Nike, and why social can’t be outsourced

Here’s a great story to start 2013: Marketing Week reports that Nike has apparently taken its social media management in-house and away from its digital advertising agencies.

Funnily enough, I’ve just finished working with an agency to which a number of brands outsource their social media community management. The experience has cemented in my mind the fact that the management of social media properties, community management (or so-called, much is a fallacy in my view) and a whole host of other stuff cannot and should not be outsourced. It needs to be handled by people immersed 100% in the brand (including physically) day in, day out.

The move by Nike has reportedly been taken after a review by incoming social media director Musa Tariq. Perhaps it’s no surprise; Tariq has recently joined Nike from digital and social media poster child Burberry which, as far as I understand it, rarely uses agencies in relation to any of its social media activity.

I think it marks a trend that we’ll see more and more of in 2013. For the past few years which have largely seen brands experimenting with social media (and increasingly social business) many have been happy to outsource all aspects: strategy, creative, implementation and management. I absolutely still see a role for agencies in strategy and creative – in helping brands understand how new and emerging social techniques and technologies could be employed to benefit their stakeholders’ experience – but in my view the on-going management can only be handled in-house.

Looking at the broader social business implications, I also think that brands will have cause to consider whether other functions which have been outsourced might be better served as in-house functions as they become more social. Principal amongst these is customer service. As we all well know, many consumer-facing organisations have outsourced their customer service function in recent years. To me this is counter-intuitive. For instance, pretty much the only direct, one-on-one contact I have with my bank these days is when I (rarely) call customer service. That’s a prime opportunity to enhance my experience to potential comercial gain, and yet it’s outsourced. There’s no brand enhancement there at all. In fact, if anything, it’s the opposite. Odd.

Anyway, a belated Happy New Year. Looks like it’ll be an interesting one ahead.

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