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Social Media Marketing: Lead with Talent, not Policies


Who should lead our social media marketing activity? It's a question being asked frequently, but the answer can vary greatly from one organization to another. Initially, it's wise to focus on the skilled people within your qualified talent pool -- or, talent puddle, as the case may be -- rather than choosing a functional group.

Meaning, the possession of proven experience should be a key deciding factor in leader selection.

eMarketer reports that it's quickly becoming common wisdom among marketers that a meaningful strategy is required to apply social media tools effectively. That doesn't mean a majority of those involved in the space have created a well-thought-out approach.

According to a May 2010 market study by Digital Brand Expressions, 52 percent of marketers using social media are operating "without a game plan" -- similar to the 50 percent found in April 2010 by R2integrated.

Many marketers that do have a strategy find it doesn't address all their concerns or fit their most pressing needs. The most common key elements in a social media communications plan were resource-allocation guidelines for ongoing activities, registration of branded usernames on social sites and research into competitor's use of social media.

Does that mean finding staff qualified to complete those tasks are their top priority? Actually, no it doesn't.

Instead of Empowering Talent, Policies are Enacted

When survey respondents were asked about their plan implementation, their answers had a somewhat different focus. While resource allocation was still top of mind, 71 percent were consumed with preparing and distributing the organization's guiding "policies" for ongoing communications.

Regardless, just 45 percent of companies had the completed policies in place. Perhaps they formed a "task force" to debate the topic and were stuck in a perpetual review process -- essentially distracted by the concerns of traditional command and control-centric managers who have no prior social media experience.

Respondents were equally concerned with the ongoing monitoring of brand reputation. At 71 percent, it's yet another common distraction from the more pressing needs. However, only 52 percent had a substantive plan for those custodian brand manager activities.

The greatest policy need disparity was defining how social sites should be used by sales, human resources, customer service and other groups within the company. But, while more than two-thirds of respondents saw a need for these policies, 29 percent were actually prepared.

Command and Control: Propagating the Fear of Punishment

The common desire to contain social media activity with policy creation stalling tactics highlights how social media has spread throughout many organizations and is not limited to marketing or PR departments. Regaining control -- via the threat of punitive policies -- tends to become the focal point of legacy business managers.

A majority of companies with a social strategy included marketing, PR and sales in their plans -- but most survey respondents also thought that human resources and customer service should be added. Respondents agreed that, in general, responsibility for creating strategies should fall to marketing departments.

"Companies that have held back on adopting social media throughout their organizations would benefit from starting with a cohesive plan that involves all of the key groups within the organization," said the findings in the report.

Clearly, the problem with these "group think" approaches is that the few people with demonstrated social media marketing experience are often overruled by the uninformed majority.

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