7 Tips for Succeeding as a Social Media Strategist

08 Dec

This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

The role of social media is expanding rapidly and many organizations of all types are trying to stay afloat amidst the changes. Meanwhile, a small group of innovators pulls the industry onward.

In the past few years, the social media marketing role has become increasingly present, leading the way to more strategic social media programs. Enter the social media strategist.

Jeremiah Owyang, an industry analyst at Altimeter Group, a digital strategy consulting firm, recently spoke at the Word of Mouth Marketing Association Summit about the career path of the corporate social strategist, touching on current responsibilities and challenges, as well as the future of the role. His presentation was based on months of research funded by Altimeter, in which 140 enterprise-class social strategists across various industries were interviewed. Other online sources, such as LinkedIn and blogs, were consulted to gather job descriptions, profile work histories and catalog the ebb and flow of new hires in the social media space.

Owyang presented seven key tips for building a successful social media program and focused on how social media strategists can facilitate those successes. Read his tips below and add your thoughts in the comments.

1. Be Proactive, Not Reactive

Owyang pointed to a funny, but oh-so-true anecdote that happened while he was collecting research for this study. While interviewing a social media strategist, the phone conversation was stopped abruptly as the strategist confessed, “Jeremiah, I’ve gotta go. There are two people standing in front of my office demanding Facebook Pages.” If they didn’t get the Pages, they were going to build them on their own.

While it’s somewhat hilarious to imagine two professionals camping in front of their colleague’s office until they get their doggone Facebook Pages, it’s equally as sad to realize that these instances actually happen in the corporate world. If this is happening in your organization, take a step back, look at the chaos, take a deep breath and then do something about it.

“A proactive mindset is required,” Owyang said. “You cannot wait for the company to catch up to you. You have to go to the business units and tell them what is required [to participate in your company's social media program] before they ask you for a Facebook Page. Make a list of requirements: dialogue, ready for conversations 24/7, ongoing commitment, two-way communications. Make it clear what’s expected, before they ask you.”

Being proactive and having guidelines will help alleviate stressful moments like the one described above, where being reactive is usually status quo.

2. Be a Program Manager, Not Evangelist

As social media programs become more sophisticated, Owyang believes that employees currently in the social media evangelist roles will move on to “the next thing,” evangelizing new technologies. But with an ongoing need for social media programming, a new role for social media program managers will emerge.

“Quickly switch hats,” Owyang advises social media strategists who want to stay relevant to businesses that have evolving needs. “It’s time to take off the evangelism hat and put on the program manager hat. A new skill set is going to be required, and a program manager is responsible for resources, timelines, Gantt charts, ROI models, analytics, data modeling, resource management, project management. It’s a very different skill set than the evangelist role that we’ve seen before.”

3. Educate Your Business Units

“Educate your business units ahead of time, and give them the information that they need,” said Owyang.

He is an advocate of testing employees to measure digital and social media proficiencies, pointing to Intel’s Digital IQ test as a great example of aptitude measurement. “You can take this online test before you participate in social media and become certified in that particular program,” he said. “That’s one of the more advanced programs that we’ve seen.”

In its official Social Media Guidelines, Intel clearly defines Digital IQ training as a responsibility for all employees taking part in social media on behalf of the company.

It’s important to not only lay down guidelines, but to also provide training for employees who want to learn more and get involved in the social media program.

4. Organize for Success

Five ways companies organize their social media teams

During his presentation, Owyang presented five models in which companies organize their social media teams — decentralized, centralized, hub and spoke, dandelion and holistic, as pictured and described above. He highly recommends that social media programs be organized in hub and spoke or dandelion models in order to scale.

In the hub and spoke model, there’s typically a cross-functional team that’s serving multiple business units, with the strategists at the center of the formation — 41% of the organizations that Owyang interviewed fell under this category.

Within large companies with multiple brands or units, such as Microsoft or HP, the dandelion (or “multiple hub and spoke”) model is common, where multiple social media strategists lead individual business areas or brands across the company.

There are three steps necessary in order to reach a hub and spoke or dandelion organization, according to Owyang:

  1. “Set up governance: policies, legal, some executive buy-in.”
  2. “Roll out processes: who does what, where, when and how — a triage system. How does information flow through your company? Publish that diagram on the Internet.”
  3. “Launch an ongoing education program.”

“If you do those three things in that order, it’s very likely your company will form in hub and spoke with you in the hub,” stated Owyang.

5. Be an Enabler

It is unrealistic to think that one strategist can stay at the center of every social media effort or that he or she could even hire enough community managers to stay on top of an entire enterprise’s social activity. In light of that reality, Owyang believes that it is crucial for social media strategists to slip into the mindset of an enabler. He explains:

“Remember, social media does not scale. You cannot manage every social media program, campaign or effort. You now have to become an enabler to teach the business units to do it on their own — that’s the only way you’re going to be able to scale anyway. You become an internal consultant, an internal resource to help the entire business.”

6. Deploy Scalable Social Media Programs

Communities, advocacy programs, social media management systems (like CoTweet and HootSuite), and Social Customer Relationship Management (SCRM) — the practice of connecting social networks to your existing CRM system — are all worthwhile social media efforts, according to Owyang, because they are scalable.

“Dialogue does not scale,” Owyang reiterated multiple times. “One-to-one communications does not scale… You can’t possibly do it. What scales? Community programs — getting your customers to do the work for you. Advocacy programs — Microsoft MVP, Intel Insiders, SAP Mentors, Oracle Aces, Walmart Moms — those are advocacy programs, when you take your best customers and you give them a platform and let them do the work for you, and you don’t pay them. Those are scalable programs.”

While it’s important to set up channels for communication with customers, make sure your programs can expand as the company and community grow.

7. Transcend Marketing

The report found that 71% of social media programs fall under the domain of marketing or corporate communications. In order to make an impact, though, Owyang says that social media programs must transcend marketing. Strategists should take note and act accordingly.

“Over time, think about how you can be more than ‘marketing,’” suggests Owyang. “Think about how you can apply [social media] to support and service and the physical, real-world customer experience — and improve products and experiences.”

Owyang’s seven insights into succeeding as a social media strategist should have social media programs shaping up in no time. What would you add to his advice? Let us know in the comments below.

View Jeremiah Owyang’s WOMMA Summit presentation below:

More Business Resources from Mashable:

- HOW TO: Define a Social Media Strategy for Enterprise
- Social Media Success: 5 Lessons From In-House Corporate Teams
- HOW TO: Get the Most Out of a Coworking Space
- How the Fortune 500 Use Social Media to Grow Sales and Revenue
- Beyond Viral: How Successful Marketers Are Embracing the Social Web

Image copyright of Gary Michael and courtesy of WOMMA.

Reviews: CoTweet, Facebook, HootSuite, Internet, LinkedIn, pages

More About: business, corporate social media, Corporate Social Strategist, Jeremiah Owyang, social media, social media strategist, social media strategy

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