You Can Outsource Your Social Media

Apr 4th, 2011 | By | Category: Social Media

In a recent blog post, Eric Schwartzman said that companies that outsource their voice are outsourcing their integrity. In the ideal world that might be true, but companies lacking internal resources can benefit greatly by hiring a firm to communicate on their behalf.

Schwartzman’s argument centers around three points. First, ¬†employees know more about your business and therefore “have a much stronger incentive to see your company win.” Second, “the only person who can represent you at a cocktail party is you.” Third, the logical and efficient approach is just to empower everyone in the organization to use social media.”

The first theory assumes that all employees work for enlightened companies that value communication. It also assumes that employees understand and embody the company’s mission, and understand its strategic direction and financial position. In our experience, too many employees work for companies “where nobody around here tells me anything.”

In Eric’s defense, the concept that employees are best suited to serve as the company voice works in environments where the following qualities exist:

  • The company has appointed an individual or department to serve as the voice of the company.
  • Internal communicators enjoy access to senior leaders.
  • Senior leaders see value in internal communications.
  • The company has provided the technology and financial resources to facilitate internal communications.
  • Internal staff is not overworked.
  • Internal staff wars are minimal or non-existent.
  • Internal policies and procedures make it possible to complete the work in house.
  • The company employs trained communicators.
  • Staff see internal communication as a fundamental way of doing business and not as a mandate or whitewash.
  • Communication is timely, relevant, concise, holistic and honest.

The second theory assumes that every business owner or senior business leader is a successful communicator. While it’s true that some leaders are dynamic personalities who can easily rally the troops to charge into battle, many other work better with spreadsheets than people. For the latter group, an accomplished communicator can help crystalize, interpret and communicate the leader’s vision.

The final theory, that everyone in the company should use social media fails to draw a very clear distinction between who can use social media and who can speak on behalf of the company. In a non-litigious culture, we’d say “social media for everyone.” However, providing social media access to everyone in the company is fraught with risks:

  • Premature disclosure of material information that could affect a publicly-traded company’s stock price.
  • Inadvertent or intentional disclosure of intellectual property.
  • Sexual harassment.
  • Slander or libel

Fortunately, companies that lack a dedicated internal communications function, dynamic senior-level communicators, and defined communications policies, can turn to outside agencies or consultants to help them articulate, not co-opt, their vision.

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One Comment to “You Can Outsource Your Social Media”

  1. While I must say I disagree with your point of view, I am flattered that you took the time to advance the conversation constructively. And I appreciate reading your perspective.

    Social media, as I see it, is really just a new communications channel. In fact I believe social communications, that leaves behind a trial of discoverable media, is a more accurate description of what we’re dealing with.

    Just as organizations see fit to equip personnel outside of their external communications apparatus with telephones, e-mail and access to a printer, social media, when used appropriately, has applications companywide.

    The need to circumvent non-selective disclosure, compromise intellectual property and discourage harassment, slander or libel are not good enough reasons to restrict access to the phone or the Internet. So why should social media be any different?

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