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July 24, 2016 / achanguris

How to Work with Your In-House Social Media Team

Social media is an odd bird. Just about everyone uses it to some degree. The barrier to entry is intentionally set low to encourage quick, in-the-moment sharing. Even in a business setting, a quick online search can teach you how to do everything from writing an engaging tweet to optimizing your Facebook Canvas ad.

So it’s not hard to understand why a lot of people think they’re social media experts. It’s a lot like any aspect of marketing and communications; the mechanics are fairly simple – the artistry is in the execution. But damn it’s hard to convince people of that.

Lately I’ve been spending more time at work fighting back would-be social media marketers from a wide range of departments (some well-meaning, others less so) than – you know – actually managing and leading the fine group of professionals who happen to have the words “social media” in their titles.

And no, I’m not saying you have to be 100% dedicated to social media to have excellent thoughts and ideas in (or out of) the space. I love working with people who bring different perspectives to the table. It’s exciting to explore the different ways we can use social media to support our organization.

What’s been missing lately is the spirit of collaboration.

Collaborate, Don’t Dictate

For some reason I’ve yet to discern, several groups have picked up a habit of paying vendors and agencies to develop their social media plans. Then they hand those plans to my team and say, “do this.” And I guess I might see that as helpful if those plans made sense in light of the many rules we have to follow (channel-based and those that come with working in a highly regulated industry).

I’ll give you an example.

If you do any work on paid social media campaigns, you know that Facebook doesn’t like it when you try to promote an ad or post with a text-heavy image. For years, they didn’t allow it at all. Lately they’ve said they eased that rule a bit, but they still devalue text-heavy images in their algorithm. So no matter how you slice it, using an image with a lot of text is a bad idea.

And yet, when we’re presented with the assets for these plug-and-play social media plans, the images are chock full of text. Literally. Every. Time.

We’ve also received content that’s grammatically incorrect or breaks our very strict (although admittedly confusing) branding rules.

We talk to our co-workers, we educate our vendor and/or agency partners, we redo the images, we make other, often-wholesale changes to make the plan a better fit for our social media channels. Everyone agrees it didn’t come together the way we’d hoped and makes what I believe are sincere promises to do things differently next time.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

The Wisdom of Vanilla Ice

I know I’m not alone. I know other social media professionals who’ve hit the same wall and I can very clearly recall similar situations from my hospital marketing days.

It’s not always easy to work across departments and specialties, but as I’ve gently explained to many nurses and doctors over the years, we’re all better off when we play to our strengths. I’m happy to let them take the lead when it comes to caring for patients; I’m very capable of leading the social media strategy. It requires a little trust from everyone involved.

This approach hasn’t been doing the trick lately, so I got to thinking about a short, sweet list of requests I could make of my coworkers. Almost all of them are smart and supportive, but how could I lay out some suggestions to help all of us work together a little better?

Enter Vanilla Ice.

Vanilla Ice

Courtesy: Wikipedia

 

No, seriously. Stay with me here.

There are three things I would ask all of my coworkers to do if they’re thinking about asking someone other than a member of the internal social media team to put together a social media plan:

  1. Stop
  2. Collaborate
  3. Listen

Stop

Yes, it’s a bit direct and abrupt, but the first step is to stop. When someone thinks or says, “you know, we should ask [Awesome Agency] to put together a social media plan for this campaign,” it’s an opportunity to follow through on those “do better next time” promises and change course.

Collaborate

Now’s the time to reach out to your in-house social media team. Pick up the phone, write an email, send a tweet, visit in person, set up a meeting – whatever. Bring in the agency or vendor, too, if you’d like. Get the smart, savvy people in a room and start cooking up the social media aspects of your campaign.

Listen

…to everyone.

You’ve taken the time to get these people together, so listen carefully to what they have to say. Your social media team knows how the channels work, along all of their quirks. Trust them. The marketing team is best equipped to explain the goals of the campaign, the rationale behind it, and the details of how the traditional media pieces will be deployed. The agency or vendor might offer important information from an outside perspective (and that outside view can be a real game-changer).

You’re all on the same team, trying to communicate a message to an audience on behalf of your employer. You all bring expertise to the table. Let everyone play to their strengths and do what they were hired to do.

Beyond saving a little bit of each other’s sanity, you’re saving the organization a chunk of money. You’re not paying an agency or vendor to come up with a plan in a vacuum, which means when the plan is complete (with or without outside assistance) it’ll be ready to rock and roll.

Or rap – whatever the case may be.

Word to your mother.

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