Category Archives: Planning

How to: Demystify the Social Media Expert Myth

Much has been said about social media “experts” ranging from Hallelujah, they exist! to “(they) are the cancer..and must be stopped.

These diverse responses are perfectly understandable in an age where every other person (and her nanny) is an “expert”, “guru”, “pundit” or other. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, companies still rely on these darn “experts” to help navigate the uncharted and often turbulent social media waters.

The key to demystifying the social media “expert” myth and finding the real deal is to take a hard look at what a social media “expert” actually does. Based on their role, the experts can be classified into 3 major categories – “Do”ers, Planners, and Talkers.

The most popular and generic “Social Media Manager” roles typically belong to the “Do”ers category, which includes folks who “do” social media and typically are the public face of the brand on social networking sites. These are the folks who manage communities, tweet, blog, and engage on sites like Facebook on behalf of the brand. “Do”ers tend to be individual contributors who spend a great deal of time on the social networking sites and/or have roles that require them to be highly visible brand ambassadors. Having strong online communication skills is a must-have for this role. Folks with engaging personalities and community background (forums, chat, etc.) shine in these types of roles. While this is often an after-thought, this role is best suited for folks with calm temperaments who are less likely to go off the deep end in a crisis. Case in point is the Nestle crisis, where the company rep snapped under pressure on Facebook and had to apologize at the end.

Planners are typically folks who have decent social media expertise and presence but their focus is primarily on planning/managing social media activities. The typical role in this category is social media strategist, who is responsible for pulling together all disparate social media activities into a cohesive strategy/plan. Actively engaging on social media sites is a time-consuming activity, it’s rare to find someone who can balance both roles (planning and engaging) without getting overwhelmed. Folks with solid marketing and/or community management backgrounds seem to do well in these roles. You’ll probably see these types of roles filled by people managers who typically work behind-the-scenes vs. on the front-lines. There aren’t many folks who have the skill set/experience required for these types of roles so increasingly, companies are relying on external social media agencies and consultants to meet their planning needs.

Talkers are your blogbertis or twitteratis who are well-known for talking/writing about social media and may or may not actually engage in social media on behalf of any specific cause for your company (other than social media). Folks in this category typically have a large following on social networks, but may lack the experience in applying social media in a business context. This is a great category for hiring your spokespeople especially if your company is trying to build brand-recognition and wants to get more visibility in the social media space. Many major brands seem to have at least one social media celebrity on their roster, who is not strategically aligned to any specific business function or objective but is rather focused on promoting the company’s overall brand and related messaging.

So there you have it, not everyone is an expert but even among the real experts, different folks excel at different roles. That being said, knowing what you want to achieve is key to deciding the type of expert you need and to avoid getting sucked into the expert myth.

Would love to hear your thoughts on other categories/roles that should be added here.

4 Simple Steps to Setting Up a Social Media Department

Lately, there has been a flurry of discussions and questions on scaling social media so here’s my take on a key question that seems to be on many minds.

Question: How do I set up a social media department for my company and what is the typical org structure (with roles & responsibilities)?

Let me start off by saying, there is no typical organization structure for a social media team or department, since companies set up their internal org structure based on business needs. Ideally, you want to plan out and budget for resources in advance so you’re not struggling to scale your social media activities. However, the reality at many medium to large-size companies is that social media is often initiated within one specific functional group like customer service or PR and the resources are not fully dedicated to social media but over time, these are shifted over from traditional investments and/or added as needed.

If your management is serious about allocating resources for a dedicated social media team, that’s great news! There are agencies who can audit your organization structure to help assess your social media resource needs. But if you’re working on a tight budget (as most of us are), no worries, here are 4 simple steps to get you off to a decent start.

#1 Define your new team/department’s objective and scope:

Social media has implications for a wide variety of functional areas from marketing to customer support, and even HR. So start by defining your team’s role along with a  clear statement of the team’s objective. Simply put, define your team’s reason for existence and what specific business need it will solve. The scope does largely depend on whether your team is aligned to any specific functional group like marketing or the team is going to structured as a centralized pool of resources that supports the entire organization.

List all the groups/departments that your team will support and level of support you’ll provide them. Remember that the way each functional group uses social media is different so take these differences into account while developing your overall plan. For example: The CS team will use social media differently than the PR team, so make sure you don’t underestimate the resources needed to support these different needs.

#2 Pull together a plan of deliverables and resource needs:

Clearly outline this new team’s responsibilities and deliverables in as much detail as possible. List specific deliverables, frequency. and timelines where ever possible. this is critical because this will help you define how many resources you’ll need to deliver on what you’ve promised. Also bear in mind that while people resources are key for any social media team, but don’t forget to include dollar resources as well for expenses related to resources, tools or external agency resources. One good way to create your estimated budget is to check with your HR, social media agencies, and contracting agencies since they can help you estimate the cost for your resource plan.

#3 Determine team roles & responsibilities:

Once you’ve defined your deliverables, then the next step is put together your potential org chart where the roles are determined by what type of skill set you will need to deliver on your plan. For example: If your plan is to deliver 6 social media training sessions on a weekly basis to all the functional groups, then you will need a) content (develop in-house or externally), b) media for delivery and recording of the sessions and c) someone qualified to lead the sessions. Based on the plan, some typical roles on your team would be social media trainer/s and training/educational content producers. Having clearly defined roles will help you hire talented folks with the right social media skill set rather than generalists aka social media “experts”.

#4 Define your KPIs:

This part is often overlooked but is very critical to the continued success of your team. It’s fair to assume that you may not get all the resources that you ask for and that the need for resources will only grow along with increase in social media adoption. So make sure you’ve defined your success metrics and planned for future growth by including clear milestones. These will help you prove the value of this new team and help you make the case for more resources as needed.

Hope you found this information helpful. Let me know if there’s anything you would add as you’re planning out your social media team.