So you don’t have the time, inclination, or the ability to be a social media star. The problem is that most SME owners and managers are short of time.

Most don't have the time to become a master of social media, write AdWords campaigns, and build a website. The best way forward for them is to outsource.

There is plenty of 'How To' advice online and lots of books available through public libraries, says interactive and digital media director at Starcom Alex Radford. Unless, however, you're really passionate about social media then it's best left to the experts.

Like all aspects of business it makes sense to have an expert on the job. That could be a member of staff, or an agency.

Rebecca McLeod, who owns, realised earlier this year that she needed to outsource her day-to-day social media presence. "I was trying to do it myself, but I just wasn't connecting (with people)," says McLeod, whose business sells babycare products.


McLeod tracked down a consultant who had experience with social media strategies for a baby-related business. The consultant understands the Made4Baby customer base because she is a mother, says McLeod.

She posts on Made4Baby's Facebook page daily and interacts with mothers who engage with her. If a query arises that she can't answer for the company, she contacts McLeod.

The consultant has doubled the number of "likes" on the Made4Baby Facebook page in the four months she has managed it, says McLeod. The posts are being seen by many more potential customers. One posting had 11,000 people talking about it. Social media isn't about just pushing out marketing messages. Some of the most successful posts on Made4Baby's Facebook page have been motivational sayings that make mums at home feel good about themselves, and cute baby photographs, which are shared.

Even if the posting isn't about Made4Baby's products, it gets the company's name in front of a lot of potential customers, says McLeod.

Since McLeod outsourced her social media presence, online orders doubled - partly, she says, due to the business's Facebook activity.

Medium-size businesses sometimes fail to understand the importance of social media and therefore they don't commit sufficient expenditure, says Craig Garner.

It makes sense for the organisations to use specialist agencies for their social media marketing, he believes.

"If you engage someone from outside you ensure that they are focussed and they have the experience. They know the platforms, they know the tricks and they focus on ensuring it works."

Don't, however, hand over the whole lot to an agency, he adds. Keep the content creation in-house. A third party agency may not be able to reflect your brand's personality adequately online.

Social media agencies abound. There are, however, cowboys in the marketplace that should be avoided - especially if they're based overseas. They may bamboozle the business owner with dubious facts and figures, or claim that they'll get you a gazillion followers.

Business owners need to be very clear about what they expect from a campaign. They should be looking carefully at the Insights tab on their Facebook page and the metrics pages on other social media sites to ensure their agency is doing a good job. Google Analytics can help them analyse traffic from social media sites to a business website. These metrics tell a business just how successful their campaigns are.

Beware, however. It's not all about likes and followers. The "reach" of a Facebook post is far more important than the simple number of likes. Reach measures the number of people who received impressions of a post.

Celia Hay, owner of the New Zealand School of Food and Wine, was one business owner who didn't feel that she got value for money from her social media campaign through a marketing agency called Traff1k.

Hay became concerned when she discovered two months into the campaign that more than a third of the "likes" on her Facebook page were from Turkey, and the most common demographic was 13- to 17-year-old girls. She was concerned the "likes" were being bought or created by bots that aren't real people. What's more, a large number of the Twitter followers from the campaign came from Brazil.

She is locked in a battle with the agency that says the campaign was a success and that the Turkish likes were a blip.