TDLlogoB.J. Emerson is the face behind the Tasti D-Lite Twitter handle, a frozen dessert company that has a cult-like following in New York City. They’ve begun franchising, in order to bring the cult to other parts of the country, and B.J. is tasked not only with connecting with its highly engaged customers, but also finding new franchisees and building brand awareness in new cities.

I’m really impressed with the work B.J. does – he knows how to build a community and engage the Tasti D-Lite tribe –  but what’s most impressive is he is, by trade, an IT guy.  This flies in the face of the idea that IT guys don’t know how to engage. And that’s part of the reason I like him so much.

I always use the Tasti D-Lite case study when I speak to the franchise industry and CEOs about social media. They’ve been able to show how social media campaigns can drive traffic to stores, which answers the “What’s the ROI of social media?” question.

I recently asked B.J. how he handles it all and what his feelings are on outsourcing some of what he does. Following is our conversation.

Is it possible to effectively outsource relationships?

The critical item with any social media outsourced campaign is communication between the client and firm.  Successfully putting your relationships with your customers in someone else’s hands depends on how well you communicate your vision and values and how well the insights and information is being fed back to the organization how they are used to accomplish your objectives.

At what point should an organization consider outsourcing any or all elements of social media marketing?

If current initiatives are not producing the expected results or if internal resources are stretched, it may be a good time to consider a consultation with an outside firm.

There may have a specific campaign that you could test drive with an external partner and focus internal resources on other social media objectives.

What kind of things should you look for when partnering with a social media marketing firm?

Request recent case studies of effective campaigns for other clients along with references. Look for a positive presence and reputation within the same online communities that you are considering engaging in.

What could a company be missing if everything wasn’t handled internally?
If you have the resources and appropriate talent, the experience and perspective that can be gained from firsthand virtual engagement with customers is invaluable.  If outsourced, these insights will need to be carefully communicated through the partner. If you feel out of touch with the customer, something needs to change.

Are there social networks you should not, under any circumstance, outsource?

It would really be dependent on how any given online community is being used and what the objectives are.  For example, using Twitter for collecting customer insights would be different than using it for handling customer service.  The latter would likely be more difficult to effectively outsource.  Activities involving a greater level of intimacy with the customer deserve closer management and internal control.  Both client and partner should be able to recognize these situations.

Is there anything else you’d like to ask B.J. on the topic of outsourcing social media? Comment here and we’ll see about getting your questions answered.

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

View all posts by Gini Dietrich