The Social Media Team: Roles and Responsibilities

So you’ve assembled your social media team, and you’re starting to put the road beneath your feet. Time to start sorting out who does what, right? Here are some things to consider in regard to roles and responsibilities for your team and building an approach that will work for your business.

Everyone

Listening
Many a post has been written about the importance of listening and monitoring online. Especially for your brand, but also for things that are happening in your industry (including what your competitors might be up to). I won’t belabor all the whys here, but there are a couple of posts over at the Radian6 blog where David Alston outlined the top 10 reasons to be monitoring your brand online, then he did another ten. Check those out if you aren’t already convinced.

When you’ve assembled a team for social media, it’s absolutely critical that everyone involved somehow has access to the monitoring activity. If you’re using a listening platform, ideally everyone has access to it, but at the very least there needs to be regular reporting and sharing of information across the team. This is where it all starts, and whether or not folks are actively participating on social networks, they need to be informed about what’s happening out there.

Education and Evangelism
The social media team is going to be the hub and central resource for your efforts, which means also that it’s up to the team to be communicating especially well internally about your activities. If you’re just getting started, you’re going to be the ones charged with making (and maintaining) the business case for social media integration, and everyone will play a role in articulating the potential benefits and risks for their area of expertise.

From sharing strategies, results and key learnings of your efforts to training folks on the use of new tools, as you move forward your team is the champion for the cause and responsible for translating social media beyond the tools and shiny objects and putting it in solid business context. We’ll talk more about what specifically you can be measuring and reporting on in a couple of days, but you are the standard bearers, the teachers, and the stewards.

Backstage: Key Learnings & Insights

All the listening and social media stuff isn’t worth a fig if you don’t use what you learn to somehow improve your business. Not everyone on your team needs to be actively participating and responding in social media, but they need to be absorbing the insights of that listening and participation.

So some of your backstage folks might look like this:

Product Development: listen for product improvement ideas, feature requests, competitive offerings
Human Resources: recruiting, culture and company perception (external), competitive hires
Customer Support: FAQs and recurring issues, praise (for understanding what’s working well)
Business Development: market and industry trends, pricing intelligence, competitor positioning
Legal or Compliance: monitor participation to ensure alignment with any regulatory issues

The information comes from listening, but the real meat is in figuring out what’s next for all of these things. In other words, when you have the insight about what people would like to see from your product, what’s the next step? If you’ve discovered an untapped market, how do you act on that information? It’s up to you to decide how best to shuttle information from the front lines through your organization so it gets into the right hands.

The Front Lines: Participating and Engaging

Here we go with actual getting-out-there-and-talking-to-people stuff. You’re going to ask me how many people you need, and I’m going to give you the dreaded “it depends” answer. It might be as few as one or two if you’re just getting going and the chatter is mild. If you’re a brand with a significant presence already, you’re already immersed in social media whether you like it or not, and you’ll likely need 3 or more people actively managing outreach (Dell, Comcast, and other leading brands have full teams.)

As for managing the risks of what people are saying, I’ve written about a lot of that here, here and here. And there are several companies – big companies – who have written policies of their own to help manage this kind of thing. Personal accountability, smart hiring, and common sense count for a lot. I’ve collected a bunch here for you; if they can do it, so can you.

As for roles of people on this front, here are a few basic ideas to get you started thinking about what might work for your own organization.

Comms/Community folks:

These folks are often the bridge between company and customer, and function like a facilitator and connector. This is the role I take on each day. You might have these people paying attention to:

  • Compliments: Say thanks.
  • Complaints: Apologize, and help get them connected with someone on the support side that can work to resolve their issue (work with customer service)
  • Inquiries: Help provide and connect customers and prospects with information on your company, and work with the BD team to care for them appropriately
  • Media opportunities: Connect with bloggers and journalists to build relationships

BD and Sales:
Your sales team should be engaged and involved in your online efforts, but you may need to do a bit of education about what’s acceptable in social channels. It’s not for selling. It’s for informing, educating, learning and connecting.

  • Leads: listen for “point of need” sales opportunities and make genuine, helpful connections (no pitching, folks).
  • Kudos: For example, our reps might connect with their prospects on Twitter after they went through a product demo
  • Inquiries: Working hand in hand with the community and communication folks above to steward these requests

Customer Service:
Probably the most important thing in this area is empowering your customer service team to actually solve problems, in real time, with the authority to do so. Ritz Carlton hotels are a good example; every employee is empowered to solve any guest issue at any time that requires $150 or less to remedy. Think about how you can set comprehensive guidelines for issue resolution and customer rewards so your support team can act as autonomously and effectively as possible.

They’ll be the ones listening for and responding to:

  • troubleshooting or technical/product support issues
  • customer complaints
  • accounting/billing questions (to route to appropriate people)
  • compliments and kudos (there’s no such thing as too many people saying thank you)

The Role of Agencies and Consultants

Many companies work with agency partners on a regular basis to manage and implement some of their communications. If you have PR or communications folks out of house you’re working with, you’ll absolutely want them to be in the loop about what you’re doing, and even engaging their assistance with strategy (if they’re suited to that role).

But I’d recommend against having your agency do the outreach on your behalf, at least for the long term. They might be able to act as guideposts and training wheels as you get going, especially if they have experience in this realm. And I think there is immense value in having trusted, experienced experts on your team to lend their talents and ideas.

But ultimately, you need to own social media outreach inside your own organization and execute it there. The expectation you’re setting by being present in social media is that people get to interact with the people at your company. Let your agency and consultative partners help you engineer behind the scenes, but your goal should be to give your customers what they want: real interactions with you.

And so…

The important takeaway from all of this is that you need to break down some roles and responsibilities for the purpose of managing your internal work and information flow. But remember this important bit:

No matter who is reaching out on behalf of your company, your customers and community aren’t segmenting you by department and they don’t care about your job titles. They’re looking at you as a unified, cohesive team that they can count on to meet their needs. So  by all means manage your tasks and devise a system that works for you, but ultimately remember that you are ALL stewards of your company and your brand, and by participating in social media, you’re setting new expectations for accessibility and availability. And you’re all in it together.

Tomorrow, The Social Media Team Toolkit.

Photo credit: ingorrr

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  • http://futurechat.in/members/syamant/ Syamant

    This is exactly what we tell our customers, the outreach has to be internal.

    the external agency can be more of a suportive role and not the primary role.

    There is a huge amount of mentoring that is required and also i think the trust between the client and the agency has to be high. It would be interesting if you would share your thoughts on the role of the senior leadership in the company with regard to their participation. Would like to know your experiences.

    Syamants last blog post..A World Where Everybody Has Put their Data on the Web

  • http://futurechat.in Syamant

    This is exactly what we tell our customers, the outreach has to be internal.

    the external agency can be more of a suportive role and not the primary role.

    There is a huge amount of mentoring that is required and also i think the trust between the client and the agency has to be high. It would be interesting if you would share your thoughts on the role of the senior leadership in the company with regard to their participation. Would like to know your experiences.

    Syamants last blog post..A World Where Everybody Has Put their Data on the Web

  • http://www.servantofchaos.com Gavin Heaton

    I am loving this series, Amber!
    You might also want to add into the roles, something to do with partner management. With many organisations having extensive partner networks, social media can play an important role in fostering close ties, knowledge sharing, collaboration and innovation across business boundaries.

    Gavin Heatons last blog post..FastBREAK Breakfast Event on May 8

  • http://www.servantofchaos.com Gavin Heaton

    I am loving this series, Amber!
    You might also want to add into the roles, something to do with partner management. With many organisations having extensive partner networks, social media can play an important role in fostering close ties, knowledge sharing, collaboration and innovation across business boundaries.

    Gavin Heatons last blog post..FastBREAK Breakfast Event on May 8

  • http://www.momcentral.com Vicki Rellas

    This is a great post, Amber. We have found that it is good to go back to step one and help clients learn about all the social media options. From there the identification of roles/responsibilities and expectations internally is very important. Once that has been established, you identified a very key point with the listening “you don’t use what you learn to somehow improve your business. Not everyone on your team needs to be actively participating and responding in social media, but they need to be absorbing the insights of that listening and participation.” Often times, interpreting the listening, identifying who and what to listen to and the so what,now what follows along with that as well.

  • http://www.momcentral.com Vicki Rellas

    This is a great post, Amber. We have found that it is good to go back to step one and help clients learn about all the social media options. From there the identification of roles/responsibilities and expectations internally is very important. Once that has been established, you identified a very key point with the listening “you don’t use what you learn to somehow improve your business. Not everyone on your team needs to be actively participating and responding in social media, but they need to be absorbing the insights of that listening and participation.” Often times, interpreting the listening, identifying who and what to listen to and the so what,now what follows along with that as well.

  • Amber Naslund

    @Gavin I love that idea. Especially in a B2B world, I think there’s huge potential for companies to connect with business partners this way. Thanks for pointing it out. I’m going to chew on that.

  • http://thelostjacket.com Stuart Foster

    Three Cheers for Inhouse! Love the idea of everyone taking an active role and really trying to explore the different roles that EVERYONE would have to undertake in order to make SM a successful marketing/cultural strategy. Hoping more companies adopt this…

    Stuart Fosters last blog post..5 Ways to Monetize Mainstream Media

  • http://thelostjacket.com Stuart Foster

    Three Cheers for Inhouse! Love the idea of everyone taking an active role and really trying to explore the different roles that EVERYONE would have to undertake in order to make SM a successful marketing/cultural strategy. Hoping more companies adopt this…

    Stuart Fosters last blog post..5 Ways to Monetize Mainstream Media

  • http://www.buildyoursoulpurpose.com Brandon R Allen

    Great list for organizing your efforts with regards to team building.

    Brandon R Allens last blog post..Your Days are Easy When You Start Them at The Right Time

  • http://www.buildyoursoulpurpose.com Brandon R Allen

    Great list for organizing your efforts with regards to team building.

    Brandon R Allens last blog post..Your Days are Easy When You Start Them at The Right Time

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