Many online retailers wrestle with the question of outsourcing their social media marketing. They know that an effective social media program is essential for attracting customers, driving sales and boosting profitability. But it’s not always clear whether it’s better to invest in an in-house program or to engage a team of expert professionals who understand this fast-changing field.
You should also think about whether a hybrid approach to social media marketing makes sense for your store. For instance, you could hire an in-house specialist in social media marketing to coordinate your program, while outsourcing the time-consuming operational aspects.
- Your core business. As an online retailer, you know your core business better than anyone else. You may already outsource functions like payroll and legal support. If you want to stay focused on retailing and have a relatively small team, then outsourcing social media marketing may make sense.
- Your brand and voice. If you have built a strong brand and know your store’s marketing “voice,” an in-house approach may be most effective. It gives you more control of your social media program to ensure a consistent message reaches your audience.
- Your team’s time. Savvy retailers recognize that developing and executing a social media program is a full-time job (or more). Do you want someone on your team to be handling this function, or would that time be better spent on the marketing, sales or fulfillment aspects of your business?
- Your skill sets. It’s not always easy to find a professional with the right set of skills to manage your social media marketing. One option is to train someone already on your team to become your social media guru. But it’s probably faster and easier to outsource this function, at least in the short term.
- Your social media expertise. This is a field that changes almost every day, as popular social media sites change their rules, their algorithms and audiences. So, your in-house team needs to be given the time and resources to stay on top of this “moving target.” On the other hand, an outside professional or agency should already have the expertise you need to generate results.
- Your flexibility. If your retail sales peak in the fourth quarter, then fall to a lower level afterwards, outsourcing your social media marketing can give you more flexibility in terms of services and costs. Ideally, an outside agency can ramp up your social media program for the holiday season, and then cut back after the new year. It’s much more difficult to adjust the size of an in-house team so quickly.
- Your costs. Before making a decision, you should pay close attention to the costs involved with either approach. When outsourcing, you will probably pay an ongoing retainer with additional expenses for certain services. On the other hand, an in-house approach will mean paying a salary and benefits, as well as some education and training costs.
- Your revenue and profitability. While it’s easy to measure the costs of an in-house or outsourcing program, that’s only part of the equation. An expensive program might generate more sales and higher profitability than a low-cost strategy. When talking to an outsource provider, discuss the potential outcomes in terms of higher sales, as well as the immediate costs.
Whatever approach you take – in-house, outsourcing or a hybrid strategy – social media marketing is critical to the success of your online store. By making a smart investment, you can increase your business’ immediate sales and strengthen your foundation for long-term success.