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Social Media Success: 3 Steps to Leveraging Your Experts

October 12, 2011

Social Media Success: 3 Steps to Leveraging Your Experts

Altimeter Social Strategist Organizational Models

Almost one year ago, the Altimeter Group published this report, titled: The Career Path of the Corporate Social Strategist.  In it, they outlined the most commonly used social media organizational models in corporations.  As you can see on the image on the left, for more than 80% of the companies of the 140 social strategists interviewed, the social strategist has to rely on an extended group of colleagues to drive most of the change in the organization, since they are not under her direct control.  NOTE: Based on my interactions with my peers at other companies, I believe this figure is under-represented in the survey, and I only expect it to significantly increase as we mature (does anyone remember the dedicated email marketing teams of the early 2000s?)

In my opinion, there are three key steps to making such a program successful:

Step 1: Find them

Social Media champion pyramidMy classification of these social media ‘champions’ falls in three distinct categories, with varying degrees of competencies and involvement.  In some cases identifying them will be easy, especially if you have a semi-mature social media program.   In other cases, you may need to leverage your own informal networks to identify these key individuals.

Step 2: Define the community and expectations

This is a key step, and I would advocate you start small by first focusing on individuals that have social media either as their sole, or part of their day-to-day, role, i.e., do not focus on the ‘intellectually curious’ just yet, until you have built the basic expertise.  Defining expectations is also critical as you will likely rely on them to help you:

  • Refine your social media strategy (if you have one), or define one, as they will typically have a very grounded and pragmatic view based on their experience
  • Execute various initiatives and experiments: this more than just a resourcing question, as in most large companies the complexity of the business portfolio and geographical footprint makes it totally unrealistic that a small team in the headquarters (aka ivory tower) can have all the answers
  • Help each other: invariably one or more colleagues will have solved a thorny problem, whether it is driving internal change or executing a successful campaign.  What better way to learn than having these colleagues share their experiences and help others?
  • Act as your evangelists in spreading the ‘gospel’ and helping to enable their own extended teams

Step 3: Engage them thoughtfully

This part is critical, as you need to ensure they feel they are getting significant value, otherwise they will never truly engage:

  • Listen to them: Remember to be sensitive to their needs, even if it implies adjusting the ‘corporate’ needs; you will never be successful without them even if you have the ‘right’ answer.
  • Feed and care for them: Don’t be shy of providing them high-touch support, they will likely require a significant amount, ranging from basic guidelines to strategy development and training, to standardized infrastructure and tools, to guidance on which agencies they should use; hopefully much of this agenda will be driven by them.
  • Make them feel special:  Whether it is preferential access to analysts, previews, or beta access to your emerging tools, they need to feel special
  • Make them heroes:  Highlight their successes to your broader organization; while supporting the previous point, this will also help motivate the right behaviors in your broader organization.

Of course this is a highly iterative process, and you will have to continuously adjust and build this community as you learn and mature.

These thoughts are based on my discussions with my peers and some of the initiatives we are currently working on at SAP.  I would love to hear from all corporate social strategists out there and build on these early ideas so we can all benefit.


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