How to decide between outsourcing and internal — Live from the Brands-Only Summit

Coverage of this session by Bridgette Cude of

10:15 —'s Erin McDaniel introduces Motorola Mobility's Barbara Liss.

10:16 — Barbara: The room is split pretty evenly on who does more social media in-house vs. out-of-house. Barbara says that's why it's a hard topic to talk about since so many people are in a different place and have different perspectives.

10:17 — Barbara: As a brand manager, someone who's worked at an agency, this is a journey through my thought process and opinions.

10:18 — This is an incredibly personal decision. It's really similar to raising a child. Determining what's right for you, your child, and the stakeholders in their life. It's totally unique to each person.

10:19 — Barbara explains the thought process:

  1. What do I have?
  2. What do I need?
  3. Who do I need and how do I get them?
  4. How do you make sure it was the right choice?

10:20 — Barbara: Know what you're good at: I know I'm a big idea person, the creative director, the person your agencies hate. I understand the consumer. I like telling people what to do.

10:21 — Barbara: Know what you're not good at: I know I'm not great at data and analytics, creating content, and making a PowerPoint.

10:22 — Barbara: Know you're people: What does your team look like? What are their skill sets? How hard is it to bring in new people? How hard is it to train them?

10:23 — Barbara: Know your boss: What is he/she good at? What will make him/her look good? What does he/she care about? At the end of the day, if she looks good, I look good.

10:24 — Barbara: Know your budget: It's common sense, but every organization is different. Your headcount budget and your agency budget might be in two totally different places. It's crazy and out of our control. So it's about asking the right questions and understanding what you can do.

10:25 — Barbara says social media is all about real time so it's OK to adapt and work with what you have.

10:26 — Barbara: What do you need: Is my strategy sound? If you know your consumer target, your business goals, your voice, and a defined process, you don't need an agency to tell you that.

How much community management is required: How demanding are your consumers? What kind of industry are you in? For example, with a CPG brand, your community management will be very different from an electronics or a regulated industry.

10:27 — Can I create enough of the right content? The platforms are changing, the type of content is changing.

  • Consumers make amazing content. And there are agencies to help you tap into that. FOAP for example has created an app for.
  • UGC so that customers can submit their stuff and sell you their photos and content. They have a great dashboard. It's an amazing way to get real content.
  • Another one: Niche has tapped into a YouTube and Vine influencers to help them work with brands.
  • “Micro agencies” can get you scale and depth.
  • Employees create better stuff than you think.

10:30 — Am I measuring the right things?

  • Am I equipped to tackle paid social? 64% of advertisers will increase their paid budget.
  • If you decide you need an agency to help you?
  • Full service
  • Community management, etc.

10:31 — Barbara: Do your homework: Google, LinkedIn,, Twitter. But don't make yourself crazy — focus in on what you need. RFPs work. Don't be afraid to ask people to show you want you need. Get a scorecard upfront.

10:32 — Barbara: Get the right folks in the room, and be honest with the contenders. You think it's personal but at the end of the day, you have to do what's right for you.

10:33 — Barbara says evaluations are essential. Set your goals upfront. Check in with your agencies and yourselves regularly. Allow your agencies to evaluate you. Consider unique compensation models.

10:34 — Barbara: At the end of the day: There's no right or wrong. It's about what;s right for you. Nobody knows your business as well as you.

Q & A

Q: There's been this adamant notion that you don't outsource community management and if you do it's not authentic and can't be done well. I'm struggling with that because I'm struggling with being authentic vs. being overwhelmed. Can you talk about what your thoughts are on that?

A: Barbara: I have always outsource community management because I've never had a team able to do it. With the right agency it becomes seamless. You can ask them to sit in our office next to you. But sometimes they live it and breathe it. Just like you train an employee to do community management, you can do that with an agency. I think consumers are ok with it as well as it's transparent.

Back to the parent metaphor: If you're overwhelmed and can't take care of yourself, you can't take care of everyone else.

I wouldn't be scared of losing authenticity by going to an agency.

Q: Concerning UCG: We have a really big brand team, everything has to go through legal and other teams. How do you get content from micro agencies like FOAP and Niche through legal?

A: Barbara: These agencies have worked with other big brands, so they know how to work with legal. They do a lot of that work for you. Sometime we just ask if we can use their UGC, they say yes, and it's OK.

The brand piece is harder. I'm more about asking for forgiveness. I know the social space, what works well in social, and how to represent the brand in social. Sometimes it's about sitting down with them. Or asking them to pick a topic, you create an image and we'll see which one does better.

Q: We divide community management into customer service (in-house) and campaign (out-house). Any resource, tips, tricks, or traffic management tools that work for you?

A: Barbara: I agree that the hybrid model can work. ,As far as the data analytics traffic side goes, that's not my area of expertise.

Q: We have 70 different business units. The problem we have with agencies is turnover with agencies. How do you overcome this?

A: Barbara: I've been lucky with consistency on the team. It's almost on you on the brand side to have a strong enough brand and voice that it can sustain change. You can easily lift and shift your nuts and bolts but it's about having the right voice playbook in place. Maybe you also have to think about the agencies you're working with. If there's that mych turnover, maybe they're not working for you.