There’s a long list of social roles out there. To get a glimpse of this extensive list just do a quick search on LinkedIn for “social media” under jobs and see what comes out: leaders, analysts, strategists, designers, executives, community managers, assistants, planners, coordinators etc.
With all these roles available it’s no surprise that a lot of marketers (especially managers) wonder: how should I structure my social media team, and where do I start?
Before you go ahead and post job roles for your social media dream team, there are 3 essential questions you need to answer:
- What is your social media team role?
- What is your social media team strategy?
- Where will your social media team sit?
Without answering these essential questions you won’t be able to fully justify having a social media team, and you won’t be able to allocate and manage your social media resources, including employees, funds and equipment to build your social media dream team.
- Social media role: First things first, you need to define your purpose – why do you need a social media team? This defines your purpose, why a social media team needs to exist in your company in the first place. While you and I understand why social media is important nowadays, you need to write it down on paper to outline why you’re needed. If you’re in a company that is just starting up with social or if you’re reviewing the need of a social media team, you’ll refer to this document very often while starting up, so make sure you have something ready.
- Social media strategy: Now that you’ve outlined why your company needs social media, it’s time to set your social media strategy. This will help you align your social media team with your company’s objectives, and it’ll also help you dictate your team’s KPIs – what metrics will best indicate how you’re performing towards your company’s KPIs? Every brand should have at least one social strategy: one over-arching social strategy, and one social strategy per social team. For instance, your company may decide that it’s best for you to have one main social media team that caters to branding and marketing, while having another social media team purely dedicated to customer services
- Social media place: Now that you’ve created a social strategy, it’s time to decide where this social media team sits in your organisation. Will this team sit under Public Relations? Marketing? Sales? IT? Customer services? Or will it sit as a standalone team connected to all the other teams in your organisation? Virtually speaking, there’s no “wrong” position for a social media team to be. However, bear in mind that if you fit a social media team in a box, its KPIs will be heavily influenced (and sometimes “dictated”) by the team you’re placing that team into. So, if your social team is suddenly in the sales team, be ready to prove the ROI of everything you do on social as that will be one of your main KPIs (including sales, activations, and other related metrics). Unfortunately teams that wouldn’t normally deal with social media (your sales team perhaps) may not be necessarily interested in other valuable social metrics like advocacy, social engagement or share of voice, since those metrics ‘don’t make immediate money’. One method that I support wholeheartedly is not placing social in any boxes, making it breathe and live in its own vertical, just like marketing and IT have their own verticals. So, just as you’d have an IT department and a Marketing department, you’d also have a Social department, with its own Head – but more on that in a minute.
Now that you’ve covered these 3 questions, we can move on to the main topic of this post: how should you structure your social media team?
Social media team structure
Social media teams can have so many layouts, setups and settings. This mainly depends on where you work and, alas, budget. Regardless of these details, there are 5 main roles that you need to cater for:
- Digital designer: I’m mentioning this role first as it often gets disregarded, unfortunately. I’ve seen a lot of social teams rely on external agencies or other external resources for any design needs, instead of keeping this key role in-house. Having an internal designer is incredibly invaluable: they’ll be in charge of creating visual assets or social applications for your campaigns, while taking care of the imagery in your social profiles. They’ll also make sure that your visual assets and creative concepts are appealing, engaging and up-to-date with the latest social measurements and requirements.
- Social analyst: your social media analyst will be at hand for any social insights, reporting or social analytics – just don’t call them gurus. They understand the impact of your content and social media activity on other initiatives you’re running, like sales, SEO, and A/B testing. Don’t hire an analyst just to churn out reports: hire an analyst when you’re ready to receive insights on how you’re performing and suggestions on how to improve from there. Nowadays the role of a social analyst overlaps with the role of the traditional web analyst. To avoid any confusion, most social analysts are simply called “digital analysts”, thus blurring the lines between social analytics and web analytics. Regardless of what you call this role, you’ll find that social analytics make more sense when merged with web analytics since they complement each other. So, for example, you can see how various social networks contribute to your web traffic, or how better to drive your traffic to/from your social accounts. Social analysts are also in charge of your company’s social listening, so they’ll monitor online mentions and conversations around your brand, products, competitors, and anything else that is relevant, including what’s going on in the industry.
- Community manager: the role of the community manager is mainly to nurture your online community. This involves establishing and nurturing relationships with your community based on trust (the brand advocacy will follow). The community manager implements strategies to encourage conversations and engagement, grow your communities, manage your social presence, create engaging content (with the help of the digital designer we mentioned earlier), content tailored to the networks you’re in, instead of just cross-posting. The community manager will also monitor and participate in relevant conversations (if/when need be).
- Care manager: this role often falls under the role of the “community manager”, but it’s also not uncommon to have a separate role for customer care. This is the norm for brands that separate their “brand accounts” from their “care accounts” (examples: BT, TalkTalk), while others just merge the two in one (e.g. EE, Virgin Media, Sky).
- Social media manager: the social media manager manages all these roles, but on top of that they also act as internal social media strategists. They create and manage the social media strategies and ensure the smooth-running of social media externally and internally.
Speaking of social media managers, how are they different from community managers? Their roles can sometimes overlap, but they’re both essential. In a nutshell, the community manager caters to your community, while your social media manager manages the social media relations, internally and externally.
What about “combo roles”?
How about combining more than one role in one person? Sure, that often makes sense. it’s great (and efficient) for someone who’s a community manager to also know how to create visual assets. And sure, an analyst can also fit as a strategist, using the analytics to devise new strategies or to perhaps consider how you can use social media in ways you never thought of before.
Having said that, make sure you’re not lumping too many roles and responsibilities on one person. It’s useful for the aforementioned roles to know a bit of everything too, so they’re not fully dependant on another role. For example, it’s useful for the community manager to have some experience in creating/editing visual assets, even if he/she isn’t an expert in Photoshop; and it’s useful for the social media manager to know his/her way around Excel, without having to fully rely on the analyst to know how you’re performing on social media. That cross-sharing of skills makes it a lot easier when it comes to sharing responsibilities too, and you’ll avoid any nightmares when one goes on leave too. However, while you set these roles and responsibilities, leave enough leeway for someone to develop in their role and become a specialist in what they do.
Outsource or keep in-house?
Should you outsource any of the roles we’ve mentioned to agencies and consultants? Are agencies and consultants needed after all? What should you outsource, and what should you keep in-house? Perhaps you choose to deal with everything but the monetisation, so you have a digital agency taking care of the advertising and monetisation of your content. Or perhaps you’re outsourcing your community management to an agency. This may be due to a number of reasons, although the usual reason is often lack of staff or lack of budget.
There are pros and cons to this: personally, I lean towards keeping as much as possible in-house – you have better knowledge of what goes on in your company than an external agency. There are two responsibilities in particular that I’m particularly against outsourcing: communications and analytics. You need to be in control of what your brand says online, on whatever social/digital channel, and you also need to be on top of your performance: how did you perform, what went well and what went wrong with the latest post(s) you published, and how can you learn from that and improve next time.
Sure, having experts in social analytics or social engagement from an agency can be really useful – having someone who can share guidelines or give you a good steer based on how you’re performing, based on how other brands are performing too. However, ultimately, your outreach and analytics should be yours to own. It’s fine if your agencies or consultants help you behind the scenes, but if people are expecting to speak to people from your company when they contact you online, make sure you give them just that: real conversations with you, the brand.
Sharing is caring
Here’s something else worth mentioning: everyone in your social team should have visibility of what the other team members are doing. Sure, sitting all together in the same location is useful, but that’s not always possible. Make sure that your work is shared across your team, for visibility. So, for instance, while it’s important for the social analyst to share the reports across the team and make them accessible to other team members, it’s also important that all team members also have access to the same social analytics platform that the analyst has access to. Understandably, the more roles you have in your team, the more tools you need to share access to. If that’s your scenario, consider going for all-in-one tools. Bear in mind that all-in-one tools are rarely on par with specialist tools that concentrate on one function well. Having said that, there are some really great all-in-one tools out there that I definitely recommend, see them all in The Complete Guide to Social and Digital Marketing Tools.
The Social Leader
While we’ve highlighted a few essential roles for a great social team, there’s another social role that deserves a paragraph of its own: the Head of Social Media. This is arguably the most important role in an organisation that has a presence on social media. This person has various roles and duties, but the main responsibilities include being the social spokesperson for your brand, internally and externally. They advocate social media and make sure it’s front and center in your company, in a time where not everyone believes in the benefits of social. They’re the ones who showcase how great you are on social and all the other initiatives you could undertake; they’re the ones who highlight what other brands are doing, while leading on innovative initiatives. They’re usually found at events and seminars showing off the great things their brand is doing in social media and digital marketing.
Unfortunately this role is not common: a lot of brands are just satisfied with just a social media team, without having a head of social media who can act as a leader. However, look at other brands that have successfully embraced social/digital transformation, look at the brands that you regard as “social brands”. They all have one thing in common: a leader who advocates social media. Their title may vary (Head of Social, Chief Social Officer, Director of Social etc.), but they all have that person who acts as a Social Captain for the brand.
The effects and benefits of having such a visionary leader in social are invaluable, and they can make a huge difference to yourown brand. Brands with a social leader aren’t satisfied with the usual or the ordinary; they fully understand that having a social media team does not necessarily make the brand social; they fully invest in social: time, money, effort, staff, tools and innovation.
It’s all about the customer
You can slice and dice the roles in your social team any which way you want it, you can mix and match them, outsource or insource, but one fact remains: people who reach out to you don’t really care about your team structure or your job titles. They don’t care if it’s 100 or just 1 of you. They don’t care if your social media team sits in PR, Marketing, Sales, or if you’re still finding where best to fit your team.
People who contact you expect you to manage your social media presence, whether “you” is a cohesive team of 10 or a multi-tasking team of 1. So, however you decide to structure your social media team, make sure that those social needs are catered for, create workflows and systems that work for you and that can help you manage internal and external expectations – expectations that people will naturally have if you make yourself available on social media.