I attended a gardening seminar with a friend this past weekend. I enjoy gardening, and like to raise herbs and vegetables for cooking. For my friend S., however, gardening is more of a passion. She is active in her local gardening club; she can identify pretty much any plant you show her; and she understands the U.S. Hardiness Zone maps.
During a break at the seminar, S. and I discussed our "second acts". Mine is this, the Social Media Smith. Hers is TBD - she currently works as a human resources professional for a major New York university. But she had a lightbulb moment at the conference. While chatting with a master gardener who helps customers design their gardens, S. realized that this was something she could do. She could be a garden coach. This means that she wouldn't have to the actual work - mulching, weeding, watering, raking. More importantly, her job would be to help clients create the type of garden they wanted, and cansustain. S can help them understand what plants work best for their location; how and when to plant; and help them create a garden that is uniquely theirs, and that suits their location, time, tastes, and efforts.
I had an epiphany, too. I realized that this is exactly what I hope to do with my clients - help them create meaningful customer engagement through social media, without doing it for them. Instead, I want to empower my clients to build engagement in a sustainable way - in a way that suits their time, efforts, and personality.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with hiring someone to do the work for you, be it gardening or social media. That, too, is part of understanding the limits of your time and resources, and in fact outsourcing your social media work may be necessary while you are growing your business. Many larger organizations have entire teams dedicated to creating and sharing content on social media. Outsourcing gardening or social media will still have good results in the end - a beautiful garden or an active online community.
On the other hand, no matter how good your hired gardener or social media specialist is, they are not you. You are the voice of your business. You understand best how to convey your message. And, as with a garden, your presence in your online community is key to helping grow that community into one in which you engage with sincerity and meaning.
Moreover, if you are not part of the development of your garden or community, you may find yourself needing to step in and do something yourself - replace a flowering shrub or address an angry customer in an online forum - and you may not have the tools or knowledge to do it. That's not to say that you can never do these things, but you may lose precious time while you figure out next steps.
I could really milk the gardening analogy ("grow flowers in your community, not weeds" "nurture your online communities with attention", etc. ad naseum), but I'm not going there. Instead, I'll leave you with this thought:
The coach isn't in the game. The coach's job is to make the players successful by helping them develop their game skills.