March 1, 2009

Jumped on the bandwagon but who should steer?

Joanna LordSo you joined the craze. You finally converted to our side and find yourself evangelizing the very networks and applications you once doubted. You go back to your desk, ready to restructure your Q2 goals in hopes of successfully capitalizing on social media.

Enter panic. Who should you put in charge of your social media efforts? Do you need an entire team? Should you hire new people? What qualities should they possess? Suddenly you realize you are not only out of touch with social media itself you are also at a loss for how to appropriately manage the workload associated with it.

You are not alone. In fact you are the majority. Just like all new marketing trends before it, social media has brought with it confusion on how to delegate company resources and structure a successful team. You aren’t sure what qualities and skills are needed to manage social media. You aren’t sure if you should be shifting the priorities of your in-house marketers or if you should you be hiring interns. After you have a staff allocated you are left wondering how much company time you should be devoting. You are literally engulfed with questions, with no lifeline, no call-a-friend option, and (gasp!) no Google SERPs to scan for an answer.

When faced with this inevitable dilemma, a best practice is to take a step back and ask, “What is best for my company?” Unlike its predecessors social media has yet to publish a best practice guidebook. Instead you need to evaluate a few key questions and when doing so, really try to design a personalized approach toward social media management.

Begin by defining your goals

First ask yourself: What skills are needed for your social media initiatives? There are somegeneral ones you should be looking for—relationship building, holistic marketing approach, experimental, etc. However, when deciding on the skill sets you need to have on your team, you should turn your attention back to the specific initiatives.

For example, if you are looking to infiltrate a rich-media space to attract a new user type, such as YouTube, you should look for a creative mind, with a tech heavy background and an eye for editing or if you are building out groups to attract friends, followers, and evangelists, you should be looking for community-oriented types with a strong writing ability. You need to really nail down your goals for social media and assign people according to the skills each media channel demands.

After you know the type of person you need, you should ask yourself: How much time do these initiatives demand? In my opinion it’s best to start by taking someone on your team and assigning a few smaller projects. Give yourself a few months of testing and collect some data to help you decide how best to hire for your goals. It’s key to have a more concrete social media agenda before hiring and allocating your team.  The trial run will enable you to decide if you need to add an intern, or hire a full-time employee, or a couple. Perhaps you should outsource all together? Once you know what you need, you will be able to stack your team for success.

There is a lot to consider. Try to keep perspective and remind yourself that social media itself is still evolving. Packaging together the perfect management team on your first try is unlikely.

Most importantly don’t forget the qualities that have always been, and will always be, crucial to a successful marketing team—innovation, being aware of the user, and ROI-focused. Social media lends itself to the first two, and it is up to you and your team to translate them into a bottom line gain.

I’m wondering if anyone out there has any success with developing an internal strategy to hiring for a social media team? If so, I would love it if you shared, what is working for all of you?
Joanna Lord is a social marketing consultant and founder of YourJobStop, the job resources board. See her business profile, contact Joanna or leave a comment below.

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2 thoughts on “Jumped on the bandwagon but who should steer?

  1. Great post! The people you hire or work on your social media strategies need to understand what you are trying to accomplish, and the underlying goals of why you are reaching out in that landscape. Excellent article.

  2. Thanks for the link.
    I think a SoMe pro needs to be a combination of several skills:
    new media
    public relations

    First of all, you need someone who thinks strategically and will do the research to plan just how, why and where you want to engage in social media. That's where marketing comes in. New media is needed to make sure your branding is executed and your digital assets are properly formatted for each social network, virtual world or blog that you're leveraging. PR and communications skills are imperative to understand how to pitch and interact with the public.

    Of course these skills need to be augmented by experience using social networks, and a deep understanding of how they work, how users interact, and to know how to show restraint in your engagement there.

    To the last point, I find it hard to believe that too many companies have the in-house staff to dedicate to their social media efforts. A social media engagement is not something you spend a month doing. It may take 3 months to get ramped up, then should be continuously managed and tweaked. Like email and PPC campaigns, social media can be tweaked on an hourly and daily basis. The difference is, that with SoMe, you need to be timely with responses or you will be ignored, even hated. Like email and PPC, even web design strategies, you also need someone who knows the right tools and how to use them to measure your efforts.

    The upshot of these last two points is that managing social media engagement is a full-time job with a highly unique and versatile skill set.