Marshaling the Resources for a Social Media Engagement ProgramMay 31, 2011 By Monique Elwell and Steven Jackson
What sort of resources do you need to run your social media program? The answer greatly depends on your first decision—to hire or outsource. If you chose the former, you will need to hire one or more people to build and manage the social media communities on a daily or even an hourly basis. The size of your department depends on the size of your brand, the level of discussion that is already taking place in the social mediasphere (it’s very likely that even if your business is not yet engaged in social media, at least many of your clients and prospects are, and they are already talking about your brand) and your organization’s commitment to speaking directly with your target audience.
Like anything else, good social media marketing results stem from a good strategy and planning. The first hire needs to be a social media strategist. This role is less about technology—though some familiarity here is important—and more about the ability to understand how to create emotional engagement in the social space and how people adopt technologies.
The strategist also needs experience in branding, messaging and customer service. What you say and how you say it are just as important as what venues you say it on. The critical part of this role is the ability to nuance or translate communications appropriately into the appropriate social media outlets to create and stimulate conversation, engagement and emotional brand attachment. Some of this may look like traditional marketing, but it’s different due to the real-time aspect. This makes it important that the strategist brings experience in creating and managing the communication.
Then you’ll also need to hire people to run the sites on a day-to-day basis. Their activities fall largely into these buckets:
- Technical: setting up the channels and the feeds correctly, tagging content for location or topic, etc.
- Visual: providing the visual design of the sites and layouts.
- Writing: blogging, tweeting, writing status updates and creating social ad copy.
- Listening: obtaining feedback about the brand, service or product.
- Responding: replying to and stimulating conversations, solving problems, and knowing how to handle a crisis.
To elaborate the above points in order, it’s still common to hire a technology person with little to no social skills or marketing prowess to set up and run social media channels. While the channels do require a small amount of technical skill, knowledge of marketing, brand communications, customer service and marketing research are the critical requisites for successful social media marketing. More organizations are also hiring copywriters, who can be good online community managers, but many are not. Be sure to hire the ones who are equipped with the “digital schmooze” gene and know the social media space you’re working in.
The next mistake, and perhaps the bigger one, is hiring a junior intern to run social media channels. It’s time consuming to have daily conversations with fans of a brand, but as a test, ask whether you would put your social media point-of-contact on the front lines of any crisis. If not, you have not hired a person with the right level and type of experience.
This person will likely also need to be savvy enough to reach within your organization and obtain information from various departments. She/he will be answering customer service-style questions frequently, obtaining invaluable information directly from prospects and users about products and services that needs to be reported back to research and product development departments, speaking to potential job recruits, pushing out on-brand marketing messages and more.
Monique Elwell and Steven Jackson are partners at Conversify, an international social media marketing services agency that develops and executes strategic social media marketing programs. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
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