There are certainly aspects of maintaining a social media presence that are tempting to delegate to interns or outsource to outside companies.
Before you turn to others to "do your social media" for you, remember that social media are just communication tools like telephones and email.
When you have someone "do" email or phone for you, what's that like? How does it go over with the recipient? Would you let just anyone do it?
I prefer you don't delegate the interaction at all. Delegate monitoring and even researching and drafting or the actual act of posting, if you have to.
But be very, very careful if you delegate more.
If you're a knowledge worker—like a CPA or lawyer—delegating these things well requires finding someone who has exceptional judgment, thinks like you do, and resembles our idea of that superindispensable assistant of the old days—the one who anticipates what we need before we even know we need it. Like Radar O'Reilly.
That person can do your social media "for" you effectively. Interns most probably can't. Outside companies need to be carefully vetted.
(Note: I, in no way, endorse letting someone pretend to be you. I'm referring only to outsourcing company-level social-media interactions. If you have stand-ins for your individual-level interactions, you should be completely transparent about that. Without exception.)
Hiring good judgment isn't cheap. And it's rare to find.
Companies and firms of all sizes—even those with savvy, good-sized marketing departments—sometimes hire outside agencies to interact on the social web on their behalf. Whether it's corporate tweeting and Facebook-page posting, or posting comments on blogs to try to drive some traffic back to their website and boost SEO (search engine optimization), there are businesses who assure you that they'll handle everything you need—you essentially put your entire social web presence in their hands.
And some probably do a good job. (Another note: I've not personally found one yet.)
If you, as the person hiring them, don't know how to go about "doing" social media effectively to begin with, what they say could sound really good. The words and concepts are foreign to you. You don't really want to deal with it. Hiring them solves a big problem for you.
But check out that SEO link I just shared a couple paragraphs ago. Google tells you what to be wary of. Don't let the mystery of what social media entail make you blind to good decision making.
Many of these agencies resort to bad practices and slimy tactics to get you "out there." Sometimes on purpose, and sometimes it's just pure ignorance; they think the approaches are fine. They think what they sell is what you want. Like you sell Viagra or something.
This is why you need to understand what you're actually buying.
A few days ago, I received blog spam from one of the top 10 public-accounting firms in the world who seems to have retained an agency to alleviate their social-media headache.
The comment they submitted on an ancient post of mine makes no effort to even pretend to interact with my blog. Its purpose is to attempt to improve search results for the firm related to the keywords included in the comment.
I'll guarantee you that the company is reporting to this Top 10 firm that "we've placed # of links for you as comments on credible blogs." Uh-huh.
Here, I've redacted the firm name and IP address to spare the firm some embarrassment. But not every firm is so fortunate.
Take Martindale-Hubbell (the 140-year-old lawyer-directory company) for example. They hired a company to help them and that company took a similar SEO-boosting path by posting comments to legal blogs.
They at least tried to be conversational. Sort of.
Much to MH's dismay, the hired gun posted a spammy, fake-conversational comment on the New York Personal Injury Attorney Blog whose author Eric Turkewitz called them out. This is the offending gibberish comment:
Being a representative of a law firm, reading an article and blogging and commenting on legal issues has always proved to be useful. To some extent, information given on such blogs and the comments and articles has benefited the victims facing complexities in term of legal issues and helps us also update our knowledge of what is happening around and what all complexities we should expect from our future cases.. It provides a great platform to discuss experiences and share knowledge.
This was particularly bad for MH because they happened to have been well into a promotion about being a leader in social media (which no one in the social-media space believed because of how isolated MH's lawyer listings are from important things like, say, Google searches) even before they proved they weren't a social-media leader with this really bad we-don't-get-it move.
Don't let this happen to you!
Be sure you know exactly what the agency (or person) you're thinking of hiring intends to do in your name.
Do you really want random people making telephone calls or sending emails on your behalf?
Well, letting them interact on the interwebz for you is the very same thing. Without equipping your helpers with information they need in order to represent you knowledgeably, you could really look the fool.
Choose wisely and learn the basics and nuances about anything new to you before you go hiring someone to help you step into it or you could end up with it all over your shoe.
Feature photo courtesy of Joel Abroad on Flickr.