After lunch, I checked out a panel that asked “Is it Time to Hire a Social Media Manager”. (My answer, of course, is yes. It’s time to hire me!)
The panel was made up of a number of social media managers, and at least one so-called “social media rockstar”:
Becky Hudephol, Director of Consulting Services at NM Incite (moderator)
Marcy Cohen, Sr Manager at Sony Electronics
Josh Karpf, Senior Manager of Digital Media Communications at PepsiCo
Frank Eliason, SVP of Social Media at Citi
Pauline Ores, Enterprise Market Engagment Counsultant
Hudenphol asked the panelist to describe how a social media manager fits into an organization, and to whom they report. Eliason noted that the answer depends on how the strategy is developed. Is social media being used to meet customers where they are, or is it a marketing function? One advantage of reporting to marketing instead of customer service, he notes, is that marketing has a budget! It’s critical than marketing leaders focus on reaching customers, as social media customers are looking to engage. It’s also critical to strong leadership backing to prevent siloing.
Cohen described social media as a part of PR and communications. Karpf notes that when a department is part of communications, “the walls have to come down”. Another problem with siloing is the lack of manpower to effect policy company-wide. Instead, social media must create broad strategies that others (marketing, etc.) can implement. One strength of a communications-house social media team is an understanding of responding to customers.
Regardless to whom he or she reports, the social media manager must have a passion for the role and for interacting with customers. Ultimately, social media will become the role of many parties. Karpf noted that his team’s philosophy is to develop a strategy to eventually put themselves out of a job. Cohen sees the social media manager’s responsibility including the creation of content, and therefore expects a large company to need a group of individuals covering this.
Any investment on headcount on social media management is taking investment away from channels that have previously been proven to create leads, Ores notes. Companies must understand the potential risks and rewards of hiring a social media manager. In time, organizations will understand the added value of a social media manager.
Karpf believes that the description of a social media manager is a complex one, depending on the organization he or she serves. Is the manager managing blogs or leading large marketing efforts. Today, companies must continuously be “on” when running campaigns. Generation is a question, are millennials the ideal choice? While they may understand the channel well, do they understand the brand? Cohen explains that big followings may lead to big rewards, but there is a risk when people are not in the corporate environment.
Managers must be able to come into a company with their following and personal brand, and be able to leverage their previous relationships to grow the brand. Eliason feels the key is to create the right experience, not to just emulate early successes at creating a personal brand. He doesn’t believe that you should hire someone just for their personal brand! At the end of the day, Ores notes, you need outsiders to join the program. Eliason is uneasy with the idea of influencer marketing. What does it say about a brand if you are buying influencers? He believes that creating advocates (through transparency and listening) is more effective and will ultimately lead to stronger performance. Another concern is whether bringing an influencer on-board is a one-trick pony. Karpf asks if you’re looking for a character or a manager. You need someone who can listen, develop a process, and build an operation.
Who your first hire is depends on your process. Eliason believes that your first “hire” should come from within, so they understand the environment and business strategy. Ores notes that an influencer might already be under your nose and on your payroll. Just be careful not to bring on someone who’s just trying to get ahead! Eliason reiterated the importance of the ability to gain buy-in, as you need to develop a new environment. Karpf thinks that a potential manager has to be passionate about the social media space, regularly follow innovations and social media publications, and understand what the next big thing will be.
While many companies utilize agency partners successfully, a company shouldn’t be afraid to start something small and grow it organically. Ores notes that social media has to focus on people, where agencies may be more interested in content. Eliason advises that social media agencies don’t just listen to their own customers, but also the customers of their customers! Often boutique agencies have shown better success than traditional agencies in this space. Karpf understands that many agencies will position social media in a way that matches the agency’s internal models, not the company’s model. He believes that companies must have individuals who are ultimately responsible for the decision making processes, whether they are outsourced or internal.
The ability to listen to and respond to conversations in niche parts of the market are critical for developing insights for innovation. Karpf believes that real-time conversation tracking ultimately will become a necessity for all organizations. At that point, Eliason notes, the company will be socialized.