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.
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.