Outsource Community Management – Yes or No?
As a community manager working mainly with young start-up companies, I often encounter hesitant clients asking whether or not outsourcing community management (and other services) is the wise thing to do. I can understand them completely. I bet you think my immediate answer would be “yes of course! Outsource it!” because, after all, that is what I do. I am an outsourced community manager. But you’d be wrong. More than once, I turned down a client because, as a community manager I understand that for their specific communities or scope of needed work, it is best to hire someone in-house.
You see, there are services, which are more technical (e.g programming or graphic design) where you can easily outsource if you deliver a detailed and accurate document of specifications of what you need or want done.
With community management, however, it is a bit tricky. If you understand what community management really is, then you realize that whoever you choose to do your community management for you has to identify with you and your brand enough to motivate the community. That person must have a deep understanding of your product or service – enough to answer technical questions and give basic technical and customer support or to produce interesting content around and about it. They also have to know your entire team to know who to route feedback to. And when I say “know” I mean know them on a personal level.
In today’s wired world with its broad bands and high speed communications, all of this is possible even when you outsource your community management to another country. I, for example, am located in Israel at the moment but I manage communities for clients in Europe and in the States. In some cases I even have my own email address with the client’s domain, so that to the community I am part of the team and the company.
So how do I know if outsourcing my community management is the right way to go?
The key factors you have to consider when thinking about whether or not to outsource your community management are these:
- The size and composition of your community
- The level of technical complexity of your product or service
- The speed in which you want results
- Your budget for community management, content marketing, social media and sometimes SEO (if you need it)
- Your ability to trust people (service providers essentially) and not micro-manage them
All things considered, if you have a product or service that easy to maintain and explain, a community that is not too large (to require more than one community manager), patience, trust and a budget that is not too small to allow any results but not large enough to keep a team of community managers of your payroll, then you can safely outsource all community management and other marketing operations.
The only times when I said no to a client and told them to hire someone, were when they had a very technical product which I could never understand enough to explain to the community or to create content about it, when their community was so large and/or dispersed that I knew it would take more than one person to manage it or when I saw I am facing a person who couldn’t trust me to actually put in the hours I said I would or wanted to get more reports from me on each word written, email sent or hour spent than actual work.
As an outsourced community manager, I don’t always charge less than someone on your payroll would, but you don’t have to pay the extras and my social benefits 🙂 Also, being a community manager means I am good at looking at things from the perspective of the community member. Never forget that my first, and perhaps most important community that I manage on a daily basis, are my own clients! I therefore make it a point to know them well, to learn their products and services, to notice when one of them may need a little extra attention and, equally as important, when to say “enough. It’s time to hire someone in-house”, in which case I will also help them screen resumes and interview people if needed to make sure they hire the best person for the job.
You see, for me it is not (all) about the money. Ours is a business of human connections and integrity (at least that’s the way I view it) so it is always first about you, my client, and only then about everything else.
Outsourcing more than just one service
IF you’ve read up to here and you’re thinking of outsourcing your community management operation, then keep in mind that another advantage the Social Fairy can offer you specifically, is the fact that I (Elinor) am much more than just a community manager and that I am not alone! Together with my other strategic partners we can cover a wide range of services from Market Strategy and business plans for you new venture, through website design and building, content marketing (for your site, blog and social media), SEO, software architecture and strategy, project management (to manage your community of outsourced service providers) and of course community management.
So before you set out on the exciting but intricate road of entrepreneurship, I invite you to connect with any of us and learn why outsourcing may just be the smart and most cost-effective way for you.