Image source: Nick Youngson via Creative Commons

More companies, nonprofits and government agencies now monitor news and social media to gain insights about how the public perceives their brands and services and how their PR and marketing programs affect those perceptions.

Many organizations conduct social media listening in-house. These are eleven reasons to outsource media monitoring and measurement to an experienced service provider.

Save staff time. Managing social media monitoring and analyzing thousands or even millions of media mentions consumes a substantial amount of time to do it well. And time is money, as the saying goes. Staff time is not free. Because employees have other pressing duties, they often tend to neglect social media listening. Outsourcing social media listening frees in-house (and agency) staff to concentrate on important planning and implementation of campaigns and other strategic functions that require in-house perspective.

Gain access to specialized expertise. Staff at established social media monitoring and measurement firms are comparable to accountants or attorney: They are professionals who have special knowledge and expertise to guide clients. Trained media analysts can help assure better media coverage with advanced search queries. They can use appropriate selection techniques to refine the data to analyze and can determine which metrics are best suited to meet each client’s specific objectives. They also can uncover insights staff might not and make recommendations to enhance the media intelligence results.

Lower costs. Some organizations may assume that using in-house staff to monitor media is less expensive than hiring a third-party supplier. The somewhat surprising truth is that outsourcing can offer a more cost-effective solution because it enables in-house employees to be more productive and because it spreads development costs across many different clients. Some media monitoring services such as tailor their social media listening and dashboard to each client’s needs so that clients pay only for what they need.

Obtain objective analysis. Interpretation of online content can be subjective. In-house staff may tend to reach biased conclusions since they are deeply involved with the brand every day. An outsourced solution provides unbiased analysis on sentiment toward your brand, your services, the competition and issues in your industry niche. “Outside experts are not saddled with sacred cows, internal politics, or ‘not my job’ syndromes,” says social media expert Urban Renstrom. “And outside experts, must respect politics and tread lightly, but, importantly, have a laser focused determination to achieve the results you want.”

Superior technology. Outsourced media monitoring and measurement services have spent years developing advanced hardware platforms and software that provides comprehensive monitoring, integrated analytics and customizable dashboards with easy-to-use interfaces.

More use. In-house listening is more likely to fall into disuse due to lack of staff time and expertise – and because most staff members simply don’t like to do it. Most organizations are more likely to continue to use a paid service — and continue to gain its benefits. Analogy: People who join gyms are more likely to exercise because they’re paying for the facility.

Always on and available. The software as a service (SaaS) dashboards, based in the so-called cloud, are always on and readily available with any browser from anywhere at any time, making them the most convenient way to conduct PR and marketing analysis. Clients can request specific analytics at any time – without having to do the actual work.

Integrated metrics. Integrated media monitoring solutions with a single dashboard for easy viewing combine reports from social media, online news websites, print and broadcast media as well as a company’s Google Analytics. Most importantly, they include integrated metrics and analytics for all the media types.

Better analytics and insights. The online dashboards of outsourced media intelligence services include a broader and deeper set of analytics than most any in-house analysis that uses spreadsheets or other desktop tools. The outsourced analytics provide better insights about media coverage, consumer sentiment and communications campaigns.

Enterprise applications. The media results and analytics in online dashboards can be easily shared with other departments and functions across the organization. Segmentation of results is easy to accomplish and to share with product managers, country managers and others who want media analysis that focuses on their specific area of responsibility.

Many options. The number of media intelligence services for both news and social media has grown in recent years, providing businesses, nonprofits and government agencies a wider range of options and prices. The available options can be overwhelming. It’s crucial to vet vendors thoroughly and ask extensive questions before reaching a decision. Some vendors combine media monitoring with other services such as media database and news release distribution in a PR version of the triple play. However, customers usually obtain better service and prices by purchasing those services separately from different vendors.

Bottom Line: Outsourcing media monitoring and measurement services provides crucial advantages over trying to perform the task in house, including specialized expertise, advanced technology and objective analysis. Organizations that outsource the service are better positioned to obtain the full benefits of media listening – and ultimately find that outsourcing is more cost effective.