Want to outsource your social media? Here's how to make it work

blog_hootsuite.jpg

At Sookio we like helping out with social media. Sometimes we run bespoke training sessions with organisations where we go in and show people how to write for social media - getting Liked and retweeted and using the right words to engage and build their particular audience.

And sometimes we look after the social media updates ourselves, keeping Facebook, Twitter and other social channels updated around the clock on behalf of a brand. Maybe it's a small business where no one has the experience or time to look after the social media themselves. Or a major brand that wants us to take on social media along with regular website content updates. We have done this for a few years now for a real variety of clients (Toshiba, Coronation Street album and musical, Luerzer's Archive, TEDxGranta, Magic FM, AOL, Cambridge Phenomenon, CamCreative), and along the way we've learned that there are some essential elements to making it work.

Regular communication is key to ensuring your social media feed is in sync with the organisation and the message it wants to give out. Book a weekly meeting to discuss what's coming up in the diary and talk about recent events.

Get on Skype or an instant messaging system so you can quickly fire questions and information at each other.

Give feedback. What works for you? What doesn't? Think about style, tone and whether the right messages are being conveyed.

Ask questions. Not everyone knows what a hashtag is. Or what a Twitter client means. Or how Facebook Pages work. Or whether you should contribute to discussions on LinkedIn. Don't feel intimidated by the latest jargon - if you don't get something,  just ask.

BREAKING! Not every social media update is going to be of monumental importance. Casual, throwaway content can help present your brand as a generous, positive character to have around.

So look out for sources of 'building block content' that you can pass on. Anything from important developments in the sector to the guy in the office who's broken his leg and the problems he's having getting to the pub on a Friday lunchtime.

Local knowledge is very useful. If your social team is working remotely, invite them over to the office before they start, so they become familiar with the location, the building, the names and faces. It all helps them 'get into character' when they are tweeting on your behalf.

What are the boundaries? As well as knowing what to say, it's vitally important to know what not to say. Which information is confidential? Any age-old battles with competitors - in which case let's not promote their content, eh? Any disgruntled former employees likely to post bitter comments on your Facebook page and try to draw you into an embarrassing argument in public?

Know your output - and everybody else's. One of the first rules of publishing - in any medium - is to know your own output. And the second is to know that of your competitors. When outsourcing your social media make sure the editor is fully briefed on the background and current operations of the company, and is always kept in the loop. And fill them in on the key organisations and figures in the industry.

Support the main feed. Keeping a handle on everyone's social media output is like herding cats. You can't stop people in the people in the organisation from tweeting and updating Facebook, but you can suggest which hashtags to use, ask them to mention the main social media channels in their updates and make it clear that anything of major importance must go through the official channel first.

Introduce everyone Further to the above point, make sure everyone knows who the social media team are and how to reach them.

How do you deal with criticism on social media? Sometimes you don't know until it happens. And the first time it happens, it can sting. So it's worth thinking about this in advance and creating a policy for dealing with criticism and negative comments so it's there to refer to if things get heated further down the line.

Whoever you outsource your social media to should always refer the matter internally before responding. And it's always worth pausing and taking a deep breath first - angry responses have a habit of sticking around a lot longer than polite, helpful ones!

Set clear targets and goals Why are you on social media anyway? What are you trying to achieve? Who are you trying to impress? Before embarking on a relationship with an external editor make sure you have thought this through so they have a clear idea of the type of message they need to convey. And whether it is working!

Google Analytics and Facebook Insights are both free and allow you to track progress very easily, plus there are a host of social media monitoring tools which give you a more in-depth picture of your success across many different platforms and channels.

Know your audience So who are these people you're reaching out to? It's important to share all demographic information you have on your audience as it will help with the timing and tone of the message and the decision on which platforms to use.

For example, a younger audience is likely to be on Facebook in the after-school slot. You may want to reach professionals who will be on LinkedIn. Or the audience may be very global, in which case you should pay attention to timezones and post content appealing to the US consumers when they're actually awake.