Each Friday we take a question from the week and provide a more detailed discussion, designed to stimulate debate or conversation and drive clarity. Some weeks the questions will come from clients or blog comments; others, such as this week, will be pulled from one of the week’s key stories from the week.
This week’s Friday Fodder: Do companies need social media teams?
Felix Gillette lays out some compelling arguments in Twitter, Twitter Little Stars, polling the strategy of some heavyweightconsumer brands and examining their approach to staffing and fulfilling the social media role.
From my perspective, organizations have rushed to fulfill their social media needs in many cases by hiring someone or some agency. These are positioned as the most “progressive” brands in the space when in truth, the hiring of the role did not result in social media leadership. The fact that the organization decided to fund headcount for the position might itself dictate a commitment to test and learn in the space, and a desire to win over fickle consumers on the Web.
Social media is rapidly manifesting in multiple business units – consumer relations, e-commerce, PR, advertising, interactive/web design – and if an organization’s leaders don’t set a strategic course for the team to execute programs that fulfill the objective, they are failing to challenge their people. This is one of those critical times when organizations need to politely but firmly require employees to get up to par on skill sets. It cannot rest on the shoulders of one person or one team alone long-term.
For example, at my prior agency (a PR firm) we made the strategic decision not to build a whole practice devoted to social media, but to make it an evolutionary event for each employee. This, I believe, is a realistic and practical approach to solving a business challenge.
The other point to make here is that social media is so new, there are very few individuals with more than a few months “lead” in the industry. Individuals can catch up on skills and knowledge quickly, but there is a dangerous over-reliance on “gurus” and self-proclaimed experts who might be very knowledgeable but against a poorly established set of benchmarks. There are some very smart people in this space, and there are some very well-connected people in this space. Seek out those who have a solid grasp of business, marketing and technical fundamentals and can demonstrate that their experience and their networks can be put to use for your organization.
It’s worth noting, by the way, that consultants can play an important role in helping an organization refine, define and deploy its social media strategy. Like any good change management agent, such consultants should be steeped in their business – not just established as good networkers – and have a demonstrable track record of innovation and impact in the space. Ask tough questions about their experience.
That’s it for this Friday Fodder: what do you think?