Will your social media team still be around in a year’s time?

better-wayI’ve been speaking with many organisations over the last few weeks about how they can make better use of social in their organisation.

As I speak to senior people about their existing social presence and strategy, something that has really struck me is how isolated some of their social teams are from the rest of the business.

At meetings over the last few weeks, I was told about the “social media reports” prepared by the “social team”.

In many cases, these reports are simply not read in a timely manner by those who should be reading them (or not read at all), because they talk about activity  and don’t provide actionable insights for the rest of the business.

Reports that measure the number of followers, likes and retweets are nice, but they are in many ways completely disconnected from the rest of the business, and the metrics that matter.

Now I’m not here to suggest you need to get rid of your social media team – on the contrary, your existing social team has provided a strong beachhead upon which you can build a solid social business – but only if you follow my advice below.

Why is social media still seen as “nice to have” in many companies?

In early 2013, Brian Solis and Charlene Li from Altimeter Group released a landmark report titled “Six Stages of Social Business Transformation” where the standout statistic was that only 34% of companies surveyed felt that their social strategy was connected to business outcomes.

altimeter-social-business

Now here’s where the alarm bells ring for me.

If the activity of the “social media team” is not connected to business outcomes, then they won’t be around in 12- 18 months. One of the issues that the Altimeter report highlighted was that companies without a true social business focus end up de-scoping their social media activities unless they can be tied to real and measurable business benefits.

What happens next is the funding dries up, headcount is frozen and the CEO rightly says to the board “we tried social media and it just wasn’t right for us”.

When I hear how some social teams are operating (in a silo), I wonder if they will be around this time next year.

In some cases, it will be up to the social team to prolong their own existence by ensuring that their internal sponsor (in many cases the CMO) insists that a social business strategy (not just a social media one) is firmly on the agenda of the C-suite.

A recent IBM C-suite study found that when asked about the most significant challenges to implementing a digital strategy within the enterprise, “lack of a cohesive social media plan” was the number one answer.

ibm-c-suite-digital-challenge

Source: IBM IBV C-Suite study 2013

Let me reiterate the key focus of this post.

If you operate your social media activities and team as simply an extension of your marketing campaigns (and are chasing metrics such as likes and follower numbers), then you are doing it all wrong, and your department will get their funding cut by the end of 2014.

Instead, spend some of the energy you are putting in to chasing those likes and social campaigns to drive “impressions”, and spend time educating your C-suite on why they need to become a social business.

I just shook my head recently when I found out that the latest social media report had not been read at one company, and at another, the amazing insights from social interactions and insights never made it to the people who could really use them – the front-line staff of the business.

If it was my budget, I would insist that all of the social efforts could be tied back to metrics that matter to the business, without having to translate them from “social speak” into language the C-suite understands.

In 2014, it is time for social to grow up, move out of the marketing department and into all parts of the business, along with the cultural change required for social to have a seat at the top table.

Don’t let your social team get shut down because you let them focus only on marketing metrics, and chasing things that matter to the social team, and not the board and shareholders.

Ensure that social is as important to the business as your key business metrics.

You should also read my 2014 follow up to this post How to avoid having your social media team become a “social switchboard”.

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below or tweet me @AndrewGrill

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About 

Based in London, Andrew is an internationally renowned thought leader in the field of social business and social media networks. Andrew is Global Managing Partner, Social Consulting at IBM.