Picking a leader for your social media program

This is post is part of the Institutionalizing Social Media series. To see previous installments or to learn more about the series, click here.

In earlier posts from the Institutionalizing Social Media series, we focused on fundamentals, methods and reasons to take social media from a silo to a corporate-wide tool. One thing that we hadn’t touched on is who should have final decision rights and lead the overall vision.

Social media touches many areas of the company and requires different strategies for each area. There needs to be a clear-cut leader when it comes to final say and accountability. Much like a kitchen with too many chefs, a social tribe with too many chiefs is ineffective.Take me to your leader!

Below are the qualities that suit the chief social media evangelist in mind that the alpha team that initially rolled out the program may not be the best to bring the program to the institutional level, particularly if the team is so ingrained in the day-to-day social media operations that it cannot see the big picture.

Knowledge of the Business

Perhaps the most vital trait that a leader will demonstrate is a deep knowledge of the company. This does not have to be in-depth insight into the P&L, but rather knowledge of how each segment of the company operates and how social media can benefit those teams. This person will also know who to contact to get to the bottom of any issue and get the proper messaging out.

Passion 2.0

Passion is something that you can’t learn or fake and your team’s leader shouldn’t be someone who is simply looking to use the position as a stepping stone. An adept team leader should share the same passion for the space as the early adopters. Note that to the leader doesn’t need to be an expert on every network when it comes out, but he or she should have enough of an understanding of a network to see the business value or lack of value for the company. This insight will keep segments of the business from wasting time and resources, and put teams in a position to see beyond the excitement of a new shiny toy. The leader should also be able to say no and reel back teams who are looking to do something just because it is cool.

Mission Control

Plans and strategic road maps are key to a successful social media program. The head social media honcho needs to be able to know the plans and goals of each subsection of the business. He or she also needs to have the internal cache and clout to kick these teams back in line if they stray too far from the plan. This accountability will help teams avoid devoting resources to actions that are counterproductive to the organization’s goals and mission. For example, if the product team wanted to crowdsource improvements for six products in a given quarter, but is stuck looking at20 variations of an improvement to one product, the leader’s job is to help the team refocus on the larger task and prioritize work and time to reach their goals.

Ability to Communicate

The social media team lead needs to be a master of communications both internally and externally. This counts in everything from messaging Tweets and determining a corporate voice to talking up team members and messaging results within the company walls. This person must be able to get their message out without ambiguity. If you do not have someone who can communicate internally and externally, your efforts will fail.

Leading Role

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges of the leader of a social media team is managing up. Since the space is still in its infant years, many companies do not have senior level people leading up the charge. Much of the management is done by mid to junior executives. As programs begin to grow and encompass more of the business, these people need to be able to take the reins and run with it while being comfortable giving orders and saying no to executives with more tenure or corporate experience. Please note that these orders need to be given in a political way (See Ability to Communicate above) – King Tut.

Community Organizer

Building a community both internally and externally is an essential responsibility for the social media lead.  Externally, the goal is to build a vibrant group talking about a brand or its core beliefs to actively engage a customer base. Internally, it’s trickier as the lead needs to cultivate relationships across silos. In many cases, this will lead to some sort of silo-breaking and cross-functional projects. With the internal and external falling under the same leader, it is important to keep the integrity of both in line as the project and community grow. The team leader needs to be able to see trouble spots and offer solutions to mitigate larger blowups or lack of overall engagement.

You probably noticed that title or direct job functions were not mentioned in the necessities above. At the end of the day internal pissing contests between public relations, advertising, IT, marketing, etc. need to stop. Organizational success in social media cannot happen with interdepartmental bickering. While each of these departments can have a stake in the program, the leader should be the one that can best leverage the above components for your company.

How did you select your leader?

Tune in next week for the next installment of Institutionalizing Social Media, if you want to get it sent to your email, please click here.

4 Responses to Picking a leader for your social media program
  1. jeffespo
    September 27, 2011 | 5:24 pm

    @StaceyHood TY sir

  2. StaceyHood
    September 27, 2011 | 5:25 pm

    @jeffespo NP

  3. jeffespo
    September 27, 2011 | 5:25 pm

    @StaceyHood 🙂

  4. jeffespo
    October 10, 2011 | 5:27 pm

    @adamson thanks