Fast Company

Got A Social Media Team? Sorry, You Hired The Wrong People

An anonymous executive at a social media platform reveals why working with brands can be such a slog.

The world's biggest companies absolutely understand how important social is. Their CEOs now articulate their social media strategy. They track how they're doing against their rivals. But by the time they come to someone like me, whose job is to actually put their plans into action, they have no idea how to get what they want.

Here's why: We rarely have the right counterparts at these companies, which makes everything move slower. I'm working on a big project right now, and it's going to take a year to get the kind of version we want up and running. Why? Companies haven't empowered the right people, and they're not hiring or training or converting the right people for these jobs. To be a good social media person at a brand, you have to have a background not just in digital or marketing but also in your product.

There are so few people with that blend of experience. And it means that the brand people we're working with rarely have enough authority--or the right background--to have influence in their organization. People are always shoving social into marketing, or they're shoving it into digital. It's actually all this stuff: It's marketing, it's digital, it's creative. By thinking so narrowly, nobody reaches their full potential as fast as they should, given the opportunity that we have.

Don't get me wrong: Our partners have the right enthusiasm and ideas. But there's no SVP of engagement at any of these companies who's sitting in the board room or who has a regular biweekly meeting with the CEO to help drive the messaging of the power of social media. I don't know what I would do differently, other than maybe have little therapy sessions with these people and ask, Have you staffed this correctly?

[Image: Flickr user Carson Monetti]

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14 Comments

  • ClickTell Consulting

    As far as the
    realm of social Media  is concerned  - one of the biggest errors of judgement a
    company can make is to assume that a junior IT savvy admin level person is all
    that is required in order to run a successful social media campaign.

     

    Run properly, such
    campaigns demand both senior level involvement and the delicate cross
    pollination of a number of seemingly unrelated areas such as neuroscience,
    psychology, lateral thinking, human behaviour, communication, business,
    strategy formulation and technology to name a few.

     

    ClickTell
    Consulting

  • David Zweifler

    This seems like less a social media issue than an agency gripe.

    Every vendor would love to liaise directly with a person in the organization who understands the business, and the vendor's business, and has enough authority and respect in the organization to get the vendor's ideas implemented quickly. I would bet that the outside accounting firm, the outside law firm, and the outside public relations firm would have the same exact complaint. Unfortunately, for most companies, the person the vendor is looking for is either a) the CEO, who doesn't have much time to focus on what the vendor is doing; or b) nobody.The reason that most companies go to an outside vendor in the first place is because they bring a fresh perspective that isn't already in the heads of senior management. In other words, the frustrating mismatch pointed out by the author is why the vendor gets hired at all. And it's why the typical client liaison for the vendor either "gets it" but doesn't have unlimited authority, or doesn't get it, and needs constant selling and reselling for her to push it throughout the organization.This does make things frustrating for the vast majority of b2b vendors. Fortunately, there is one thing that always seems to help them overcome these difficulties. It's called: "money."

  • jeffyablon

    David, I love your opening statement, AND your logic. But I think you missed the point:

    Large, moribund companies with too many levels of people protecting their personal fiefdoms REALLY aren't prepared to do social media, by the very nature of who they are and how they work. Take the agency out of this and hire someone inside to do what an agency does and you're still left with the same problem, exacerbated by the addition of yet another person with a fiefdom to protect.

    Of course, any agency that wants to keep their gig will also circle the self-protecting wagons.

    I'm pretty sure that the real point of this, regardless of who wrote it, is that social media by committee doesn't work. 

    Point taken.

  • himagain

    THIS was an hilarious read for me!
    Of course, being ancient and coming from the real world means that my perspective sure is different!
    Really big Ad Agencies still know the ropes, but as a friend of mine in one of them, after fifty years of lying about selling "images" and becoming a real estate zillionaire in the process, complained:
    "The whole world is now full of kids who grew up with the idea that everything should be free and cannot grasp what it is like to have to perform beyond imaginary friend collecting on Facebook & Twitter."

    His real point was that there is no money in that dead horse.
     His own clients are out hiring kids out of school who have no experience of anything but collecting 2,000 fake names on Facebook and never had a job in their lives. Not even the traditional MacTuckey training.

    Worse, they are unbelievable evangelists (like children always are) with no clue about the realities of life".

    THEN I came here and read this ........ :-) :-) :-)   

  • Stormmedia

    I couldn't agree more.

    I have been the SVP of Marketing & Advertising for 15 years and for the last year have totally engrossed myself into the social media movement . I have purchased almost every book, read almost every article, followed many experts, asked many questions, tweeted, friended, liked and pinned as much as I can to arrived at what seems to be a clear conclusion, social media is just that... SOCIAL.

    Social media not another promotion, not another contest, not a commercial, an email, a banner, a sponsorship, a billboard or a catchy jingle . Who cares if you have 100,000 likes, 500,000 followers or 1,000,000 friends people will only read, remember and support a product or service that they feel personally attached to.

    But the good news is if companies want auto-tweet services and think that the sheer number of followers or friends is the measure of success, well have at it however wouldn't they be surprised in another year and million of dollars later when nothing has changed but their marketing budget!     

  • jeffyablon

    So . . . wait . . . you're saying that social can't be done by committee and large companies can't do things any way OTHER than by committee?

    Huh!

  • Sean R. Nicholson

    The title of this article is inaccurate. It should be "sorry you assigned the wrong people." Most companies don't hire people who are experienced at social media to design and execute their social media strategy. Instead, they just assign someone who is already overworked and doesn't have enough time to devote to it. On top of that, they don't assign any budget because social media is "free"...right?

    Here are my 2 social media comics on the topic:

    Social media resources:
    http://www.socmedsean.com/cart...

    Social media annual budget planning:
    http://www.socmedsean.com/soci...

    If you want to see results from social media, make sure you have the right person in charge with the necessary skill and give them the budget and resources to succeed.

    Cheers!
    --Sean

  • Community Manager

    There's a reason this post is anonymous. This executive should understand that communication is the key to SOCIAL media. This post should be an email to the executives of the new project, not a hidden rant. It's your job as a Social Media Manager to effectively communicate the strategy, ROI, ROR, and anything else relative to your client's social strategy. It's your job to learn about the brand, what voice they want to have, and how they want to bring that voice to life. 

    If you don't have influence in the company on the client side, it's your job to find that influence and get to that key decision maker. Look being a Social Media Manager isn't easy. It's marketing, advertising, customer service, copywriting, crisis management, data analysis, and a whole lot more all balled into one job title. If you are going to be a Community Manager you need to have communication skills. This is something that the rest of my younger generation doesn't seem to understand. 

  • jeremywright

    Long term? Sure. Short term? Brands have no idea how to strategize, execute, integrate or change internal processes to accomodate the types of growth they need to sustain the value they crave.

    Long term it's our job to work ourselves out of the job of creating and managing a brands' presence in social and to work ourselves into the job of aiding on strategy, analytics, insights, competitive intelligence, customer service, etc. We work ourselves into the job of being the safety net and the lighthouse at the same time - because that's where the value is for us and for brands, because there simply aren't enough high level resources around.

    But this all starts with the content, the experience, the story, the narrative, the data, the discipline, the integration, the processes... things brands simply can't hire people to do on Day One. So relying on agencies to help with the first year or three years is the only option for most brands - which I'm fine with as long as they actually transition this internally at some point because otherwise it ends up being this stupidly large cost center for no good reason.

  • Pino

    Imo, this comes from the wrong perception that social media is just an additional marketing channel, just like TV ads or website banners. A social media strategy is not a marketing strategy on social networks.

  • Susie Felber

    This is excellent.  I'd add one thing -- they need to not only have product, marketing and digital, but they need creative/entertainment experience.    Without that, they'll be no new, exciting ideas.  I've run the social media at a few companies. It's incredibly undervalued and usually under the thumb of departments that want to be involved but don't know digital, or web people who don't know the social. The social media person usually has no budget has to go hat in hand to a Marketing or Digital exec. I don't know how to solve it as most people who reach exec level are people who've kicked around doing the same thing for years.  The good social media person has varied experience in multiple fields and many companies, but this is sadly not a track to an executive position.

  • Richardameyer

    This is exactly why I wrote this this morning (http://www.newmediaandmarketin...).  Social media account people don't have any idea for the most part what it's like to work on a brand where we live and die by numbers or the pressures that marketers are up against with budgets

  • Lyf Solutions

    This is the best article I have seen all week, and all because is true. Hiring an intern or an external person for your social media entirely is not the right thing to do. If you want to deliver exceptional service and the right advice, you need the training and tools as well.

  • Whole Media Concepts

    Putting the client and ad agency relationship into context from the very beginning helps tremendously with this issue.  We are utilized as in-sourced extensions of our client's headcount, and it works out great.  We learn the business thoroughly and we're able to positively affect other departments besides marketing and sales in the process.