How I Built an Internal Social Media Team (Part 2)

by Ryon Harms on April 3, 2014

Read Part 1 first

Creating the right internal social media team begins with the natural strengths of your organization. Ideally, a structural advantage you have over your competitors. In my case, I was within an organization that had a massive distributed network of local agents. Creating a program for these agents became my first order of business. Once the program took off and became bigger than me, it was obvious what the first hire of my social media team would be. I needed somebody that could understand the needs of our agents, and that also had an infectious passion for social media.

Once we built out a new sales channel for our agents and had somebody in place that I could trust to continue pushing that program forward, I turned my attention to the national brand. By this time, the social media fever had spread across the organization, thanks to so much media coverage, the success of other brands, an internal program I developed to spread the competency of social across the enterprise. A huge demand had built up for social media content, and again, it was more than one person could handle.

I’ve had many great discussions with other social media folks on the costs and benefits of hiring an agency over cultivating an internal team to be the voice of the brand through social channels.  I’m a firm believer that authenticity an immutable law of good social media. And for a voice to be authentic, I think, it must originate within the organization. As good as an agency can be, there’s something about the ability to roam the halls of your company on a daily basis to live and breathe the essence of your brand. It’s why we ultimately decided that a strong social media content manager should be the third member of the internal team.

Folks who work in content creation tend to have an artist’s sensibility. I personally started as a writer, which is one of the reasons why I gravitated to social media as a form of expression to begin with. But in a business context, it doesn’t really matter what somebody considers to be great work or even art, all that matters is that the results of those efforts produce an outcome that supports the strategy we want to prove. And here was one of the great lessons I learned along the way.

I felt like I have an instinctual talent for what content works in social and what doesn’t. But the truth is that my opinions are just that – opinions. At first, I wasted a lot of time reworking and frustrating the folks at our agencies that created content. I could look at the content calendar and just know that what they had proposed was not going to work. Sometimes I would get agitated because the content just wasn’t social. And then I learned a valuable lesson from my boss at the time – “The data will set you free.”

I stopped offering my opinions on the content, and I simply took advantage of the wealth of data that comes from social (most of it instant). One of the great things about social is that you know whether or not a piece of content has legs within the first 30 minutes of posting it. Social channels provide you with immediate data on your content. So I stopped trying to offer my opinion, and instead just started pointing to the metrics. I wasn’t the one who decided wether or not a piece of content was good or not, the crowd was telling us.

A social media content manager’s best friend is the the social media analyst. Once we figured out that the data should be leading the way, we knew that the next hire needed to be somebody that could help us make sense of all that data. Our outside agencies were creating monthly metrics report with varying degrees of usefulness. But social media doesn’t work on a monthly cycle like other traditional marketing channels. I mean there’s usefulness in a monthly report, but the action in social happens in the moment, within minutes of positing.

What we needed was somebody that could be in the room, reading the data, and giving us the near real time insights we needed to feed the voracious content beast we had created. There are very few good analysts that can turn data into business insights, and there are even fewer folks within the social media industry. I believe these analyst are only going to become more and more coveted. In social marketing, the crowd is often best understood through data.

Building a great social media team has three key elements: finding people who can leverage a structural competitive advantage that lends itself to social, projecting an authentic voice, and an ability to read the crowd through data. From there each team member will have people reporting to them as the need arises. By the time I left, we had a team of seven full time people working on social.

Bottom line, if you have great people with a talent for growth on your team, you won’t have much trouble figuring out what positions to hire for social media because their success will make it obvious.

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