Believe it or not, there are hundreds of thousands of highly successful companies that were founded in the 80s, 90s and the 2000s, well-before the age of business social media. Each of these companies employ dozens to thousands of people but understandably never formed a social media team or placed any one person in charge of social media marketing at their company. Companies like these know they’ve fallen behind the times. These companies have all opened a Facebook page but have left them untouched for years. The inactivity of their Twitter accounts shows this channel was never understood. Knowing who to turn to and where to start as social media strategy is foreign territory for leadership at these companies. If any of this sounds like you or your company, this blog has been written to help you decide who should manage social media at your organization.
We will go over several options for a company that has decided to finally invest in social media management. We will discuss the pros and cons of keeping social media managed within a department in your organization or have everything outsourced to a social media agency. As you read each section, think deeply about the true reasons your company wants to have a presence on social media. Is your company motivated by competitors? Has revenue been showing a declining trend? Is your brand story not reaching your community? Are you doing it for your B2B partners?
Office Administrators to Manage Social Media
For mostly smaller organizations across the country, general office administrators, especially receptionists and office coordinators, have been asked to manage social media. For one reason or another, social media marketing is still perceived as a burden at some organizations and leadership simply wants it dealt with by someone, regardless if it makes little to no sense whatsoever. That is not to suggest that a receptionist or an office coordinator is not intelligent enough or less qualified than anyone else at a company to handle the responsibility, but they wouldn’t be the first candidates on my list. The main reason is that office administrators are already tasked with having to wear too many hats at the company. An office admin is already busy managing office resources, meetings, calendars, events, the random and the trivial. What happens when you mix in the time-consuming development of social media strategy and management of the company’s social streams? Who is helping to create content? It’s not a realistic proposition that can be sustained over any period of time.
Granted, office admin staff may not be the right candidates to handle the day-to-day brand storytelling and social media management, they can however make a huge difference when it comes to the monitoring of the company’s social streams and providing online customer service when needed. We’ve seen this set-up work quite well. At some point in the online relationship with the customer, the best person to speak with a customer is someone directly from the brand itself with the most up-to-date product and service information than an agency will ever have access to. This is especially important when it comes to high-ticket products priced $10K or more.
The Corporate Communications Department to Manage Social Media
In the last few years, we’ve been seeing an increasing trend in the number of PR Directors or VP of Corporate Communications that reach out to us from companies for a social media audit or one of our social media solutions. We crunched some data from 2016-2018 and found that 22.4% of our online inquiries were from staff holding those titles. In contrast, that title led to only less than 10% of online inquiries back in 2014-2015. To be honest, it could be any number of reasons for the increase. It could be a shift in the responsibility of social media being placed on the corporate communications department in recent years. It could just as easily be the simple growth of our agency or our messaging resonating more to this specific profession. Whichever the case, there is an obvious alignment with corporate communications departments wanting to manage social media.
Here are some of the positives we’ve discovered while auditing the social streams being managed by corporate communications departments of some major brands. The VP of Corporate Communications or the PR Director is always a great writer. Their educational background is always conducive to safe, proper writing. They know the best practices for promoting new and existing products distributed by press releases, strategic trade shows, and exhibitions, as well as making sure the brand copy is clear, concise and well-received wherever it exists. This is their domain. This is something they do very, very well. We decided to audit the social media streams we knew were being written and managed by corporate communications departments. As expected, their written copy is clear and concise (like a press release). The posts, while infrequent, tend to sound more like a snippet from a press release. The essence of most social posts could be classified as “newsworthy” posts rather than “brand-building” posts.
Does that mean that the corporate communications department should manage social media at a company? At most companies, this department is quite small. This might be a single person team. It might be a few people. Regardless, they are busy. They have limited time to spend on social media. What time they have is well spent, but the lack of results will show. They might be well-trained strategic writers, but they’re typically not social media marketers and trained content creators (such as creating video content). Since the PR department is great writers of press releases, time-permitting, they’d be perfect for igniting the company blog. Not only is the company blog great for website SEO, but it’s also great for the company’s social media pages. Unlike press releases, company blogs are a great place for a company to show more of their brand personality through written storytelling. Especially when the department or company doesn’t presently have the creative capabilities or budget to produce video, photo or graphic content for their social media pages.
The Marketing Department to Manage Social Media
The marketing department makes the most sense for the social media team at any organization. This department usually has the most human resources and budget that it can allocate toward a small social media team with content created with in-house creatives or outsourced to an agency. Unfortunately, even if your marketing leadership did not come from the pre-social media age, there still is a great chance they lack credible business social media expertise. Unless someone at your company has years of experience working at leadership for a social media agency, they probably won’t have that detailed knowledge of how to truly grow a social media community from the ground up and build it into something that produces the desired business result.
Sadly, one thing we’ve come to learn is that far too many marketing departments don’t take social media seriously enough. The responsibility of social media for the brand falls onto their department, but instead of fully embracing it, the CMO gives the task to a marketing coordinator who then shares the duty with a rotating marketing intern. This personally frustrates me on several levels. First, I understand when a company simply doesn’t have the budget. However, most of the time, the budget has absolutely nothing to do with it. It’s just pure ignorance of the wonderful results that can be achieved by executing an actual content marketing strategy specifically for social media. Second, I would never entrust the brand with a slew of interns with minimal marketing experience and zero skin in the game.
Am I against a team in the marketing department to manage social media? Quite the contrary. Like I mentioned at the start, they are the best fit to house the social team. Social media needs the minds of strategic marketers behind it. Social media produces a plethora of data which only the marketing department will appreciate and use to its fullest potential. Social media is a tool to achieve awareness with a targeted audience. Again, we’re directly in the marketing department’s wheelhouse. Social media branding is at the heart and soul of every business on social media. Not every marketing department has creative storytelling at their core. That’s okay. Many CMOs have an engineering and/or business background. If this is the case with your marketing department, I highly suggest your leadership seek alternative social media solutions.
The Sales Team to Manage Social Media
So how about the sales team to manage social media? The sales department understands the products well and has been trained to showcase the greatest assets of the brand. The best salespeople have honed the delicate balance between brand storytelling and business hyperbole.
A few years back we were contacted by a luxury car sales team that was passionate and extremely creative with their use of social media. Lucky for them, they had a sales coordinator that had a photography and videography background that was able to make daily content with the sales team. Eventually, this sales coordinator became their full-time media manager for the dealership. They understood that social media was an invaluable tool to help the entire dealership humanize the sales process. They clearly saw the social media branding opportunity to show their local community that their dealership handled things differently. They were building a special community. They were building a social media community.
Unfortunately most company sales teams don’t have the luxury of an in-house video/photo content creator for daily social media. When a sales team is tasked with the responsibility of managing the social streams, who has the spare time to deal with creating the daily content, let alone writing non-salesy sounding posts and then responding to customer’s questions and sometimes negative comments? The sales team and social media management is usually a recipe for disaster once the pressure of hitting sales quotas become an issue. Unless a company has a sales team with a unique set of skills conducive to run a consistent social media program that is equally creative as it is informative, it would be best to hand the responsibility over to another department.
Manage Social Media by Committee?
Okay. I’m not sure which is scarier. The company that chooses to manage social media by their intern of the month or the company that chooses to manage social media by committee. For those of you that are unfamiliar with the concept of managing by committee, it’s simply when a company chooses not to designate any specific individual or department to be in charge of social media. Instead, whenever anyone has extra time in their schedule or feels inspired to post something on the companies’ business pages, they are encouraged to help the company out. I am always shocked to learn of companies taking this risky and lackadaisical approach to social media. First off, without management oversight, there is little to protect the company from a PR disaster such as a well-intentioned, but nonetheless an immature post by an employee that goes unnoticed by leadership for weeks until it becomes a public embarrassment to their brand reputation. It’s one thing to trust the common sense of your company staff but it’s quite another to assume they won’t make an innocent social media faux pas at the company’s expense. Secondly, with social media by committee, it is nearly impossible to maintain any level of consistency with regards to frequency of posting, quality of content, a tone of content and voice of the brand. For instance, there might be a flurry of random posts one week and then the company’s pages will become social media ghost towns for months. This never looks good for the brand. Lastly, social media by committee produce zero strategic results. Your company leadership must ask itself this basic question: Why are they even using social media in the first place? Revenue opportunities? Build B2B relationships? Build their social media community? Manage their brand reputation? If any or all of the above are incentives for leadership, they should be steering as clear from social media by committee and focusing their efforts on one of the following two social media management options: building an internal social media team or hiring a social media agency.
An In-House Social Media Team to Manage Social Media
Many Fortune 500 consumer brands build a dedicated in-house team to manage social media. Many of these brands may spend upwards of $25M-$50M per year on creating and promoting online content per year. This level of content creation and brand reach creates a HUGE amount of consumer engagement. While all brands would love to reach tens of thousands of consumers each day, there also comes a great deal of brand responsibility once a brand taps into this level of reach. A brand at this level cannot expect to simply post their content to social media and then walk away. They certainly could but it would not be advisable. They would be putting their brand at great risk for not having a team monitoring the conversation their content creates. Consumers hate it when their questions go unanswered by the brands they thought they loved. Trolls love to leave hateful comments on successful brands that represent American capitalism or hating on a brand not made in the USA. You take the good with the bad. Therefore, a brand of this social media scope requires a 5-6 member team to purely write social copy, post to social media, and then monitor and respond to their social media community. It is important to note that this team is typically not in charge of creating any of the video content, photography, graphics work, or the content marketing strategy. For many brands of this size, they have an ad agency of record which handles the outsourcing of the content creation or the outsourcing of social media management.
Starbucks is a prime example of a hugely engaged brand online that is receiving some form of positive or negative social media engagement every few seconds on any of their many brands and local social media channels. This complex network requires continual monitoring and customer service. It requires a top-notch internal team that knows its brand inside and out, how to respond, when to and when not to respond, and how best to consistently speak the language of the brand each day.
There’s Another Way to Manage Social Media at Your Organization
Outsourcing to a social media agency can be an intimidating step for many organizations. It’s the unknowns of the agency world and the type of social media marketing services that are available. The options out there are as wide and varied as one might expect. Some agencies have more specialized expertise with certain industries while some agencies focus on either small business or large enterprise social. Some agencies have limited business acumen and creative storytelling execution. Some agencies are just the opposite and are managed by MBA-educated leadership with the same creative capacity of any high-end commercial production house. Some agencies have a better process to manage social media for their clients than others. In my opinion, the social media agencies that have the strongest talent for building social media communities through brand storytelling are doing the same for their agency social media channels. Take a look at their social media streams and see how they are marketing themselves. Are they using video correctly? Are they engaging a targeted audience through content on their social streams? Do you like their use of social media branding? It’s one thing to talk the talk, it’s quite another to walk the walk. Seeing is always believing. What brought you to read this blog? How did you find it? It wasn’t an accident. There was a strategy that led you to click on the link to read this blog and read it all the way down this point. You now understand what our agency does for our clients. We are a strategic brand storytelling agency that uses social media to help companies reach their business goals.
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