Define the Role of Your Social Media Team
Social media is an increasingly popular area of marketing and communications for businesses of all sizes. Companies from industries of all types are interested in learning about the basics of building and implementing a social media strategy.
Since social media is still a burgeoning area in business, there aren’t any set steps for success. While there are many suggestions and recommendations across the web, many of these pointers are specific to certain types of businesses or industries.
One area of social media that can be discussed with relative consensus, though, is how to define a social media team’s role in your organization. While there are varying paths that can be chosen, they all stem from the same considerations: the goal of social media, who should be involved, what the responsibilities include, and how the strategy should be implemented. Furthermore, it is important to note how the social media team will interact with the company and community at large.
We spoke with two social media experts to get their tips on this topic. Read on for their opinions and add your own in the comments below.
The first step to planning any addition to an organization should be setting goals. Before joining the social world, an organization should have an understanding of its goals for:
- The social media team at large,
- Each social platform, and
- Individual team members.
“The first thing we did was to define a purpose. What is the purpose of starting a community? Over the past two years, we heard, ‘You’ve got to be in social! You’ve got to be in social!’ A lot of companies are doing that, but they don’t know why,” said Kailei Richardson, manager of strategy and social media expert at PointRoll.
Richardson commented that Ripple6, the social marketing division of PointRoll, decided to create a social presence to “use [the company's] product to show how effective it could be, but to also act as an extension of the Ripple6 website.” She noted that the website acts as a brochure of sorts for the company, but the social sites they’ve created promote real dialogue and show a bit of personality behind the organization.
Morgan Johnston, corporate communications manager who leads JetBlue’s social media strategy and execution, pointed out that planning a strategy for each social platform was key for planning the role of the social media team within JetBlue:
“For JetBlue the role of the social media team started with defining what our role as a company was within each of the various social channels where we interact with customers. Each community tends to define how they’d like to see the business interact with them. It was important to be receptive to those ideas and work collaboratively to define a role where both customers and the organization can find equal utility.
“With Twitter () for instance, the real-time nature of the tool tends to lend itself to an operational focus; service monitoring and recovery… While Facebook () or our blog are more focused on story-telling, sales or promotions.”
Having goals in place for the social media team, its individuals and each social platform will enable team members to define responsibilities and measure success.
Allocate the Appropriate Internal Resources
After an organization has defined what the social media team should be and who it should include, the next step is to survey available internal resources and allocate them appropriately. This includes employees, funds and equipment.
“Once the role is defined, the internal resources best suited to address each of those areas work to figure out how they can support it effectively,” said Johnston. “We’ve found that having representatives from various teams: Corporate Communications, Marketing, Customer Commitment or Operations coming together as [a] working group is a great way to make sure all expectations are met, but [we recommend] keeping those representatives tied to the overall functions of their original teams. This allows a great deal of flexibility for the team.”
Richardson also believes that it is essential to “get the right team members involved.” She advocates divvying up responsibilities based on each team member’s strength and the goals of the social media strategy. Strategists, marketers, site administrators, content managers and project managers were all valid needs in Ripple6’s case.
Create a Social Media Policy
A social media policy is a great way to set your company’s expectations for social media use in writing for all to see — either internally or externally (or both). These policies come in many forms and can be sensitive documents only for company eyes or public-facing guidelines shared with the world.
In most cases, it’s a legal and organizational necessity to have a social media policy to set the tone for employees and the community. If you’re still in doubt about whether you need one, check out the basic considerations here.
For companies ready to take the next step toward planning a social media policy, another great resource is a write-up of “10 Must-Haves for Your Social Media Policy” by Mashable () guest author Sharlyn Lauby. The post sums up the most important topics and guidelines and includes an example of a sound social media policy.
JetBlue circulates a number of internal-facing and publicly available documents regarding the social media team. Johnston shared JetBlue’s 600-word social media policy and said of it:
“We’re proud of our crew members and love that so many want to share their passion for the company in social media spaces. Corporate guidelines for best practices are a great way to help foster that engagement by clearly communicating responsibility and accountability. JetBlue has a 600-word social networking policy that boils down to, ‘Don’t be an idiot.’
“Our guidelines outline requirements surrounding: disclaimers of personal views, protection of sensitive information, responsible and respectful use, and social media use while working.
“We do discuss the difference between personal and professional use of social media. However, at this point, any ‘official’ use of social media is limited and overseen directly by our social media team and corporate communications.”
Take a look at JetBlue’s social media policy, as well as other great examples, from companies including Forrester, Intel, IBM, Best Buy and Coca-Cola, to get ideas for your company’s social media policy.
Communicate Effectively Across the Organization
Just because a team is labeled the “social media team” doesn’t mean they have to exclusively use social media tools to communicate with each other and the rest of the community. There is a bit of a misconception about social media enthusiasts that portrays them as Facebook-crazed, Twitter-frenzied social media addicts.
Johnston is a firm believer that sometimes old-school tools work best. “Many of the traditional corporate tools work quite well for the majority of our teams — e-mail, IM, or phones,” he noted. “And with the various representatives of the social team spanning the company already, we’re in a good position to reach any additional resources we may need and have them offer their expertise.”
“For Twitter, where we have our Social Media Support Team from our Salt Lake City-based support center, as well as representatives from our headquarters in Queens all working with a single account in real time, there’s a greater need to make sure we’re constantly connected. We use CoTweet as a great asset for team management of Twitter traffic, and we use Google Wave as a vehicle for team chat, collaboration, and resource management. Though, we are obviously exploring replacements at this time as Google Wave will be shut down at the end of the year.”
Richardson noted that Ripple6 uses the company’s proprietary platform to create communities among its various departments and teams. The customized social network is private and allows each team to interact effectively without burdening the rest of the organization. The social media team utilizes the internal community page for sharing content and current projects with each other. The company also has an external-facing community page as well, where team members engage with the community at large.
Setting up a social media team is quite a task, but it can be simplified by following some of the above recommendations. What advice would you add for new enterprises entering the social space? Add your thoughts in the comments below.
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