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.
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.
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 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.
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
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. 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.
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 team that they can count on to meet their needs. So by all means 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.