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5 Keys to Effective Social Media and Content Insourcing

Authors: Jay Baer Jay Baer
Posted Under: Social Media
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5 Keys to Effective Social Media and Content Insourcing
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Jay Baer Blog PostLast week, I wrote about Marcus Sheridan’s concept of “insourcing” and the need to expand your social media and content marketing beyond a centralized, command and control structure (typically led by marketing).

At Convince & Convert, we get involved in these “insourcing” programs often, working with corporate clients to create social business structure that facilitates participatory breadth. Much of what we know is contained in The NOW Revolution, and here are five other recent observations and lessons that might help you on your own journey.

1. Guidelines Don’t Impede Participation, They Foster It

If you’re going to expand your social media and content marketing program with insourcing, it’s critical that you have guidelines in place (even if you’re a smaller company). Like Amber Naslund, my co-author on The NOW Revolution, I prefer “guidelines” to “social media policy” as it’s more positive and less punitive.

Many companies create these documents to “show employees what they can’t do.” But you’ll be far better off if you turn that thinking upside down and show employees what they CAN do in social media and content marketing. Then, instead of creating fear of transgression within the ranks, these guidelines provide the guard rails team members need to confidently participate.

On a related front, it is 100% necessary that these guidelines are rolled out with training and discussion, not simply an emailed PDF that’s been signed off on by legal. Social media and content insourcing is riddled with circumstantial judgement calls, and you need to take EVERY opportunity to actually discuss these issues face to face with your broader team.

As my friend and client Mark Stouse from BMC Software told me recently, “the right laws create liberty.”

2. Nobody Participates at Bayonet Point

Anyone who will be half-way decent at social media and content creation in your company probably already has a fairly busy and taxing role within the organization. They are probably not sitting around thinking “it would be grand if someone gave me a bunch of new stuff to do that requires me to commit long-term, and sometimes participate in near real-time.”

With rare exceptions, being part of an insourcing effort shouldn’t be a requirement. Instead, look for volunteers who want to participate, and have a passion for it. After all, if you don’t love social media, you probably suck at social media. 

3. Create an Ensemble Cast

One of the mistakes I see companies make in their insourcing efforts is having too few options for participation. Think of yourself as the casting director of a big, sweeping drama like Game of Thrones. You need a lot of characters, each bringing something different to the table, to make it all work.

When you are looking for initial volunteers, make sure to emphasize that they will have a choice of ways to get involved. Maybe door number one is an occasional blog post. Perhaps door number two is monitoring industry blogs and forums and Linkedin groups, and responding when appropriate. And then door number three might be using Twitter to participate in industry chatter on a more frequent basis.

What you love about social media may not be what other people love about it. If you have someone that loves Instagram, you’re better off finding a way to allow them to participate there than you are trying to force them to become a power Twitter user.

It takes a village to become a social business. Don’t build the village out of cookie-cutter houses. 

4. Find a Champion

In most companies, the group responsible for the initial broadening of social media and content is the marketing/communication team. Eventually, in bigger companies, you may have a multiple hub-and-spoke model, or a fully decentralized approach – both of which disperse marketing’s initial authority. But at first, marketing/communication are usually the folks driving the initiative. Which is why it’s critical to find champions that ARE NOT in marketing.

At first, do not roll out your insourcing program to large numbers of employees at one time. Instead, introduce it to small groups of internal influencers who have a passion for social and content. See who bubbles over with enthusiasm within these initial groups – those people become your tier one champions who get fully behind the effort and help propagate and cheerlead.

Marketing is not always viewed as 100% objective on these matters, because it’s part of their job to do this stuff. But, if you have a small group of tier one champions in operations, finance, R&D, sales, who can help convince larger groups of employees that insourcing is worthwhile, you’re on your way to success.

5. Provide Round-the-Clock Support

Employees taking the plunge into social media and content creation on behalf of the company may very well be getting involved in social media channels and scenarios with which they are not wholly familiar and experienced. You do not want their unease to inhibit participation.

You absolutely must have resources (internal and/or third party) that can answer questions and provide guidance in a near-immediate, non-judgmental, confidential fashion. The last point is important, as high level employees in particular may not be comfortable admitting in group scenarios that they don’t know how to do something such as change the distribution settings on a Facebook status update.

So, provide support one-on-one, but be certain to capture those questions and create a living FAQ that is accessible by all. This organic knowledge base will eventually prevent you from having to answer the same questions again and again.

Remember, if you ask team members to help you in social media and content marketing, and they don’t know certain nuances of the trade, that’s your fault, not theirs. Frequent, robust training + help desk is the key.


What other lessons have you learned in getting more people involved with insourcing?



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