The Social Team’s Inflection Point

Since our first social business research reports—starting in 2011—the idea of widespread social media applied to business has seen pockets of excellence. Some brands excelled in marketing, others in recruiting or customer service. It was relatively rare to find one excelling across all business functions. That is quickly changing. To meet the demands of brands breaking down silos in the name of customer centricity, the social team must excel across all areas of the business.

The social team’s responsibilities have increased dramatically as the application of social business continues to spread across departments. Adding to that load, social platforms like Facebook continue to innovate faster than most brands can respond, particularly into areas that trespass into existing centers of excellence in the organization like advertising, customer care and e-commerce. As a result, 79% of strategists agree that “the social team is becoming more operational and a platform for other innovation teams to test new e-commerce approaches.” Once a hub for innovation, the growing spread of social in the enterprise together with a growing operational burden means the social team must excel at integration and governance.

Social business strategies to restore innovation
Although a shift is inevitable in any technology that starts as a disruption and ends in mature practice, the pendulum has swung too far from innovation to operation. The social team needs to retain an innovation edge in a world where social platforms and consumer behavior continue to evolve at a rapid pace. But how? Our recent report, “The 2016 State of Social Business,” uncovers three social business strategies the team can use:

1. Shift responsibilities
Does the social team manage Twitter or should PR? What about YouTube, which today is less a social platform but more a distribution channel? What about customer care via social channels?
The fact is that, as social has evolved, many social teams haven’t shifted their operational burden to other centers of excellence in their organization. Trust and tools have been an issue. Ten years into social business, skills in departments outside social have increased, but for many, not to the point of shifting accountability. This needs to change if the social team is to remain innovative. Tools are another issue: Social Media Management Systems that manage publishing, listening and metrics, have largely been developed by and for social media professionals.  As the lines continue to blur between social media management and marketing automation, there is hope that tools to manage social platforms will be useable by departments outside the social team.

2. Choose the right battles

The social team can’t do it all. Incredibly, I still see large brands manage social customer care through the social team and not customer service. When it comes to social commerce, 75% of strategists in North America (but only 55% in Europe) have indicated they have shifted accountability to the e-commerce/ digital teams. Social advertising is another matter, because it can be targeted at so many different points along the marketing funnel. Our latest research indicates only 19% of social teams collaborate regularly with the advertising team. One of my recommendations in the report is for the social team to “divide & conquer” the funnel with advertising. It makes sense for the social team to be responsible for real-time advertising that amplifies content that works, for example, but should they manage demand generation, sales and post-sales support? Likely not.

3. Streamline governance

Since “Skills Development” topped this year’s list of internal priorities for the social team, it’s clear the team doesn’t have confidence that shifting responsibilities to other teams will be successful. This must change, and it starts with leadership taking accountability for responsibilities that belong in their departments. The social team needs to make this easy, with: leadership, tools and best practice training; a vibrant cross-functional social practice council to collaborate and learn together; and adopting tools usable by professionals outside the social team.

Another governance investment is key to keeping this problem from recurring: evaluating your current social media footprint. The high number of dormant branded pages is a clear sign that brands do not have an ongoing process in place to prevent the unnecessary spread of social accounts. I’ll be writing about this in an upcoming blog post.

Learn more

Altimeter’s 2016 State of Social Business report takes an in-depth look at these global social business trends. Altimeter and Prophet offer pragmatic solutions social business teams can use to swing the pendulum back to a balance between innovation and operation needed to succeed.