Content Marketing

Why Insourcing is the Next Social Media and Content Marketing Trend

insourcing content marketing

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Jay Baer Blog PostSocial media and content marketing are in the middle of an arms race. Channel and opportunity proliferation combined with surging boardroom interest have created a pervasive atmosphere of “more is better.” The veracity of that outlook is debatable, and I typically counsel corporate clients to do less, but to be notably good at whatever social and content executions they tackle.

I don’t see the “do more” genie going back in the bottle anytime soon, however, and thus we have perfect growing conditions for a big trend: in-sourcing.

My friend Marcus Sheridan brought that “insourcing” term to my attention in a content context this week at Content Marketing World. It was a terrific conference with more than 1,000 attendees working to advance the content marketing industry. Marcus’ keynote was a highlight, and he and I share the belief that social and content are EVERYONE’s responsibility. (Note: I’m also very happy to tell you that Marcus is writing the foreword to my new book). 

The 2 Problems with Social and Content

Companies (even fully staffed enterprises with social media centers of excellence) are recognizing that social and content have two fundamental problems. First, they don’t scale particularly well when using dedicated resources, and there are few economies of scale to be had. It’s labor intensive, period. Second, communication about and from the company often isn’t’ particularly resonant to people who are viewing corporate social messages side-by-side with updates from their closest friends and family members.

To combat both of these present-day shortcomings, smart companies are in-sourcing more and more of their social participation, unlocking the intelligence, expertise, and passion of their greatest assets….their employees.

As Amber Naslund and I predicted in The NOW Revolution, social media is becoming a skill, not a job. Companies like Intel and Dell and IBM are leading the way in broadly distributed social participation, giving thousands of employees the opportunity to win hearts and mind in social and with smart content.

The Impact of Decentralized Social and Content

This decentralization of social communication has widespread ramifications for social media management software vendors, as it puts additional emphasis on triage and workflow tools. It also makes ongoing social training and internal certification a must-do in many organizations. Note that the emerging field of content marketing tools – very much on display at Content Marketing World including Skyword, Kapost, DivvyHQ, PublishThis, and Compendium – are actually farther along this path in many ways, since they are built to enable widespread content participation across the enterprise.

The days of one social media manager handling Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and the rest is coming to a close (as is the era of the one or two person content marketing team) and the same way all of us have a corporate email address and phone number, we’ll all (or nearly all) have a role to play on behalf of the company in social and content marketing, eventually.

The Future: Automated Social and Content Opportunity Distribution

Where does this ultimately lead? We’re not there yet, but I suspect it’s predictive modeling, with internal social and content opportunity routing based on artificial intelligence and enterprise knowledge mapping. If we know the specific areas of expertise of each employee and can store that in a relational database, and we can also know via presence detection who is online and/or what their historical response times have been, we can use natural language processing (a la Netbase) to proactively triage and assign social interactions to the best possible resource in the organization.

It’s not automation of communication, it’s automation of expertise mining. The right internal resource for the right question at the right time. It’s in-sourcing taken to its logical conclusion.

Or maybe I’m crazy?

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  1. ChrisQueso says

    You’re not crazy homie. You’re spot on. In my few years of experience with social media, I have also noticed that outsourcing your strategy and engagement to someone who isn’t equipped with the knowledge and cultural experience of the client and their team never ends well. Insourcing will be bad news for unfocused consultancies… and good news for consultancies that have drilled down and put 100% focus to their passion (big shout out to Jess Ostroff for helping Nao drill down to sports & entertainment x digital). It’s time out for social media agencies that think they can work with any and everybody even if they don’t anything about the client’s industry and culture. Excellent post Jay.

  2. says

    Jay – I hope you’re not crazy, as we’ve integrated our SMMS with NetBase with plans to eventually accomplish more or less what you’re suggesting.Also, we’ve been preaching “involve more of your employees in social media content creation” for years — so your writing is validation that *we’re* not crazy.

  3. creativeoncall says

    Of course you’re crazy – you have to be to even approach the insane challenge of the “more is better” topic.  Part of what qualifies as really nuts, though, is the assumption of any permanence or longevity (and therefore dependability) when it comes to institutional memory and expertise, given the short-term nature of employee-employer relationships and the underlying lack of mutual commitment.  I think, then, that what we may really be looking at is more like “in-and-out-sourcing” where your “content opportunity routing” navigates the fluid loop of an organization’s combined internal and external experts.

    • says

      creativeoncall Very interesting. It’s sort of like Congress, where most of the expertise lies with the lobbyists. I see what you’re saying about in and out sourcing. I like it, and I’m going to ponder it some more. Thanks for the great comment. 

      • says

        JayBaer creativeoncall I suggest pondering it in the light of Geoff’s link, which references the McKinsey conclusion that “wealth now comes from treating people as human assets and releasing their creativity to enable innovation.”  While there is a lot of corporate-speak encouraging employees to “be the brand” for purposes of delivering the core brand experience, I think that precious few in the C-Suite understand the bottom line value of serious, long-term investing in, and rewarding of, human intellectual/inspirational capital (the heart of all good content).  Of course, those who do “get it” stand to be winners in the social/content future you envision.

  4. geoffliving says

    I don’t think you are crazy. Providing internal quality knowledge only makes sense. It shows depth of team.  Why would you limit access to the repository of great people inside your organization?

  5. CoCreatr says

    Organizations would be crazy not to. “Why would you want to disengage your most powerful creators of profit?” Bill Ives via John Tropea

  6. stevencpitcher says

    @lbenitez I see insourcing more as the alternative to cloud. Leveraging and squeezing $ from existing investments: from people to systems.

  7. ScottAllen1 says

    I agree that we will see more insourcing of social media, and tools to enable it. I don’t think that means the end of full-time social media jobs. Like any other communication tool (phone, email), everyone needs to be able to use it, but there will always be a need, at least in larger organizations (or even outsourced part-time to smaller ones) for specialists.Yes, everyone uses email, but we also need email system administrators, email marketing specialists, copywriters, etc. I expect a similar pattern with social media.

    • says

      ScottAllen1 I think we’ll have ful-time jobs, but they will be manager/director roles more so than execution roles, with that layer being widely distributed.

  8. andyjankowski says

    Great post. Not crazy at all. In fact, I think this shift also warrants a discussion on “Influence”. We are not far from (and in some cases already starting to see) Klout-like scores for internal company influencers. Scores and badges aside, to be influential requires consistency and value add, which often comes in the form of content. I like to suggest that this may start out as companies insourcing their content, but will evolve into employees using content creation and promotion to increase their influence and value add to their organizations.  

  9. JenKaneCo says

    Totally agree. But not sure how soon this will/can happen. The corporations I am working with are still struggling with deputizing a few community managers and content marketers with the responsibility of managing the company’s voice. If you pitched this idea to them, they’d totally have a panic attack. While it’s an inevitability, selling companies on the transition and handing their hands while the undergo is likely going to be just as critical.

    • says

      JenKaneCo No question. It’s starting to happen at enterprise scale companies, because they can’t possibly centralize. It’s just too much listening/responding/content making to keep in one hub. And those types of companies are used to decentralization in general, because they have to be to operate multi-nationally, etc. For mid-sized (and even large single country companies) it’s indeed scary because they’ve compartmentalized job functions for a century, and to have something as important as real-time communication cut across departments is heresy….for now. 

  10. jay_zo says

    Interesting idea, JayBaer, and I’d love to see this be a reality (especially given my core function in content)….but I wonder if companies whose resources are strapped or whose execs believe mainly in achieving excellence in your “core role” will implement the above approach? Checking LinkedIn, posting to Twitter, creating a blog post, etc. are all “not your main job” in the eyes of too many execs in my opinion. Would love your thoughts on this! I suppose it’s just a matter of the C suite buying into the importance of social and content in the first place.

    • says

      jay_zo JayBaer Well said Jay. Indeed, insourcing is predicated on the belief that the function is important enough to be a part of many people’s job function. So I’d say the process is something like this:1. Pilot Program2. Enough Success to Get C Suite to Notice3. Metrics Adoption and Codification4. Program Expansion and Allocation of Additional Centralized Resources5. Bursting at the Seams and Program Proliferation6. Deep Show of Support By C Suite7. Decentralization and InsourcingI’m seeing it as a 3 year road in most cases. 

      • says

        JayBaer jay_zo The routing for response mechanism here may implement much more quickly than you indicate here in a number of companies. Consider both customer service (where there is already a degree of automation) and new business or sales (where it is more often manual but routed to the appropriate contact). What takes time is scale, but for companies that already have a routing infrastructure and mindset, I have to wonder, why is this such a leap? When you label is “social” and “content” it may seem like a big change but when you dig under the covers, I think there are a number of companies that are not far from being able to implement meaningful aspects of this.

  11. Charles Caro says

    Louis Rosas-Guyon, who is a friend of mine, has written an excellent book taking the use of social media content to the realm of capturing tacit knowledge within an organization.  The title of the book is “Firm Wisdom:  How to Use Social Media Technology to Make Your Business Wise” (

  12. JamesHahnII says

    I can see this working, in general. But, in my vertical, specifically (Oil & Gas), this thinking feels light years away from our current reality. Yes, there are a few companies in the space who do social remarkably well, but I could probably count them on one hand. Most companies are barely on Twitter and Facebook. I recently convinced my company to undertake a Content Marketing strategy and, as far as I can tell, if we pull it off, we’ll be the pioneers of the strategy in the space. So, yes, it sounds great, and it’s probably coming. But, in our vertical it’ll probably be sometime in the Roaring 20’s before we get around to it.

    • jgibbard says

      @mclinklove Once the expectations are set and the skills are known, it’s simply a matter of execution. This is definitely on the way.

    • jgibbard says

      @mclinklove One disagreement with @jaybaer : “days of one social media manager…is coming to a close” Only in big companies is this true.

  13. Lisa Larranaga says

    You mean I just became social media manager here and now I have to insource my duties?! :) Although I love my role, it does make sense that this is the next step in the evolution of social media management. We have so many talented, articulate people at our company that offer great perspective on the business and support for our clients. We are doing something similar without the automation and it is not 100% company-wide, but your thoughts have inspired me to think outside of the box.Thank you as always, Jay, for the insight!Best,Lisacision 

  14. says

    Love this post Jay… I have had it open in a tab for a couple of days so I would make sure to get to it and comment.I do not think you are crazy at all… insourcing has got to be where this “social media” whatever goes. No one knows the business or clients as well as internal teams. No one can react as fast as internal teams. Hold up, did I just say that. I was kidding. As a one man team, I can barley keep up with remembering to breathe, let alone stay on top of every network, post and comment. So, I think it is crucial to have a roadmap for what you discuss here, but as you say, it is a incubator test and refine project. Getting buy-in from “insourcers” and management. And yes, it is at least a 2-3 year implementation… and that is for companies that “get it” now! For me, it will be interesting to see where and what Social Media looks like in 2-3 years… let alone what teams or automation looks like.Keep on keeping on man!Doc

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  16. RajatGarg says

    Great post!I think it’s a little too early for that – companies are still trying to justify the cost of investing in social space!

  17. LisaRaymond says

    This is a great article, Jay! Even though in-sourcing is in its infancy, do you feel companies will have to create an outline of what can/can’t be posted by their employees? I believe so, otherwise not only could branding messages be broken, so could the lines of communication if sensitive information is unintentionally released on social media. What are your thoughts?

  18. says

    Spot on Jay – I am seeing this with a number of our larger clients, although not to the extent of using NLP and automating social engagement assignments. This does remind me of the platform Best Buy built for Twitter and their Twelpforce customer service initiative a few years back. I’ve found myself using the “insourcing” term more often – thanks to Marcus for that :)

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