Identify the Right People to Manage Your Social Media Initiatives

Who leads your organization’s social media initiatives? Is it someone who rose up and took the role or is is someone who was assigned that role?

Social media isn’t something that can just be assigned to someone any more than you can just assign someone to be the homecoming king. Adding “social media” to that junior public affairs officer’s job description isn’t suddenly going to turn your organization into the next Zappo’s. While you’re at it, you might as well add “organizational budgeting” and “legal review” to his job description too – those are two other things that he/she might be able to do well, but would you really entrust those duties to them?

This is why so many social media initiatives fail – not because of technology or policy, but because of people.  We talk often about what department should lead social media, how to get leadership buy-in for social media, or what technology should be used, and while those are important discussions to have, you should be focused on identifying WHO should be leading the social media initiatives.  Not whether that’s the Chief Marketing Officer or the Director of Public Affairs or the Community Relations Lead, but actual names of people.  Remember, social media is driven by the person, not the position.

The best person right now might be Joe over in Marketing, but what if Joe leaves the organization?  Who leads the social media initiatives then?  The answer isn’t necessarily Joe’s replacement.  It might be Kim over in HR. It might be that new guy over in community relations, or maybe it’s your webmaster.  The point is that social media doesn’t fit nicely into just one job description.  There’s a very real human element to it, and identifying the wrong person, even if it is the right position is often the biggest determination in the success or failure of your social media initiatives.

To find the right person to handle social media for your organization, look for people who:

  • LOVE your organization and really understand its mission – first and foremost, find the people who love their jobs and believe in your mission. This isn’t a job for the person interested in just the paycheck.
  • Believe in the transformative power of social media – it’s not about applying the same old processes to new tools. It’s about fundamentally transforming the way your organization interacts with the public, your customers and with each other.
  • You enjoy being around – If a person is a real butthead in real-life, he’s going to be that way online too, and you can’t afford to have someone like that representing you or your organization
  • Have little fear of failure – Early in my career, a client pulled me aside after they shot down 3 straight ideas I had and told me, “I want to make sure that you understand we WANT you to continue bringing those off-the-wall ideas because it forces us to think of things we never thought of and even if we don’t take your suggestions now, they all become building blocks for future ideas.”
  • Enjoy working in teams – Social media is “social” – you have to enjoy working with a diverse group of people
  • Are responsive – There is no 24 hour news cycle any more. It’s real-time baby. You need people who you KNOW will reply to emails, tweets, texts, etc. quickly and thoroughly. Interestingly, these are also often the people who are the most ambitious and passionate about your organization too.  (*note – these are also the people who may take longer lunches or come in a little late because they don’t just “shut off” at 5:00 PM)
  • Can speak like a human being – Corporate marketing speak, statistics, facts, and figures are good, but when was the last time you got inspired by a pie chart? Find people who can connect with their colleagues/customers/clients on a personal level
  • Are very aware of their strengths and weaknesses and are open about them – One of the first things I tell new employees is to find out what you’re good at and find out what you’re not good at, and then find people who are good at those things and make friends with them. In social media, you’re going to come across issues regarding privacy, IT, legal, communications, and HR, not to mention specific functional areas of your organization. You can’t know it all – know what you don’t know, and know who to contact for help.
  • Are humble -People mess up in social media. A lot.  It’s ok.  Admit you’re wrong, fix what you messed up and move on. Not everyone can do this, and very few can do it well.

Now that I think about it,these are many of the same qualities that exist in any leader, right?  So, what other qualities would you look for when trying to identify someone to head up a social media initiative?

This post was inspired by Andrew Wilson’s “Innovation Lab | Who Should Be At The Table” post and Lovisa Williams’ “The Intersection” post. Fantastic stuff (as usual) by the both of them.

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About sradick

I’m Vice President, Director of Public Relations at Brunner in Pittsburgh.

Find out more about me here (http://steveradick.com/about/).

View all posts by sradick
  • Sradick

    Oh, how I wish I had had more of that diplomacy when I first started out. Diplomacy, along with empathy, have been two skills that I've found myself going to more and more as I've tried to scale social media across the organization. You've got to know how to put yourself in other people's shoes and then address their concerns and learn from their perspective.

  • Twitter Comment


    RT @ChrisJackson19: RT @meetdux: RT @sradick: Have u Found d Ryt Pppl 2 Manage ur Soc Media Initiatives [link to post] ? => gr8 post!

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    RT @meetdux: RT @sradick: Have u Found d Ryt Pppl 2 Manage ur Soc Media Initiatives [link to post] ? => gr8 post!

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  • Twitter Comment


    RT @sradick Identify the Right People to Manage Your Social Media Initiatives [link to post] #mpi #icca #tnoc

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  • Twitter Comment


    RT @SMCliv @LpoolChamber: great tips – Nine traits of a good social media manager [link to post]

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  • markallenroberts

    Enjoyed your post,
    Your advice can also be used to separate social media marketer from the “smores” I discuss in my blog : http://nosmokeandmirrors.wordpress.com/2009/10/

    Social media must be a part of your total integrated marketing.

    Mark Allen Roberts

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    RT @ice_stratcomms: RT @SMCliv @LpoolChamber: great tips – Nine traits of a good social media manager [link to post]

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    #SocialMedia doesn’t fit nicely into just one job description.There’s a very real human element to it … [link to post]

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  • Twitter Comment


    RT @sradick Identify the Right People to Manage Your Social Media Initiatives [link to post] #socialmediamanager

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  • Twitter Comment


    Identify the right people for your social media position. [link to post] #ireadSBoSM

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  • Twitter Comment


    RT @jfavreau: Identify the right people for your social media position. [link to post] #ireadSBoSM

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  • Twitter Comment


    @nptalk This is a timely article about “who should manage your social media” [link to post] #nptalk

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  • Twitter Comment


    @nptalk This is a timely article about “who should manager your social media” [link to post] #nptalk

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  • Twitter Comment


    This is a good one RT @thisismolotov: Does your business have the right people managing #socialmedia initiatives? [link to post]

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  • Twitter Comment


    The obvious often overlooked: “Identify the Right People to Manage Your Social Media Initiatives” [link to post] by @sradick #govloop

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  • Twitter Comment


    Does your business have the right people managing #socialmedia initiatives? [link to post]

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  • How interesting, Steve. While I can't disagree with your pragmatic logic, I am troubled that social media belongs to a person/personality. How do you make this work for the long hall if it is personality-based? You are stuck with the winds and whims of the next person “in-charge” based on what type of process? No college of cardinals? No anointed lead = inconsistency in effort and focus.

    So you're right as a matter of fact, but wrong as a matter of management. 🙂

  • Sradick

    @Gwynne – I don't think social media “belongs” to a person/personality, in as much I think to a large extent, the person/personality is what determines how successful it is. For example – let's say that someone like Jeffrey Levy leaves EPA to start his own company. The traditional approach would then be to publish a job posting for Jeffrey's position, and in that position, there would be some sort of language around managing all of the social media stuff that Jeffrey was doing. They look at applicants, and pick his replacement, presumably to pick up right where Jeffrey left off. What I'm suggesting is that a lot of what Jeffrey has done is dependent on who Jeffrey was, not what position he was in. Maybe the replacement for Jeffrey is just a regular old webmaster, responsible for all of those duties, but the social media stuff is instead picked up by someone else at EPA, someone who exemplifies the qualities I laid out in my post.

    All I'm saying is that there's a real human element here that often gets dropped in favor of process/policy.

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    LOVE this RT @keithprivette: great #job descrip RT @keenanwellar: @nptalk “who should manage your social media” [link to post]

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    RT @keenanwellar: This is a timely article about “who should manager your social media” [link to post] #nptalk

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  • Twitter Comment


    great #job descrip RT @keenanwellar: @nptalk timely article about “who should manage your social media” [link to post] #nptalk

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    RT @asquibb: RT @keithprivette: RT @keenanwellar: @nptalk timely article about “who should manage your social media” [link to post] #n

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    Spot on. RT @keithprivette great #job descrip RT @nptalk timely article about “who should manage your social media” [link to post]

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    RT @keithprivette: RT @keenanwellar: @nptalk timely article about “who should manage your social media” [link to post] #nptalk

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  • Absolutely love this description! This should be most companies, non-profits, or public organizations job description for hiring onto a social media or social business team. The one thing I would add is the person needs to be curious about technology too. They need to have some ability or skills to build a wordpress site, or link two API's together, and use the plug and play sites, but not full on coding just even tech skills and curiosity to enjoy those geek out sessions with the folks that can execute the crazy ideas.

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    Think “person,” not “position” RT @keenanwellar Timely article about “who should manage your social media” [link to post] #nptalk

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    RT @johnlepp: RT @keenanwellar: This is a timely article about “who should manager your social media” [link to post] #nptalk

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  • Twitter Comment


    Sure is! RT @PamelaGrow Timely article about who should manage your social media [link to post] //via @johnlepp @keenanwellar

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    RT @Mike_Stelzner The 9 traits of a successful social-media manager [link to post]

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    RT @Mike_Stelzner: The 9 traits of a successful social-media manager [link to post]

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    RT @schnitzelboy: RT @Mike_Stelzner The 9 traits of a successful social-media manager [link to post]

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    Luv this. Sounds like me! (wink wink!) RT @Mike_Stelzner: The 9 traits of a successful social-media manager [link to post]

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  • Twitter Comment


    The 9 traits of a successful social-media manager [link to post]: The 9 traits of a successful s… http://bit.ly/9GRNB9 #socialmedia

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  • Twitter Comment


    Great tips on how to identify your social media manager: [link to post] via @asquibb @KeithPrivette @keenanwellar

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    Identify the Right People to Manage Your Social Media Initiatives – [link to post]

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    RT @yyjSocialMedia: RT @schnitzelboy: RT @Mike_Stelzner The 9 traits of a successful social-media manager [link to post]

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  • I sat there reading this article shaking my head “yes” to every point you made… thanks! Very insightful and encouraging for a newbie like me!

  • Sradick

    Glad you liked it Carisa – good luck in finding the right people in your organization!

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    The 9 traits of a successful social-media manager [link to post] | via @Mike_Stelzner @DannyDee #socialmedia #sm #digital

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    RT @elidot: The 9 traits of a successful social-media manager [link to post] | via @Mike_Stelzner @DannyDee #socialmedia #sm #digital

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    9 traits of a successful social-media manager [link to post]

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  • How is that different from any other job? Again, I see exactly what you are saying (except Jeffrey is a govie through and through :-). but how does this translate into incorporating SM into a job description? Because eventually, somebody has to continue to do this work if a person moves on. The model you offer seems to put SM as a collateral duty and that is not a good way to make sure that the work continues. Why wouldn't the qualities that you laid out in your post be incorporated into Jeffrey's job description? That way, if he wins the lotto and leaves federal service EPA would still have folks doing social media.

    So, I ask the question, are you uncomfortable in identifying where the function should go? I could understand that, too. But organizations need to take your list of qualities and put them into a job function to maintain the effort. Then it's up to the employer to make a good hire.
    So, I ask the question, are you uncomfortable in identifying where the function should go? I could understand that, too. But organizations need to take your list of qualities and put them into a job function to maintain the effort. Then it's up to the employer to make a good hire.

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    RT @sradick Identify the Right People to Manage Your Social Media Initiatives [link to post] (read:not an intern)

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    If you manage or work in/with social media, this is an interesting read. 9 traits of a successful SM manager. [link to post]

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    Insightful & encouraging for newbie me! – RT @sradick Identify the Right People to Manage Your Social Media Initiatives [link to post]

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    RT @sradick Identify the Right People to Manage Your Social Media Initiatives [link to post] [YES YES AND MORE YES]

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    Great points. RT @SMCCoLUmBus: 9 traits of a successful SM manager. [link to post]

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    Phew!! I think this describes me pretty well! 9 traits in a social media manager #hr, #sm #management [link to post]

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  • Twitter Comment


    A few traits to keep in mind when picking who will lead #social media for your firm. (hint: generosity) [link to post]

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    RT @SaltwaterHill: Think “person,” not “position” RT @keenanwellar Timely article abt “who shld manage yr social media” [link to post]

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