10 Steps to Build Your Own Social Media A-Team

by Chris Kenton on December 15, 2008

Over the past few years I’ve been working with a lot of enterprise companies, engaging with marketing teams that want to understand and integrate social media into their marketing programs. One of the first recommendations I make is to develop a social media A-team–a cross-functional team that distributes social media responsibility throughout the organization.

Typically, social media marketing is not “owned” by anyone. In some companies, it’s loosely managed under corporate communications or PR, in others, it’s driven by product managers, research, or customer support. But in most companies, social media initiatives are ad hoc programs operated by whomever happens to have an interest in social media–sometimes it’s just the guy who happens to have a Twitter account.

The challenge, of course, is that social media far transcends one marketing group, or even one business group. Social media issues cut across many areas of operation and management, and the lack of a coordinated team prevents companies from effectively leveraging opportunities, and often paralyzes them in a crisis. When an irate customer is starting a flame-war over the failure of your latest product, it’s not just a PR issue–it’s an engineering issue, a legal issue, a customer service issue too.

So the best way to lay a foundation for managing social media–before you start a needs assessment, or an RFP, or a procurement order for some kind of community platform–is to start a social media A-Team. It’s simple and painless, and costs only the time of the players involved. Here it is in ____ easy steps:

  1. Invite members. Ideally you should have a representative from each major department, in marketing and beyond: PR, marketing, sales, customer service, product development, channel marketing, legal, etc.
  2. Assign a relevant topical domain to each member that they can track in social media. If you’re in sales, you should be tracking competitive dialog, or dialog about your customers. If you’re in legal, track the dialog about legal issues regarding corporate involvement in social media.
  3. Assign a basic list of tasks for each member. Where are people talking about your topic online? What blogs? What communities? What groups on Facebook? What are people saying? What are the issues and trends? What are the opportunities to get involved?
  4. Leverage solutions for tracking social media discussions in each domain online. You can start with Google Alerts and Twitter Search–which allows RSS subscriptions. Your Marketing Engineer will keep track of these tools and provide training on how to set them up during your A-Team meetings. (This, by the way, is exactly the kind of scenario for which we developed SocialRep, so if it’s a big team and a big challenge, ask about our beta. But don’t buy into technology until you’ve started a process.)
  5. Create a space where this information can be easily collected online and shared with your group. Like a Facebook group page, or a space on your Intranet. Make sure it’s secure.
  6. Establish a regular meeting time to gather and discuss what’s been collected. When you start out, weekly face-to-face meetings are ideal. Make it a lunch group. When you’ve established a groove, and everyone knows what they’re up to–maybe after one quarter–move it to monthly.
  7. Use the regular meetings to listen what your team is discovering in the dialog. Start out just by listening and cataloging trends. What’s changing week-to-week? What dialogs are not changing? Where do the memes seem to be starting, and how do they spread?
  8. As you gain a better sense for the dialog driving your market, start to discuss with your team the kinds of opportunities and business objectives that might drive engagement. What kinds of market dialog should you be engaged with? What’s a waste of time, or even a danger to engage with? What kinds of brand attributes do you want to amplify online? How do this relate to the development of specific initiatives or social media policies.
  9. As your A-Team matures, you should assign at least one “SocialRep” for each customer community in your market. The SocialRep’s role is to aggregate and track the issues and dialogs driving conversation in the market, and to manage and coordinate engagement. Who’s responsible for responding to issues in this community? What’s the status of any issue that’s come up? What should the company’s approach to engagement for that community include?
  10. Bring on a “Marketing Engineer” responsible for provisioning the tools that will help your team stay agile. You want someone attached to the marketing department with a strong background in technology. For example, when Google unveils Friend Connect, this is the person who can get it up and running in an hour on your product evangelist’s blog. This is your dedicated engineering voice on your A-team.

I’m sure there are some great, easy ideas I’ve missed. If you have other ways you’re creating a group effort for managing social media across departmental silos, let me know.

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