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How To Win Friends and Influence Data (err…people?) Pt. 2 — Is it OK to Outsource?

In this series of blog posts, we are fleshing out, in sort of real-time, our methods and structure for an “engagement tracking” system online. MaintainPR is a brand new social media and SEO focused consultancy and our goal is to be transparent during these formative steps of the business, to encourage discussion and comments, and hopefully learn more along the way. In this post, Ryan tackles outsourcing in social media.

Pt. 2 — Is it OK to Outsource?

This past week I was either reading my Small Business for Dummies guide (borrowed of course), pitching my Social Media Week event idea to random pubs and companies around Shoreditch (no luck thus far) … or sorting Facebook and Twitter contacts into lists. Twitter win. Facebook fail.

In the midst of all these tasks, even a social creature like myself can forget about the two most important cornerstones in social media marketing and PR: Presence, and Engagement.

I’ll get to to Engagement in the next post, but for now, let me ask this. Am I the only guy in the room who is thinking “Why shouldn’t I apply the guiding principal of the best selling book The 4-Hour Work Week to my social channels while I am focusing on the other, more important tasks?” Answer: No.

So…I sent an email to one of the larger, renowned “virtual assistant” service providers in India. What they came back with did not sell me on the idea. Here’s why.

If you are unfamiliar with the concept, author Timothy Ferriss outlines a blueprint in the above mentioned book on how to dodge the office life, get the help of India-based professional assistants who know more about Excel and Powerpoint than you do anyway, and begin a jet-setting existence where you manage everything you do professionally in between heliskiing and snorkling adventures in Costa Rica.

Yes, I sort of read the book. And I definitely know more than a few managers who were obviously trying their hand at the promise land…but that’s getting off topic.

What I was looking for in my virtual assistant was someone who could help me grow my inbound social presences. What I mean by “inbound” is not my communication channels (i.e. Facebook and Twitter), but rather my sources for social discovery, mainly: Delicious, Google Reader, Digg, Reddit, and LinkedIn — hell even Tumblr since the friend finder on this platform sucks!

I had methods in mind that I would be willing to pay a going rate for, but what I got back from my contact didn’t win much confidence. Here is the thread:

Ryan: Sorry for the delayed reply. $180 (or $18 and hour) seems a little high. Can you explain a bit more about how XXXX would approach the following goals:

Grow my networks on and Digg with influential contributors who bookmark/digg items involving social media and mobile application trends first. Expand and categorize my Google Reader account with appropriate upcoming bloggers in the same spaces (social media and mobile applications) as defined by industry standard rankings. And finally, include me in the appropriate groups/contact spheres for these industries on LinkedIn.

Representative:  Random search by keying in some specific keywords will give a list of bookmarks related to the keywords. The users of those bookmarked links can be followed. Hence, a strong network can be created.

Please see our estimates below for 80 hour-a-month and 160 hours-a-month below : 80 hours-a-month  : US$ 1,360160 hours-a-month: US$ 2,480

Hmmmm…so I pay $15.50 an hour for him to type “social media” into Digg and Delicious and follow whomever is currently submitting in these topics. This is basically the same method many in the social media field approach Twitter. Pay someone or some bots to follow a bunch of people, then unfollow. Also notice there is no mention of the Google Reader question, and no mention to any sort of industry ranking service such as PostRank, Technorati…etc…

Based on this interaction, I am going to continue to slave away at the social web in the old school way…my actual interaction. But hey, maybe I’m wrong.

Do you have any good experience working relationships with outsourcing in social media? If so, I’d love to hear about them. I’ve added a question on Quora for this purpose:

Filed under maintainpr social media engagement outsourcing timothy ferriss the 4-hour workweek postrank technorati digg reddit delicious linkedin