Does VendAsta-Media Distributions Deal Offer Scalable Local-Social Solution?

In April reputation and social media platform provider VendAsta Technologies announced a deal with a company called Media Distribution Solutions. Among other things the deal makes Media Distribution’s video and social media content (e.g., articles) available to deploy on behalf of SMBs along with VendAsta’s reputation and social publishing tools.

MerchantCircle was I believe the first to do a more limited version of this third party content provisioning with Demand Media on behalf of SMBs. Now there are several SMB social media programs that involve periodic content updates on behalf of the local business. The frequency of those is generally monthly.

But do these programs actually deliver value for the business owner? How important is the business owner’s own “voice” and authenticity in local-social communications? Does total outsourcing make SMB social media accounts like “Stepford Wives” and thereby uninteresting to consumers?

A 2011 survey from Network Solutions of SMBs (n=500) found that 66% of social SMBs updated Facebook “at least weekly.” But 56% of respondents thought social meda took “more time than expected.”

Last year’s Local Social Summit in London featured a session dedicated to the question “Can social media be outsourced?” The panel had a mixed response to the question, arguing that certain functions of social media could be outsourced but there was a danger inherent in total outsourcing — business owners would become disconnected from valuable interactions with customers.

Perhaps the optimal SMB social media scenario involves a dedicated business owner or employee who can generate posts/Tweets/etc. him or herself multiple times a week. However most SMBs aren’t going to be able to do that. There either isn’t the time or inclination.

As a case-in-point, earlier this year I spoke to certified financial planners and financial services professionals about social media. They were told social media were important and felt compelled to be there but were also overwhelmed. They wanted new customers and didn’t want to waste time. (Probably a common attitude among SMBs.) They didn’t really value social media as a communications or CRM channel and they weren’t thinking long-term about developing a “community” of fans/followers.

Their situations, however, are somewhat unique in that financial services professionals have many regulatory and legal “compliance” issues to deal with. These often ambiguous and evolving rules cast a shadow of uncertainty over what they can say on social media sites and make the entire enterprise a chore.

There are vendors (e.g., Faulkner Media Group) that provide compliance-approved social media content specifically for financial planners that can be used in newsletters, blog posts, on Facebook and Twitter. For them this approach makes lots of sense, given the compliance challenges they have.

The VendAsta-Media Distribution is conceptually similar. It offers pre-written/pre-produced content for social media distribution. How well is this likely to work?

My sense is that the efficacy of such an approach will vary by business category. In some categories pre-produced third party content will well work while in others it’s less likely to succeed. Lawyers would benefit potentially while restaurants less so. However, for third party sales channels the VendAsta-Media Distribution approach deal does represent a kind of “scalable” template for SMB-social media programs.

In an ideal world, verticalized content from such programs would be mixed with content that SMBs generate themselves. That direct SMB participation can become more direct and frequent over time, as they become acclimated to the “culture of social media.” In other words, these third party programs can jumpstart an SMB social media solution and over time business owners can get more involved as they feel more comfortable. This was the pattern observed by Needium, a Twitter monitoring tool targeting the SMB market.

In such cases there might be a shift from full-service outsourcing to a more “a la carte” approach as the business owner’s social media sophistication grows.

To what extent do you think that programs outsourcing social media content creation can be effective? Do you believe that an effective social media presence relies entirely on the SMB’s own “authentic” voice?

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One Response to “Does VendAsta-Media Distributions Deal Offer Scalable Local-Social Solution?”

  1. Ches Hagen says at

    Greg, good post and very valid points.  As we look at this SMB space and the challenge that they all face with social interaction with their fans, followers, customers and next-customers, we see the following:

    As you point out, SMBs are challenged with ongoing content creation for their social sources.  We see pre-written posts as seeding the conversation for the business owner rather than replacing the conversation.  However, these posts are just the beginning of the social experience.  Our vision for the long term is to offer a content experience that captures the attention of customers and prospective customers through social media. To capture an audience, the SMB must offer high quality professionally produced content including articles, videos, podcasts, photos, and other entertaining and informative media.  In our (soon to be released) world, high quality content is catalogued, edited in some cases, and prepared through our tagging engine to be deployable by SMBs on their social presences.  People enjoy media (new or old) because it entertains and informs.  If posts written to promote products and services dominate social media use by businesses, the fans will not stay.  Imagine an entire TV channel of only infomercials.  Yes there will be some audience, but the masses are watching channels that bring high quality entertainment and information targeted to their interests.  While they enjoy, they are presented with persuasive offers from business in the form of commercials.  In a sense, so it is with our content strategy.  High quality content offered by an SMB will capture the attention of an audience who will subsequently be presented with posts about a business’ products and services. We think of it like a hyper-targeted push media.

    Always appreciate your comments and thoughts in this area… its an exciting future ahead of all of us.

  2. Media Distribution Solutions Makes AP Content Available to SMB Social Marketers says at

    […] I wrote last week about Media Distribution Solutions (MDS) in connection with its deal with VendAsta’s reputation and social publishing platform: Does VendAsta-Media Distributions Deal Offer Scalable Local-Social Solution? […]

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