Social Media Needs People

Passionate, customer focused, persuasive, determined people are the secret ingredient in social media success.

There’s an old business adage that managers are as good as the people they lead, reflecting the long understood principle that recruiting and retaining talent needs to be a core competency for business success. Jim Collins, in Good To Great, identified this as one of the seven characteristics that made companies great: “First Who, Then What.” Get the right people on the bus, he observed, then figure out where to go.

This principle plays a crucial role in social media, in which even a cursory review of social media success stories reveals that technology, functionality, content, tools, design are variables, while good people are a constant.

These early adopters combined hands-on knowledge of social media with a passion for customer service, great communication skills, impressive powers of persuasion and determination to launch and sustain the social media initiatives that demonstrate the power of the technology and the new way of doing business.

Focusing on people allows any organization to answer a fundamental social media question: where do we start? Blogs and social networks are a new challenge for many, but every organization has experience in hiring talent and would be well served to leverage that knowledge by choosing the right people to put on their social media bus and then figuring out where to go.

Build your team

While at least one social media savvy evangelist will be an important resource to identify, for most organizations the opportunity for social media has evolved to a point in which a lone champion is no longer an adequate staffing model.

The best approach is to build a team with a complementary blend of skills sets, experience and knowledge, of both your business and the applications for social media. While it’s quite likely that organizations will need to consider recruiting externally to add needed social media knowledge, it’s essential that the team includes existing people who know the business.

Amy-Mae Elliott provides helpful advice on building a social media team in Mashable, quoting Mashable’s community manager, Vadim Lavrusik:  “Hire people that practice what they preach. This can be grabbing people internally who understand the company and would do well to represent it, but also from outside the company who would be great advocates of the company, product or platform. Hiring people who love the company that they represent will usually make them more knowledgeable of the company’s inner workings, making them strong candidates to represent it in the social space.”

Some considerations when building your team include:

  • Organizational knowledge. Every company or organization has engaged, responsible employees who have a strong knowledge of the organization, its services and customers or stakeholders. Make sure you have these individuals on the team—supported by clear goals, training and policies—because they will be best equipped to provide the rapid, accurate and responsible responses entailed in social interactions.

  • Early adopter expertise. It’s likely that an organization will need to look externally to find people who have mastered the appropriate behaviour for managing social media and have demonstrated the ability to build relationships in several networks. But before posting to LinkedIn, check internally to see if this individual is already present.

  • Blend of skill sets. The rapid maturation of social media means that the skills go well beyond being able to make a pithy, retweetable statement in 140 characters (although that’s still important). Skill sets that must be represented on your team include the following, which necessitates a group in which the whole is greater than the sum of the parts:

    1. 1. Knowledge of metrics and data. Whether it's engagement or sentiment, social media creates a rich source of data, and someone on the team needs the ability to collect, interpret and take action based on that input.

      2. Business knowledge. The days of using social media to be cool are long gone, and at least one team member needs the ability to identify and manage the business opportunities created by social participation.

      3. Customer advocacy. An essential principle of social media is that organizations need to be authentically good at what they claim to do well, and its medium in which faking concern for one’s customer will quickly be noted. Make sure someone on the team has demonstrated strong customer advocacy unique to your business, and instills that mindset in all team members.

      4. Communication ability. The ability to engage, actively listen, respond and communicate concisely and, when appropriate, with creativity is essential. While not everyone on the team needs to be a great communicator, make sure the people who are most actively participating in social media have solid communication skills, and at least one person can train the others on the basics of social communications.

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on April 28, 2011.

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