I read a great whitepaper recently on the "State of Corporate Social Media" by USM. One of the things which caught my imagination was a section about social media teams apparently getting smaller, which seems a little counterintuitive considering most businesses see social media as a key channel; but is it?
At the beginning
Going back to the heady days when social media was really just emerging in the B2C space, the solution for most enterprises was to hire a Social Media Manager. They would own everything social from strategy to execution.
Enterprises then backed social media as a fantastic new marketing opportunity; so the second evolutionary step was the recruitment and establishment of a larger social media team. The team would set social media policies, decide on and organise training, put all stakeholders on the same agenda, create a social media content schedule and purchase new listening and syndication platforms, among many of their tasks!
My entrance on the market
The third evolutionary step was fairly recent, around 2011-2013, where companies started the process of social media decentralisation. From a personal note, this is where I got involved. In 2011, I noticed organisations were missing a pretty big boat - nobody was 'socially enabling' their brand advocates - whether internal sales staff or external sales partners (retailers, resellers, dealers, etc.).
I was convinced that this was the next big thing, as buyers were starting to spend more and more time on social media as part of their buying cycle. This is what led to the creation of my business, and our product portfolio.
The shrinking of the social media team
Recently, we've seen more and more people 'get on board'. The social media team has actually expanded, not in terms of numbers of specific social media marketers, but as a result of their colleagues and employees increasingly adding social media activities to their job descriptions.
The truth is many of the tasks that were once the sole responsibility of the dedicated social media team have now gone to others, i.e. people with other titles. These roles have gone to PR, channel marketers, product marketers, management and even sales people.
The only thing in reality that has 'shrunk' is the size of the 'dedicated' social media teams.
Don't be shocked, this isn't new. When some new technology or paradigm comes in, teams are created to maximise opportunities. When those opportunities have been maximised, these teams decrease in size as knowledge and technological solutions allow more people within the organisation to incorporate them into their normal jobs. The 'new normal' for most workers is an expanded job function, aided by technology to enable them to perform these additional tasks.
In the case of marketing, marketers have adapted over the past 10-15 years adding different media to their knowledge bank. Now, when you recruit a marketing resource, you're looking for experience in email, mobile, social media, telemarketing, and content marketing.
Focus on strategy
With all this said, it doesn't mean you don't need a social media team. This is not the eulogy for the social media marketers. It simply means that members of this dedicated and still 'elite' team need to focus on setting the strategy, and forget about physical execution.
This point is probably the most important one. What will make social media work for your organisation is your strategy.
And to make this happen, you will need a centralised, lean but expert social media team setting the direction, building the team of stakeholders, and providing the content marketing structure, which is then executed by the wider organisation (internally or externally).