Social media is mature. Time to get organized!

Summer vacation is over (at least in Europe) and it’s a good time to rally the marketing troops and kick off some new ways of working. In terms of social media, I’d say it’s time to get organized.

I’ve recently met with a few pretty advanced companies – market leaders in their field, even – to discuss social media. To my surprise, I learnt that in some of these companies social media is (still) seen as something new and uncharted. Certainly, in a direct comparison with other tools social media may seem new but in fact, it’s not. We can debate the exact date of its birth, but it’s not really relevant (it’s before 2004-2006 when Facebook and Twitter entered the stage). Relevant is rather the exceptionally fast development of social, which implies that social media today must be counted a rather mature marketing communications practice. At least a ‘young adult’. So if you still consider social media a kid, it’s time to change your mindset and get organized.

Social media goes straight into the core of the company’s communications practice. We’re talking about communications platforms that engage >2 Billion people worldwide, according to Simply Measured’s report, and it’s basically the only place where a company can talk to/chat personally with a multitude of its customers every day.  The question companies should ask themselves is:
How can we get organized to make social media an efficient, productive, integrated practice in our communications toolbox NOW?

The internal challenge

In getting organized for social, it’s important to realize that social media management touches upon the responsibilities of many other departments in the company, as it is an interactive channel to the external world.  Social channels are entrance doors to the company, wide-open to anyone, anywhere in the world 24/7. It’s important to establish an internal culture of sharing as the social media team will not be able to create relevant content or answer external questions without the help of others. It’s important to create trust.

I’d suggest to review the challenges and then apply the company’s ordinary structure to the extent possible. Basically, strategy and tactics should be defined by your strategy-oriented department, while the daily management should be handled by people who really care for your customers/audiences and master small-talk. The true magic of social can only be earned if the people manning the channels bring their heart to work.

Getting organized

Every company has its structure and culture to consider, so I won’t give exact advice on the organizational set-up here. A few years ago I was one in the choir of voices who called for a dedicated social media department in companies. Today as social media has matured, my advice would be the opposite: Make social media strategy and tactics management an integrated part of your ordinary communications management. Depending on your line of business, consider to place the daily social media management either in the communications department or with customer service and support.
Do what’s best considering your business structure and company culture.

Said that, I’d like to focus more on the competences needed. There are a few roles/responsibilities one cannot do without if the target is an efficient, productive social media team:

SM roles responsiblities

First, someone needs to get the global, overall responsibility for social media management. This may seem obvious but can be a hard nut to crack, especially in large organizations. It’s however worth the effort to make it clear to the organization who’s in charge. With tools and practices developing fast, and with a people-intense task like community management, someone needs to keep the long-term perspective, the budget, and own the targets.

Next, there are three perspectives to consider: The channel strategy, positioning and continuous development of the channels; the daily content management; the measurement and analysis. All three perspectives present both strategic and tactical challenges, implying that people with different skills and experiences will be needed to form an efficient team.

The three tasks summarized:

  • Channel strategy and development: On top of market and technical development, new tools and practices. The one to represent the agreed long-term strategy in every discussion. With this competence, it’s also the most relevant role to take responsibility for internal social media training.
  • Content and crisis management: On top of main messages, tone of voice, creative assets, prioritized campaigns, and continuous community management. Manages the publishing plan, activates the assets and chats with the external audience every day. The one who represents “the present” in team discussions. With this competence and active presence, it’s natural that this role takes the main responsibility for crisis management in social.
  • Follow-up and measurements: On top of the data – followers, engagement, target achievements, performance of different types of content, etc. In the team discussions, this role should bring the neutral, outside-in, perspective.

One could argue that an experienced social media manager should be able to perform all of these tasks and take on all these roles, at least for a smaller business. Maybe so. But I would argue that the key to a real success, i.e. effective contribution to the business, cost-effective management, and great brand building, is to allow the three perspectives to fight a bit and develop both strategy and tactics together.

Allowing the three perspectives and related competences to take room in the internal social media discussions, there is a fair chance that companies who still consider social “new” will catch up very fast, and that the social media activities will truly contribute to the business goals.

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PS: For those of you interested in social media history, I’d suggest: “The History of Social Media Marketing Suite” by Simplify 360, or this geek lesson written by Matt Smith in 2013.

Blog first published on LinkedIn August 26, 2015

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