Part 2. (Read Part 1 here.)

2. Social Media “management” is not about Social Media as much as it is about business functions.

Let’s look at the enterprise space (large companies. Say, a Fortune 1000.) Consider this. What makes more sense:

a) Having a Social Media/blogger “manager” who assists PR, advertising, marketing, HR, business intelligence and other departments by managing several corporate accounts, or…

b) Having a PR department that uses Social Media, a Customer Service department that uses Social Media, an online reputation and crisis management team that uses Social Media, a team of product managers using Social Media, (and so on) all connected through a collaboration hub and supervised by a Social Communications oversight role?

If the answer isn’t clear to you, don’t sweat it. Don’t think about it in terms of ‘Social Media.’ Think about it in terms of business objectives: Why do we need to be using Social Media today?

Because it’s the cool thing to do? No.

Because my PR department needs to work on reaching more people and making their message stick better? Yes.

Because my Customer Service Department is looking for ways to reduce operational costs and cut ticket times in half? Yes. Because real-time digital customer service improves our brand’s image? Yes. (We have the sentiment and loyalty data to prove it.)

Because our crisis management team can now manage coordinated attacks on our brand by activist groups without these ‘campaigns’ turning into PR nightmares? Yes.

Because our product management teams can now get immediate feedback from the field when it comes to quality, features, promotions and any other activity we invest in? Yes.

So what does this mean? Simple. It means this: Social Media “management” when it comes to customer/public facing roles, is about expanding the reach of specific business functions, not just creating new or parallel functions. Here is what I mean:

3. What your Social Media “management” structure should look like in terms of customer/public facing functions.

New roles:

Community Manager – This person is often the face and voice of the organization across Social Media channels. Unlike the other new role (blogger), this is a full time position. For excellent insights into community management, I recommend that you familiarize yourself with Amber Naslund’s blog. As Radian 6’s Director of Community, she knows a thing or two about this type of role and has written extensively on the subject.

Blogger – Self explanatory. This person creates content, manages blogs, responds to comments, comments on other blogs, etc. This could be a full time role. It could also be a part time role for existing managers across a breadth of departments. (The CMO could be a blogger. The Customer Service team could all participate in the company’s blogging effort. Etc.)

Monitoring – Though in most instances, monitoring of Social Media channels is the responsibility of individual roles (see below), monitoring can be a full time job in and of itself. This type of role can serve as a business intelligence hub that feeds individual business units by capturing data and information, triaging it, compartmentalizing it, and then sharing it as packets with specific departments. Also see Market Research/Business Intelligence below.

Existing roles:

Public Relations/Investor relations – In addition to traditional channels, these two roles (often intertwined) can now leverage digital social networks to a) extend their reach, b) build trust with their audience, c) answer questions as needed (become a resource), and d) conduct its own market research.

Product Management/Brand Management/Event Management – These three distinct yet similar types of roles now find their capabilities enhanced by the Social Web: a) Direct interactions with customers, users and attendees. b) Immediate feedback on ideas, product releases, quality control, promotions. c) Provide additional value to the public through knowledge, insight, tips, activities, news, special events, etc. d) Leverage word-of-mouth to accelerate discovery, preference, and ultimately purchases of a product, increased loyalty for a brand, and broader attendance/participation at an event.

Customer Service – Some people prefer to call the 1-800-IhateU line. For everyone else, Social Media might be a better fix. Consider the advantages:

a) A customer service representative can only deal with one customer at a time via telephone. If they are talking to one person, the others have to be helped by someone else or be on hold. This process is long, ineffective, and frustrating. Customers don’t like it, and the cost to Customer Service departments is so great that most are now outsourced. Unfortunately, we all know how well that works. Via Social Networks, a Customer Service rep can help more than one person at a time. Already, you can see an improvement in efficiency. In addition, customers don’t have to be put on hold: While the CSR looks into their problem, the customer can go make himself a sandwich, watch a little TV, answer their phone, get back to work, and check again in a few minutes. It is not an inconvenience or a time suck. On the company end of things, this could translate not only into faster resolution times, higher customer satisfaction, positive WOM and good press, but also very real savings in terms of operational costs.

b) Customer Service can now answer questions and address problems even if not contacted directly. By monitoring keywords across Social Networks, a CSR can spot a person in need of help and come to their rescue without having to be prompted by a direct question. Intelligent companies already use this proactive methodology to a) infuse their growing social capital with good will, and b) turn their Customer Service departments from cost centers into profit centers by using them as lead generation engines.

There is more to all this, but we will leave it at these two items for now.

Human Resources – You can sift through hundreds (or thousands) of resumes per week, or you can leverage your own social and peer networks to identify, pre-qualify and reach out to the best candidates for a new position. Ask yourself this: As a recruiting manager, would you rather hire a complete stranger, or would you rather hire someone who comes recommended by four or five people you know and trust?

Also, when employees threaten to become a liability to the company through their online activity, does your organization have a plan? Do you summarily terminate the employee, or do you have a tiered educational process in place to help them (and your organization) stay out of trouble? Does your organization have a Social Media ethics/best practices/good behavior training program for employees? Are your guidelines and policies up to date? Does your intranet provide Social Media usage resources for employees? Not yet? This is a whole new field for HR to manage, and one in sore need of immediate attention.

Crisis Management/Online Reputation Management – What happens when your organization comes under attack because of a recall, a production accident, a scandalous statement made by an employee, a coordinated attack by an activist group, or any other crisis? How quickly and effectively you respond across ALL channels (traditional and Social) now makes the difference between a mere speed bump and a PR catastrophe.

Imagine that your trains or airplanes leave tens of thousands of passengers stranded across a continent, just days before a major Holiday. Is your organization prepared to leverage Social Channels to both keep tabs of the situation and keep the public informed? Whether your oil well blows up, your accelerator pedal sticks, your CEO gets caught doing something unsavory, your nemesis implies that your products kill endangered species, or any number of unforeseen PR calamities decide to strike at the least opportune moment, is your organization ready to leverage new channels to put out the fire before it becomes a raging inferno? Do you think a blogger can do this for you? The twitter guy? No. Your Crisis Management team is best equipped to deal with this. It is their responsibility to incorporate the Social Web into their activities. Will they need help in adapting to this “new” medium? Sure. But the responsibility to execute still falls on them to understand, plan, and execute fluently.

Market Research/Business Intelligence – You can now do this in real time. No more delays needed. The greater the social capital, the larger the pool of insights. The more fluent with the space, the greater the pool of data. It isn’t rocket science, but it still needs to be done.

etc. (If there is a role in your organization today, chances are that it can be enhanced by its own Social Media practice – yes, even accounts receivable.)

The main advantage of letting individual departments manage their own Social Media activities is that the “social media manager” doesn’t have to learn how to be a CSR, a PR person, a crisis management expert, or a product manager. Business functions come with their own expertise. Bloggers/Social Media persons effectively cannot perform dozens of business functions for which they have not been trained, and from which they have garnered very little experience over the years. A “Social Media” manager cannot wear every departmental hat.

Social Media programs within an organization exist to serve the business. Period. Since every business objective finds in its execution a specific operational structure based on departmental functions, each with their own sub-objectives, it stands to reason that Social Media is most effective when it directly serves these individual functions and activities.

How does a “Social Media expert” manage 400 customer service requests per day? He doesn’t. How does he manage the recruitment of the next fifty hires? He doesn’t. How does he manage Social Communications for a team of product managers? He doesn’t do that either. He can’t. There just isn’t enough time for him to do it all, and he cannot be a surrogate for ever role in the company every time these roles/functions need to touch the twitternets. It simply does not work that way. Not in the real world.

Consider these two models:

In the fifth wheel model (below), the Social Media manager/director role tries to serve all departments as the “Social Media” person. It looks like this:

The Fifth Wheel model

You can see how much of an operational nightmare this is. One person cannot handle the load. Even a team of “Social Media” operators cannot handle this properly. How many masters does the Social Media team serve? How do they coordinate efforts? How do they actually do their job on a daily basis? In how many types of roles must each Social Media operator be trained? Customer Service? PR? Marketing Communications? Technical Support? This model is where many companies start – and fail, for obvious reasons.

Now look at an operationalized model, where the Social Media Director performs more of an oversight role, and each department – once trained and upon understanding how to leverage the space to pursue specific objectives, handles their own Social Media activities:

The Operationalized model

Which of the two seems more manageable?

Note: These diagrams are simplified. A full Social Media program structure looks a tad more complex than this. The above avatars and assigned roles are completely random and used as examples only.

In light of these two very distinct types of structures, ask yourself this: How might the required skills of a Social Media Director differ between both models?

In the first (the fifth wheel model), the Social Media role is much more tactical. It is 100% focused on execution and communications: Create content, publish content, gather data, report to departments, etc. In the second, the role is much more strategic and operationally driven: Although the Social Media Director may interact directly with the public, most of the communications are handled by individual departments, according to their own needs and aims. The Social Media Director acts as a resource, strategist and overwatch. He monitors, coordinates and provides support. If a crisis occurs, he can at a moment’s notice activate various departments and direct them in support of another until the crisis is averted. In this model, the Social Media Director is much more of an executive-level role and requires a broader set of skills and management experience than in the first (itself better suited to more junior individuals).

What we have here are two entirely different types of roles, whose execution is similar in name only. Before hiring a Social Media “manager” or “director,” be careful to understand that the structure and the role – not the title – determine the qualifying skills and experience. While a Community Manager may serve the purposes of the first model, they may not be equipped to function well in the second model. Likewise, too strategic an individual – ideal for the second model – may not fare well at all in the first model.

This topic will be the subject of tomorrow’s follow-up post. (Part 3)