To outsourcing social media or not

The advantages and disadvantages of outsourcing social media:

+ Outsourcing companies have the expertise to manage multiple social media platforms and understanding which are the best social media platforms to help realize a social business strategy (Craig, 2013; VerticalResponse, 2013).

+ Outsourcing companies can be a time saver, because it can take quite a while to learn about all the different types of social platforms out there, to grow an engaging audience, and to fully realize a social business strategy (VerticalResponse, 2013). Also, outsourcing companies don’t have to be bogged down with another day to day tasks of business requiring their services (Craig, 2013).

+ Outsourcing companies can be a fiscal resource saver, given that accomplishing a social business strategy can takes resources away from core business activities (VerticalResponse, 2013).

– Outsourcing company may not fully understand the business nor the industry in which the business resides (Craig, 2013; Thomas, 2009).

– Outsourcing company is not part of the everyday marathon of business (Thomas, 2009).

– An outsourcing company cannot be 100% authentic when responding to the customers because they are not the actual voice of the company (Craig, 2013; Thomas, 2009; VerticalResponse, 2013).

Two social media components that are more likely to be outsourced:

  • Setting up the multiple social media platform profiles, due to the tedious tasks of filling out the same standard fields/details in each account (Baroncini-Moe, 2010). Social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc. all have standard fields like a short bio, name, photo, username selection, user/corporate identity verification, etc. This non-value-added work can consume valuable time, yet do not compromise a corporate’s authentic voice.
  • Automation of some status updates across some/all social media platforms (Baroncini-Moe, 2010). For instance, a post made on a blogging website could also be forwarded to a LinkedIn and Twitter profile, but not in Facebook. This differentiation should be explicitly stated in the social business strategy.


Social media impacts and emerging trends

How social technology is changing how businesses operate

Seventy-two percent of companies are using at least one social technology (Bughin, Byers, & Chui, 2011). There have been observed changes in how the business operates.  Previously the role of human resource (HR) is to allay legal risks, but they are also now responsible for fostering a supportive corporate culture, and social technologies are facilitating this (Lauby, 2010).  Social technology can include social networking, video sharing, blogs, microblogging, etc. (Bughin et al., 2011).

However, the power of a negative tweet (a social networking platform) can severely impact a company.  This was the case when then President-elect Trump criticized both Boeing and Lockheed Martin, sending their stocks to plummet within minutes from that tweet (Kilgore, 2016; Lauby, 2010; Li, 2010).  Thus, mitigation of negative sentiment is becoming more prevalent for how a business that is operating in a world with social technology. Bughin et al. (2011), reported that social technology for customer purposes had increased effective marketing, customer satisfaction, and increased marketing cost savings.

Other companies like the H&M retail, had created an H&M alumni group, which allows them to track their previous talent for future rehiring, but also maintain an eye on keeping proprietary data proprietary (Lauby, 2010).   Even though social technology makes it more difficult to keep proprietary data proprietary, it has helped companies to search social technology to generate new ideas, pivoting in projects, etc. (Bughin et al. 2011).

Additionally, Bughin et al. (2011), reported that social technology internally had been used to increase knowledge access, reduce communication costs, increase network connect to internal subject matter experts.  This can help improve employee engagement with the business. Calvin College uses their Facebook page to showcase their employee involvement per their social business strategy, and this gives them the reputation of being more engaged with their employees (Lauby, 2010).

Emerging social technology trends

  • Li (2010), stated that curating consists of spending hours in ensuring well-organized content for their customers/employees as well as participating in discussions with them. Thus, a trend moving forward is to have fewer and improved, but well-curated posts (DeMers, 2016). Taking a page from minimalistic living is consumers of social technology like to be seeing less content from a content provider, but are also starting to expect that the quality of that content should be higher than their corporate competitors. When companies begin to curate high-quality content, they will set themselves apart because they are developing a social brand that is engaging (Li, 2010).
  • Social media platform dynamics are increasing, where Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn had similar tools, goals, and applications but serving small differences in niches; but Instagram, Snapchat, Vine are starting to serve a new niche (DeMers, 2016). Thus, this is where a social business strategy is known as a living document, to meet the demands of an ever-changing field of social media (Cohen, 2011).  This strategy should be growing and adjusting to consider the benefits of new platforms and analyzing the current business strategy to maximize these new platforms (Wollan, Smith, & Zhou, 2010).  Each of these niches also means different ways of engaging/curating materials and reaching to potential new employees, new customers, or retain talent (Wollan et al., 2010).


Resources needed for a social business strategy

Social media helps shine a light exposing: hypocritical business policies, functions of a product/service, marketing, and sales; these issues must be solved relatively quickly, and that requires a social business strategy and resources (Wollan, Smith, and Zhou, 2010).  Thus, there are a significant amount of resources that are needed to achieve any new social business strategies.  These resources should be accessible, such as training resources, best practice guidelines, in-house subject matter experts, and direct managers by all employees (Li, 2010). Wollan et al. (2010), stated that a sponsor is needed to be devoted to the social business strategy because they can remove obstacles and provide the resources abovementioned. Having open leadership allows for a business to use all of their resources to help solve problems (Li, 2010). Thus, the sponsor should then gain additional sponsors or social media champion from the following departments: outside sales, customer service, marketing, product development, information technology, human resources, etc. (Wollan et al., 2010). Having all these teams as a champion or co-sponsor as key human resources adds more credibility and objectivity to the social business strategy.  Then, Li (2010) said that ideally a suggestion box for improving current strategies should be placed in plain sight so that everyone’s input for improving the current social business strategy is heard.

One consideration to make about using in-house resources, outsourced resources or a combination of the two is whether or not a social business strategy is vital to the operations or just contextual.  Li (2010), states that open leadership on social media strategies tends to add more work on employees, with little additional financial resources to be thrown their way. Craig (2013), states that some of the upsides of outsourcing are leveraging external expertise whiling building internal expertise, saving time and fiscal capital.  If a company thinks its core to their current business strategy, human capital strategy, and human resource strategy, then it should keep it in-house.  If they just think its core for just customer relations, but not core to the business strategy then it could consider to outsourcing it to a managed services company that is adept at implementing social business strategies.  However, caution should be thrown when outsourcing the social business strategy because any post becomes the voice of the company and the outsourced company won’t do the business’ voice justice (Craig, 2013). At the end of the day using in-house resources, outsourced resources, or a combination of the two is dependent on the social business strategy, current company resources, and finally the social strategist sponsor’s belief that this is either core or contextual to the business.


  • Craig, D. (2013). Pros and cons of outsourcing social media. Retrieved from
  • Li, C. (2010). Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead, (1st). Vital book file.
  • Wollan, R., Smith, N., & Zhou, C. (2010). The Social Media Management Handbook: Everything You Need To Know To Get Social Media Working In Your Business. John Wiley & Sons P&T. VitalBook file.

Corporate governance of social business strategy

Dell, at the beginning had a very centralized governance and strategy over its operational social media resources at the beginning (Li, 2010).  Li (2010), goes on to say that they eventually loosened up their governance where there was still a centralized social media council, but other departments were allowed to meet up weekly to discuss the content and how the strategy should be implemented. This is a great example of a large Fortune 500 company slowly adopting open leadership governance of their social media strategy to help them keep it aligned with their business strategy. Trusting departments to act autonomously according to strategy is hard, but each function/department should have their governance group, which should allay these fears (Zhu, 2012). This is all about building a relationship and trusting in your competent employees to ensure organizational alignment with any strategy (Richards-Gustafson, n.d.).

Organizational alignment is when business strategy meets business culture, where visions are aligned, and business goals and objectives should be drafted towards this business strategy (Richards-Gustafson, n.d.). Organizational alignment and its governance should be part of the business and social media strategic planning from the beginning (Zhu, 2012).  For social media strategy creation efforts, best practices dictate to borrow heavily from their current IT strategies and governance processes (Wollan, Smith, & Zhou, 2010). This is especially the case when trying to derive data from social media platforms to facilitate future strategic data-driven decisions on their products/services.

However, to ensure that there is an organization alignment with either the business strategy or social media strategy the BusinessWeek Online (2010) outlined: that there should be measurable critical success factors and key performance indicators that are required to reach strategic goals; and by using simple daily action plans for their employees to clear up any confusion.  Richards-Gustafson (n.d.) stated her outline as developing a supportive culture through aligning all the business goals to the business strategy while training non-competent employees; work towards building trust, open communication, and transparency; and promote people and teams to be more autonomous in driving this alignment.  Both BusinessWeek Online (2010) and Richards-Gustafson (n.d.) stated that having all levels of management involved and embodying the strategy themselves is key to driving organizational alignment with strategy.  However, according to Zhu (2012), management helps in implementing strategy while governances monitor strategy compliance.



Business strategy and social business strategy

According to Wollan, Smith and Zhou (2010) a business strategy is “the direction, positioning, scope, objectives, and competitive differentiation” of the business.  However, having a social business strategy is important.  It is important and enables a business to learn from the business’ employees, customers, and partners (Li, 2010).  It is important and enables to drive a dialog (both internally and externally) and thus creates a relationship within and outside of the business (Li, 2010; Wollan et al., 2010). This relationship can lead to innovation, because of what is learned from having this relationship within and outside of the business (Li, 2010).

From an external view of a social media strategy, it is seen to engage with its customers and promote its business along with its business strategy.  Originally, marketing departments and public relations (PR) teams ran the early uses of social media, but eventually, it got too complex (Wollan et al., 2010). Today, many companies have multiple teams that use social media, and this is in line with open leadership (Li, 2010; Wollan et al., 2010).  All these departments have to deal with the following key issues related to the business strategy, and it should be contained in their social media strategy (Wollan et al., 2010):

  • “How is social media aligned to the business?”
  • “How should social media decisions are made [or prioritized]?”
  • “How do we manage social media investments?”
  • “What controls do we need in place?”
  • “How do we measure and reward?”

This social media strategy should be created not just by executives but through leaders encompassing all the departments, because of social media impacts all departments, not just marketing and PR departments (Wollan et al., 2010).

Placing an internal view of a social media strategy, it can help shape the human capital strategy, which enables the business strategy (Wollan et al., 2010).  Considering the human capital strategy helps define the needs of their employees, discovering and attracting talent, developing high-potential talent, and deploying the talent in the right place and at the right time through knowledge sharing plans (Wollan et al. 2010). Also, business employees know and even feel any changes made in the business strategy (BusinessWeek Online, 2012). Social media is one of many ways to help drive and understand employee responses to these changes.

However, engaging people/customers from a business perspective is not as simple as just starting a social media page/account and watching what happens.  Li (2010), described that there is an engagement pyramid, where watching what happens and the competitors/suppliers have the lowest level of social engagement and sharing, commenting, producing and curating content show increasing levels of engagement.  It’s in the higher levels of engagement that helps one develop a relationship via social media.  Businesses need to move past the watching what happens level of engagement and start curating content that helps customers and employees share their content (“word of mouth”), which can help drive up the sales of their products and services (Boysen, 2012).