Social Business, Social Media Staffing and Operations

How to Fight For More Social Media Resources In Your Company

Paradox: in an age of technology advances being gobbled like Pez, marketing and customer service are somehow getting more labor-intensive, not less.

Social media and the rise of self-serve content requires that we actually attempt to fulfill the decades-old promise of 1:1 marketing – winning hearts and minds a few at a time with unprecedented relevancy and transparency and humanization and speed. And that takes time.

Flickr Photo by Doc_Brown

Social media and content marketing are not inexpensive, they’re just different expensive. Even adorned with the latest and greatest social media management softwareand automation and workflow and APIs and the entire chorus line of digital marketing shiny objects, actual human beings in your company need to be at those controls. And that’s where the problem starts.

The Social Media People Problem

Executives as a rule do not fully perceive the labor required to excel at content marketing and social media. They overestimate the role of the wand, and underestimate the role of the wizard. Social media management software companies, et al. buy expensive ads in trade publications, sponsor conferences, and publish regular research to get on executive radar screens. Their marketing facilitates the belief that social media success is a byproduct of software. Of course there is no voice of the other side in the marketplace, no ads or sponsorships for the “yeah, but what about the human capital that needs to pilot this craft?” perspective.

This is why one of the most common questions I hear at speaking engagements and in corporate conference rooms is “how can we do this well with limited resources?” I’ve even heard on more than a handful of occasions the conversational shoulder shrug of “we can get software approved, but we can’t add headcount.”

(note: in fact, this was one of the questions I was asked on a very interesting 25 Content Marketing Challenges Webinar I did last week with Joe Chernov from Eloqua and Chris Baggott from Compendium. Check it out below, it’s very meaty.)

You’re Asking the Wrong Question

If this is your reality – executives won’t give you the labor you need to execute what you want to tackle in social media and content marketing, then trying to figure out how to do more with less is 100% the wrong approach.

I’m not saying there aren’t efficiencies to be gained. There may be, and co-opting your customers, employees, and business partners into creating and spreading your message for you remains an underutilized tactic in most organizations. But ultimately, understaffing in social and content is like mononucleosis – it may not kill you, but it will make you feel exceptionally crappy for a long, long time. In this age where bespoke messaging and uber-responsiveness is the coin of the realm, a lack of sufficient front lines personnel is like going into battle without any armor.

So what you need to be asking isn’t “how do we squeeze blood from a stone?” but “how do we get more stones?”

It’s Not Their Fault, It’s Yours

When I make this argument, I often hear something along the lines of “Our executive team doesn’t really understand or appreciate what we’re doing in social media. Certainly not enough so to give us more people.” If that’s the case – and often it is – it is your responsibility to educate and illuminate.

Is it the executives’ fault that they don’t understand the potential impact? No, it’s your fault Mr. or Ms. Social Media Manager, Content Manager, Community Manager, Marketing Director, or similar. Everything they read is designed to convince them they do not need to invest in more people. You alone are the counterbalance.

You Argue for People by Ignoring the People

It is perhaps ironic, but the way to effectively argue for more people is not to demonstrate how much time social media and content marketing requires, creating a fancy utilization chart that illustrates that you are 2 FTEs short of being able to cover what you need to cover. That never works, because executives have no frame of reference or objective measure to determine whether the hours you are estimating as necessary are in fact being utilized efficiently. You say it takes 4 hours per day to effectively monitor the Facebook page. How are executives supposed to react to that? They know as much about what it actually takes to monitor a Facebook page as they do about what it  takes to shoe a horse or flush a radiator.

So even when confronted with your stunning charts, it boils down to whether or not they believe YOU. Given that many of you waging these internal arguments have not been in your position very long, you often have not yet accumulated the executive-layer trust and goodwill that allows you to be successful in this type of “Jill says we need more bodies, so we do” scenario.

The Argumentative Power of Math

This is why it is so critically important that you map your social media and content marketing programs back to business results that drive top line and/or bottom line dollars. Is the company making money, saving money or both due to the efforts of you and your team?

When I ran my prior digital marketing agency, I often used this line in new business pitches:

If every dollar you spend with me brings back at least $1.01 you don’t have a budget. Your budget is how fast can you borrow money.

If you need more people on your team, it is your responsibility is to prove to your executive team that each dollar they spend will bring back at least $1.01.

Here’s how to guarantee you’ll lose that argument:

  • A report that shows growth of Facebook likes
  • A report that shows growth of social media mentions
  • A report that shows total number of Twitter impressions
  • A report that shows number of blog comments

Remember, executives do not care about being good at social media or content marketing. They care about being good at business. That requires you to report instead on how you drive customer behavior that yields financial outcomes.

Leads, sales, repeat purchases, referrals, email sign-ups, redemptions, foot traffic. All of these are behavior metrics, not aggregation metrics. And all of these can be tracked back to social media and content marketing, IF you make the effort to do so.

You want more people on your team? Show them the money.

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  1. SocialGamePlan says

    Great post!  Knowing how to talk to top management is a daunting task at times, especially if you don’t have any strategy in doing so.  I agree that measuring actual consumer behavior that bring in money is the most crucial aspect of convincing management they need to think seriously about social media.  Telling your boss you’re “creating buzz” doesn’t exactly cut it these days…maybe a couple years ago, but the scenery is changing insanely quickly right now.

    • lisasullivan05 says

       @SocialGamePlan I think it really depends on your product or service and your overall strategy. Not every company or organization goes into social media marketing to generate leads and sales. Perhaps it’s leads and sponsors or it is in fact thought leadership in a topic relevant to your product that in turn provides a conversion of some sort.
      I work in the real estate industry as the Digital Media Marketing Director in the corporate office of a large real estate company. We have independent agents who actually convert to the sale while we support their efforts through accounting services, marketing, IT, etc. Our social media strategy isn’t based on convert to the sale in so much as it is positive brand awareness, sharing of our company culture, being a leader in our community (the “go-to” for community info, market data, etc.), etc. Our corporate structure isn’t set up to be about converting to the sale. HOWEVER, because of what we are doing overall on a corporate level, our agents are converting.
      All this to say, sometimes it’s not about “telling your boss you’re creating buzz”. Rather, it’s about proving to your execs that the goals you have set are being measured and met based on your strategy, one that was agreed upon by all necessary parties, starting with executive leadership and management. If you can prove that and it’s necessary to build your team, then it’s also about explaining what the advantages are to adding those team members based on your overall goals, and also redefining them if necessary.
      That’s my two cents. Thanks, @JayBaer for the insight. Good stuff as usual!

  2. says

    Sadly the reality is that even when you do exactly this, it still may not work–even when you can prove ROI on social media spend, execs who have been reluctant to buy in will probably still be reluctant to buy in. And even when it does work it takes years, not months–longer than a lot of community/social media managers are in a job. #justsayin

    • says

       @maggielmcg Maggie I’ve found that if even in the face of documented ROI execs won’t embrace it, then it’s usually the opposite problem….fear. Fear and greed are the only two motivators that count. You can solve greed with ROI metrics. Fear is more difficult, but is sometimes best solved with crisis management plans, examples of turning lemons into lemonade using social, etc. 

  3. StuffedWeb says

    Great post, I enjoyed reading this. I completely agree at there is no point going in saying how many new followers you have. The Google Analytics Social features will hopefully make tracking this conversion easier. Thanks Jay

    • says

       @StuffedWeb Indeed, GA is making a lot of strides. The problem is that a lot of people still do not understand basic web analytics yet, much less assisted conversions and all the new stuff they are rolling out since the Postrank acquisition. 

  4. chonuff says

    Nice post @jaybear . I cannot agree with you more – social teams must tie its social media efforts to a business objective in a measurable manner. Reporting results in the the language of the C-suite will help in 99.9% of the situations. I would like to add that the social media maturity of an organization and the scale in which an organization wants to incorporate its social media initiatives are not addressed in your post. On a small/experimental scale (less mature in terms of enterprise adoption), developing content, understanding the audience and measuring the impact on the business objectives can be done using freemium tools like Hootsuite & spreadsheets. Most SMBs will never need more than this – content is more important. But if measurement standards, content workflow & approval paths, social media policies, etc. are in place and a company wants to scale its social media programs globally then an SMMS can help the organization measure and manage (but not create the content) the quality of its content across the enterprise and its geographies. No doubt as initiatives scale, they require more labor. And more labor adds more complexity. Clay Shirky effectively uses the “birthday paradox” to explain managing complexity with an organization. As a result, a company running its social programs at scale can then realize efficiencies gained by an social media management system that far outweigh the cost.  (DISCLOSURE: I am the founder of an SMMS company) 

    • says

       @chonuff  Definitely. I’m not advocating that SMMS is unimportant or unnecessary. I wouldn’t dream of running an enterprise (or even mid-sized) social program without it. But I do feel like execs believe the software is the answer, when in reality it’s the enabler. 

  5. 40deuce says

    This one hits a bit close to home. As a person that manages the social efforts of two brands, it can sometimes be a challenge as the execs think “Sheldon’s doing a great job, why would we need to hire more people?”
    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

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