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No time to write anything new today, so here’s something from the archives that might be worth another look:

Now that we’re hopefully beyond the “what is social media and why does my company need to understand it” phase, let’s move into some practical thinking: How to actually start planning for a Social Media program, and to that end, how to look at four distinct types of activities and roles needed to do this well.

First things first: The four principle components (or building blocks) of any social media program, each with its very own management imperatives. They are (yes, in order): Development, integration, management and measurement. This is important to point out because it lays the foundations for structure and the assignment of specific roles within the context of Social Media. (Hint: A Social Media practitioner isn’t necessarily a jack of all trades. Some are strategists. Others are communicators. Others still like to play with numbers, not people.

In other words, you need to realize that just because someone is a Social Media practitioner doesn’t mean they are suited to perform any and all Social Media duties your organization requires.)

Let’s take a very brief look at the four building blocks of any well structured Social Media program, especially in the enterprise space:

Development is basically the strategy behind your Social Media program. The build. The framework. Someone at a Director or C-level has to put the strategy together. That someone has to ask the macro questions:  How can Social Media help the company? What are we trying to accomplish? How can we build a program that will accomplish these objectives? Who will be the principal players? Where will the funding come from? What should the program look like? What should be its macro components? What time-frame are we working with? What and when will the milestones be? What needs to happen in order for this program to happen and be successful? What tools will we use? How will we gauge success?

Integration is the plugging-in of the program into the organization: Training staff. Recruiting staff. Working across silos to incorporate the social media program into the company’s current activities. Working with HR to develop social media policies, guidelines and training. Working with PR to coordinate corporate communications. Working with customer service to embed Social Media into existing customer support initiatives. Working with IT to make sure the company’s Social Media ecosystem is swift, painless, and secure. And so on. You get the picture. The integration piece requires someone with operational leadership experience. Someone who knows a) how Social Media fits into every department’s world, and b) how to actually work with department heads and key staff to smoothly embed Social Media into their processes.

Management is the day-to-day execution of the Social Media program. This can look like a multi-layered management structure (most likely for an enterprise-space company) or it can be a one-man show (small business or business in its first year of dabbling in Social Media). Types of activities that fall under the management umbrella are things like community engagement, customer support, business intelligence, market research, content production, publishing, monitoring, etc. This is hands-on work. We’re outside of the realm of strategy here. This is pure execution. Where the rubber hits the road.

Measurement is… well, you know. Someone has to measure success, failure, even stagnation. Incidentally, measurement doesn’t just involve overall financial impact (ROI) and non-financial impact. It also involves the performance of individual departments based on their specific goals and objectives. (The Customer Service team is certain to use a very different set of metrics to define success than, say, the Public Relations team.) Certain campaigns may also require separate measurement independent of the entire program.  And drilling deeper still, measurement also involves individual performance: If, for example, a community manager is evaluated on their ability to grow their community by x% and respond to a minimum number of daily queries, then measurement lives there as well. In other words, in addition to the macro components to measurement that we usually talk about (like ROI), don’t forget the layers of micro components as well.

As you may have guessed, one person probably shouldn’t handle all four elements of a Social Media program unless they absolutely have to. There are three basic reasons for this:

1. Most people, no matter how talented and hard-working don’t have all the skills required to do it all (or do it all exceedingly well). Some people are analytical by nature (measurement), others are fantastic strategists (development), others – operational superheroes – see how all the pieces fit (integration) and some are natural charismatic “get it done” powerhouses and avid consumer advocates (management). Rarely do you find strong analytical, strategic, management and integration skills in just one person.

2. Even if you do find that one person, s/he probably can’t handle that complex and involved of a workload for very long without suffering a spectacular burnout. Even the most multi-talented social media manager/director can’t do it all. Try to integrate a social media program across several departments AND be an effective community manager AND be responsible for program measurement to senior management. Good luck with that. Spread the load.

3. Community managers and customer service representatives probably don’t need to worry about silly things like R.O.I. What they need is an environment that allows them to engage with the public without having to worry about measurement and strategy and integration. Some things just don’t go well together. If everyone can just focus on what they do best, everything will flow much more smoothly. Specialization isn’t a bad thing. (Remember this?)

If this all seems like common sense, you’re right. It is. But how many Social Media programs, even among the world’s top social brands actually have such a structure in place already, or the right types of people in the right roles, even? (Don’t worry. You don’t have to answer that.)

Just food for thought. Again, this might not work for every company… but it probably does.