Many companies completely outsource social media management. These companies may have good reasons for this decision. Yet, when outsourced, social media communications misrepresent reality. In fact, is it possible that completely outsourcing your social media accounts should be outlawed? Below are a couple issues to consider:

1. False Advertising

Proponents of outsourced social media consider social content nothing more than marketing. This argument compares traditional marketing such as print, video and online ads to social media. But there’s a vast difference. Advertising is a one-way communication and is typically approved by the company. When it comes to real-time social media, the culture, tone and message from the outsourcing provider may not be accurate and there’s no time to pre-approve. Fully outsourced social media therefore runs the risk of false advertising.

2. Impersonation

If someone stood in for you at a job interview and you were hired, you’d be fired soon after. Yet, we expect consumers to interact with brands that use stand-ins. Those of us working in social media know this is common practice. However, the average consumer believes they are building a relationship with the organization. In reality, that relationship is with an impersonator. Relationships with impostors is no way to grow your business. Yet, we realize many companies still need help in social media channels. Whether it’s creative inspiration, relationship management skills or staff augmentation, third parties can still play a key role. Instead of outsourcing your entire social media management, below are some ways to leverage third parties that do not border on false advertising or impersonation.

1. Disclaimers

If the person managing an account is an employee, many companies disclaim this person in their profile. However a disclaimer when a third party is involved is extremely rare. Comments such as, “Overseen by the good folks at Acme Creative” go a long way toward transparency with consumers.

2. Source Components

Rather than completely outsourcing social media management, outsource components. Get to the heart of why you chose to outsource – was it lack of creativity, people or expertise? Then, source the appropriate components. For example, you could have a third party provide content creation, creative or customer insights, training and more. Then, have employees manage the actual accounts – approving content before it goes live and building relationships with consumers. This is a great way to build your social media team in house, over time. Social media is not a new concept. Companies should build these skills and capacity within their organization. Whether you think it borders on unlawful or not, completely outsourcing this work could leave your consumers agitated. Avoid disappointing your stakeholders with disclaimers and strategic sourcing, instead.

Question: Should outsourcing an entire social media department be outlawed or do we just need disclaimers and strategic sourcing?

Ben Lichtenwalner is the author of Paradigm Flip: Leading People, Teams, and Organizations Beyond the Social Media Revolution. He blogs at and is found on Twitter at @BLichtenwalner. Ben’s mission is to advocate servant leadership awareness, adoption and action. He has a unique perspective on social media as a tool for greater leadership influence and writes often on the topic.

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