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January 9, 2013


What should happen if you remove Marketing from Social?

by Tom De Baere
removing the marketing department from social media

Source : Flickr @robpatrick

What would happen if your marketing department stopped being active on Social Media? Or what should happen?

When companies develop their presence on social media, it is usually the marketing department taking the lead by creating accounts on social media networks, a social media policy, a digital marketing strategy…

Then they become active on these networks by answering their questions, inspiring them with great content, and listening to their needs.

Smaller companies have only 1 or 2 people developing these social relations, larger companies have whole teams of “conversation managers”.

Limited presence

Although I understand the approach, and support the approach, these teams can only be present at a limited amount of networks, or “circles” as I call them.

  • They just cannot be present in all the social places where your customers, partners, suppliers, investors, or competitors are present.
  • They just cannot be aware of all the different domains of expertise that are required to have a holistic approach to social networking.
  • They just cannot be authentic about every topic they are involved with on these networks.

I probably can think of a number of others reasons, but you probably get what I mean.

Now think of a small company, let’s say 10 people. What’s the impact of one, usually part-time, marketing person, on all of this? You guessed it. Not a lot. He/she just doesn’t have the time to do a descent job with social media.

And now imagine a bigger company, 1000 people. Here you’ll have a team of, I don’t know, 20-50 people working in marketing and being part-time or some full-time occupied with social media. Again, the impact is minimal.

Taking away the marketing department

My point is, I don’t think social media is the sole responsibility of the marketing department. Oh yes, they play a guiding role in aligning the efforts with the company strategy, and making sure all the mechanics like a policy, processes, training, tooling, etc… are available.

But in essence, everyone in the marketing department should be aligned with a number of objectives which could look like this :

  • Have a presence in the right online communities to monitor discussions and trending topics
  • Have the necessary monitoring tools set-up.
  • Detect relevant online conversations, engage when needed, and initiate conversations with relevant content.
  • Guide the organisation on how to use social media and social networks

Guiding the organisation on how to use social media and social networks

An awareness must be created throughout the whole organization about the benefits for your company to be active on social media networks, and the responsibility and role of every individual on social media networks should be made clear.

This can be done by having one of more conversation managers AND a set of employees with a special role that manage the different aspects of social media engagement (listening, answering, engaging, lead detection,…) . The conversation managers are people who are naturally inclined to share their talent and experience in social media with other people in the organization.

These are also the people who are plugged in into the networks that matter to your company. Typically these are sales people or business developers with large LinkedIn networks. But also people in marketing, supply chain or production matter.

A special attention is to be given to the public faces of your company. Usually these are the people who have become the face of your company by having them featured in important white papers, webinars, speaking engagements, …

Or just because of what function they have within your company: the CEO, CTO, Chief Evangelist, CMO, you know what I mean. These people are most often more listened to than others, so these people definitely need to be part of the set of employees with a ‘special role’.

One of the important tasks of this mini-organization is to answer on-line questions. When people don’t know the answers to questions they get through their connections with these networks, they need to know how to escalate these questions to other people in the organization in order to get them answered fast.

This is what you could call an ‘escalation process’, which should be developed in coordination with the conversation managers, and which should be communicated about internally. Questions should find it’s way to people that can answer them, and then the answers should travel back to the right networks. Ideally the answers are given by the experts. Because additional questions coming from the originator of the questions is then more easily treated.

You can even think of setting certain ‘SLA’ on how quickly these answers should be given, and use tools that can handle all of this.

Learning the B2B company to be digital & social

Initially, learning the company about social media and the digital space can be done through formal internal trainings, internal webinars, how-to’s posts on your intranet, workshops, …

Basically, you want to show them why this is happening, what’s in it for them, and get people on board.

But after that initial kick-off, I believe the following things really matter:

  • key people must start being active in social, and start blogging. They show the example. Others will follow just because they do it.
  • invite the “coalition of the willing” : invite, guide and support people that want to join these key people.
  • find key barriers and remove them : nothing is more devastating then a number of barriers that withhold people of doing what they should be doing in this space. Listen to their ‘barriers’, and remove the most important ones.
  • communicate internally : it is of outmost important to communicate internally. And I mean a lot. Every initiative, every little success, every step, … you need to communicate. Don’t make it a “happy show” all the time. If you encounter barriers, write about them and ask the community for a solution.
  • Embed the processes in your core processes: write them down in your quality system, and have them audited to improve them.
  • Implement behavior appraisal through a number of HR (Human Resources) Tools: this can be public appraisals, bonuses, objectives, …
  • Anchor education in your on-boarding process: when new people arrive, they need to be aware of where to find the resources that can help them start being part of this customer conversation process.

So we now virtually remove the marketing department

Scary thought ? Maybe. Obviously the task of marketing is much more than just doing some social and digital stuff. Clear. But when it comes to engaging socially, I think it’s very important to go “full force” with everything you got within your organization, and not leave it up to the marketing department alone.

Would you agree? Any thoughts on how to even better remove the marketing department?

Thanks for reading,

Tom De Baere

P.S. check out this related post : The Orchestrated “Like” : The Social Power of Your Organisation