is also important to consider the kind and amount of data that one wishes to obtain as a part and parcel of the SMO service. Most organizations are usually looking for the age group or target audience that communicates about their products on social media, the time lag between new messages form the company and responses from the customers and the feedback from the consumer base.
  4. Implications inherent in the service – Social media is an avenue that is equivalent to treading on egg shells. Within a relatively short span of history, the media has seen implications of intellectual property infringement, offensive comments, breaches of advertising codes and defamation law suits.
    Although most companies that have inked outsourcing deals in the past will find themselves on familiar ground with SMO deals, the finer points should be adequately assessed. Both partners should connect to a legal counsel before signing agreements just to ensure the presence of a legal safety net in case of causalities.
  5. Extracting value from the information – A company does not benefit from solely gathering information. The information should be processed and the data should be analyzed so that the findings can cause changes in the implementation of business. This analysis can be carried out in-house or can be outsourced.

While SMO deals are very similar to outsourcing deals of other kinds, there are a few specifics that deserve special attention. The points of attention are listed below.

  • Performance – With outsourcing of customer call operations, there is a pre-conceived performance measurement. Unlike that avenue, with SMO, there is no performance standards that businesses conduct their pre-outsourced operations against. Therefore, the partners will have to sit down and draw up what performance needs to be measured and how it will measured in order to reach a pre-set target. Legal counsels who are experts in outsourcing will be able to help in this matter.
  • Duration – The SMO Avenue is a relatively juvenile industry and most deals inked are in the short-term range. Because of the short history, service providers are likely only going to specialize in deals that can reach maximum fruition in the least possible time. The services that rely heavily on analysis of data, take a longer time to ramp up or reach fruition are not likely going to be on offer.
  • Changes – The long winded control mechanisms for change typical of outsourcing deals will not hold true for SMO deals. The social media is a dynamic avenue always incorporating new entrants to the socializing world. A nimble approach is one best suited to the SMO world as the organizations can then benefit from new platforms, new attitudes and new uses of the media.

Numerous organizations around the world have only adopted social media as it is seen as the ‘new’ means of communication to reach Generation Y. A niche set of organizations, however recognize the new set of customers that they can reach out to via social media as they do not visit websites or send emails.

SMO for those organizations then is the best way to take strategies to the next level. They can engage with their customers in order to understand their motivations better. Through these strategies, organizations will be able to spot trends as and when they emerge. This in turn will enable them to act on the trends faster and gain the inevitable market share that would not be possible without SMO.

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