human pyramid

I have written a lot about the critical importance of company culture to social media marketing success. It’s more important than desire, it’s more important than vision, it’s even more important than having a budget.  If you don’t have a leadership team supporting a culture that is actively transforming to a digital, open, responsive environment, you’ll simply be frustrated and waste a lot of money.

For many companies this is a dramatic and difficult change.  And that change is not going to come from earnest employees at the bottom of the organization, no matter how passionate and driven they may be.  Organizational change has to come from the top — from the people who control the budget, strategy, and resources. There is no such thing as a grassroots organizational change.

One of the most important things a company can do is to create a Social Media Lead Team to help drive the change you need that will support your efforts. By the way, doesn’t “Lead Team” sound a lot better than “committee?” Let’s look at the steps you need to take to do this effectively …

Are you ready?

You cannot hope to drive change unless the leadership team is convinced that change is necessary. If that has not yet occurred, you’re not ready.  At this point, you don’t need a Lead Team, you need executive education. Here are two things to try if your leadership team stubbornly has its head in the sand:

1) Every week, send one short article to your leaders to educate them on social media marketing benefits, case studies, and examples of what the competition might be up to.

2) Bring in an outside expert. Sadly, sometimes they just need to hear from the “outside” to convince them that change is necessary. In my experience, even a two-hour social media workshop can have a powerful impact on the tone of the organization.

Who should be on the team?

The make-up of the team can vary, but there is one person who is absolutely critical.  Look at the organizational chart. Now, identify all the people who have to make this strategy work on a day-to-day basis. In some companies this might include Legal, HR, PR, IT, Marketing, and Sales.  Now look up the chart for the one person who can tell all these people what to do. It could be a manager or VP, but in some companies you might have to go all the way up to the CEO.

That person must be on the team. Why? Because that is the person who controls ALL the resources needed to make this work.  This is single person who can set the direction so that the team operates with lock-step efficiency.  If you don’t have this person’s leadership on the team, you risk constant in-fighting.

After that, you can populate the team with representatives of the key functional areas who will be working on the social media strategy and tactics.

What does a Social Media Lead Team do?

In my experience, there are five obstacles to social media success across every company I have worked with: Company culture, measurement, resources, IT, and Legal.  If you would like to read about this in more detail, here is a thorough article for your consideration: The Social Media Minefield: Five Factors Blocking Your Success.

The number one goal of this team is openly address any problem that is jeopardizing the digital transformation of the company so it seems that focusing on these five common issues would be an appropriate agenda for your meetings:

1) Measurement — Review the dashboard to report on successes, opportunities and competitive efforts.

2) Legal — How is the approval process going? Is Legal allowing you to be “human?”

3) IT — Are you getting the IT support you need? Are they responsive to new customer needs and ideas?

4) Resources — Do you have the people and budget to optimize your efforts? (Of course the answer to this will always be “no” but are you moving forward at the right pace?)

5) Culture/leadership — Is everybody rowing in the right direction? Any personnel or political issues?

In addition to these standing agenda items, the team should also:

  • Review and enforce the company social media policy
  • Provide positive reinforcement and recognition to those embracing change
  • Actively demonstrate their leadership and interest in digital business through their work on this team
  • Decide on the timing of significant new projects

How often should the Lead Team meet?

For the first year, I would suggest having a two-hour meeting once per month and then backing off to one hour every other month in year two.

In the first year, you might consider one hour devoted to problem-solving and one hour of digital education on a topic like opportunities in analytics, social influence, digital advertising, mobile marketing, content marketing, etc.  The more knowledgeable your team is, the more likely you will maintain their sense of urgency to move forward.

So those are a few of my thoughts on the subject of social media and leadership.  What has your experience been like? What would you add to this discussion?

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