Ten years ago, the jury was still out on social media in the business world. Few CEOs and leadership teams had the foresight to invest in this new communication channel and most wrote it off as simply a fad. As social media grew and platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn caught fire, more and more businesses jumped onboard. Unfortunately, most companies were still underestimating the impact of social media or the potential it holds for massive business growth and brand promotion. They were putting their social media management in the hands of interns and new marketing hires fresh out of university. This was arguably more dangerous than ignoring social media altogether.
Fast-forward to present day, the results are in: Social Media Matters…A LOT! Luckily, some companies realize this important fact and are incorporating social media into all elements of their businesses, from operations to marketing and sales to customers service. Even C-level executives are tweeting on a daily basis. It’s good for the brand and that’s good business.
However, we’re still missing a major piece of the puzzle. We’re not connecting our social media activity to the bottom line. In other words, we know we need social media but we can’t seem to justify it’s value in terms of the return on investment. The reason? We’re still thinking of social media as a stand alone activity, conducted in a vacuum separate from the “real” business units. Furthermore, it’s often assigned a meagre portion of the marketing budget as an afterthought with the instructions to make something “go viral”.
In reality, social media is intertwined with every corner of the business.
If we continue to leave social media to the youngest, most inexperienced employees, it will never have the desired impact, maintain a clear ROI or reach its full potential. We need to include the members of the organization that have experience proving bottom-line results.
Here are the 6 Managers Who Must Be Involved In Your Company’s Social Media Strategy:
1. Marketing Manager
Over the last 5 years, we have seen marketing move from a sociology-driven department to a data-driven one. The marketing team is now a data center, focused on collecting, analyzing and digging through troves of consumer data in order to pull out key insights and actionable ideas. The effect is marketing has become a measurable activity, accountable to ROI analysis. Guess what? The social media team needs access to that same data so they can track engagement, run experiments and make better decisions with their resources.
2. Public Relations Director
Another obvious one. Social media is sorta like the modern day PR department. It’s a lot less formal and the roles and responsibilities are a little blurred, but the goal is the same: Communicate to your target audience. Only now, there are a lot more channels to manage than just radio, tv, newspapers and trade journals.
The social media manager needs to be 100% aligned with the public relations team so they know what messages to send, how to position their brand and how to react to the ever-changing business landscape. In emergency situations, like a PR-backlash, social media and the press team must work together to show a consistent front and meet the challenge head on. Oftentimes, the social media team can move faster than the press so it’s important they know what messages must be share in order to avert disaster or take advantage of breaking news.
3. VP of Sales
Sales teams love to cherry pick the most compelling product benefits from the marketing and product departments, usually to the chagrin of said marketing department. Why? Simple, the sales reps know what makes people actually decide to buy whatever it is they’re selling. Marketing and management may conjure up wonderful picture perfect product features and benefit PDFs and videos, but sales knows how to close the deal.
It’s for this very reason that social media should be working directly with sales. If sales team knows what benefits need to be communicated to lead to a sale, then they should share that knowledge with the social media team. Social media can only ramble on about product features for so long. Eventually, they need real benefits to engage an audience.
Also, this relationship is not a one-way street. Social media is the face of the organization and often the first interaction a prospect has with your brand. When they sense a hot new lead, they need an quick and effective channel to let the sales team know about it.
4. Head of Customer Service
Social media and customer service are cut from the same cloth. Two-sides of the same coin. Insert another annoying analogy here. They think alike. If your company has created a culture that places emphasis on great customer service (which you have to in order to survive long-term), then social media is simply another extension to demonstrate your superior customer service prowess.
Customer service is also an oft-overlook treasure trove of brand building opportunity just waiting to be discovered. Your customer service team is on the front lines of your business every single day. They hear the good, the bad and the ugly and can share this knowledge with the rest of the staff. When a customer is absolutely blown away by your customer service team, make sure the social media team knows about it so they can shout it from the mountain tops. That is a mini-victory and social media will help you celebrate it. On the flip side, when something goes wrong, social media gives you a channel to explain what happen and ensure it never happens again. This is a luxury that didn’t exist just 10 years ago.
5. Product Manager
The product department is like the magic sauce social media needs to drum up excitement and brand awareness. Liken your product development team to Willa Wonka’s factory. By bringing in the social media team, they are basically giving a golden ticket to your audience to go behind the scenes and see where the magic happens. Unless you’re dealing with highly-sensitive trade secrets or working for a government, give your audience at least a glimpse of how you build whatever it is you build. We all love feeling like VIPs with exclusive access and besides, oompa-loompas make for good social media fodder.
6. CEO – The Big Cheese
Not only must CEOs give their authority and support to a real, long-term investment in a company’s socia media strategy, but they must be personally involved. Without top-down support, the social media team won’t have the company-wide “buy-in” to accomplish their goals. If there’s no visible authority provided by the C-level executives, the rest of the company will view the social media activity as bothersome and the overall impact will be diminished.
Beyond creating buy-in, the CEO is ultimately responsible on the company’s public image and customer-facing appearance. Social media is perhaps the most powerful weapon in these areas. A good CEO motivates his employees to perform better, a great CEO leads by example. If the CEO is a prominent figure in a company’s social media initiatives (both internally and externally), it sends the message that the company has nothing to hide and increases its authenticity in the eyes of it’s audience. This kind of behavior is critical for creating a culture of transparency and developing a lifelong trust with a brand.
In the end, it’s about time we acknowledge the critical importance and monumental challenge of managing an effective, company-wide social media strategy. In a role as diverse and highly-visible such as this one, it’s surprising that we ever thought of handing it off to an entry-level employee and expecting him or her to make us “go viral”.