Social Media Staffing

Where do social media staff belong on the org chart?

Social media is still relatively new, and many organizations are trying to manage the inherent tasks and responsibilities. Job titles like “Community Manager” and “Social Media Strategist” are popping up all over the place, but there doesn’t seem to be consensus on where these roles fit in preexisting org charts and structures.

Some schools consider social media and communications to be a “tech” job – it involves computers, and therefore goes under Information Technology. However, with the rise of social technologies, any average non-IT person with an Internet connection can create a blog in seconds (grab your mobile device right now and try it for yourself). Social tech has also given the masses an opportunity to engage with brands, celebrities, alma mater and more by simply posting a comment or writing a tweet.

What does that mean for the “social media experts” on your staff? They may not be programmers or hardware experts. But they do know a lot about building relationships and engaging in conversations – those conversations just happen to take place online. They have strong, high-level understanding of your organization’s mission, values and goals. They are trusted and valued members of your team.

So, where do social media staff belong on the org chart? Short answer: everywhere.

In a large, university setting, content managers should be peppered throughout your organization, communicating and collaborating amongst one another across departments and silos. Working laterally across campus means that the community managers in admissions, public relations, athletics, alumni relations and more work together to promote cohesive branding and messaging. Community managers wear many hats; give them the tools and resources they need to fulfill all of their roles. By working together, community managers across campus can form an effective, collaborative team ready to engage audiences on a variety of topics.

Managers and executives higher up in your organization need fewer details. Knowing how social tools fit in with their overall mission and goals (e.g. increasing event attendance, receiving more applications for admissions, etc) is vital. They don’t need to know how many times you tweet in a week, but they do need to know the impact and outcomes of those tweets.

Embed social media staff throughout your organization, and encourage them to collaborate across departments. Community managers are in place to build relationships and engage your constituents. Collaboration and communication are significant aspects of their skill sets. Use them!

This post is also featured on the CASE Social Media blog.

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3 Responses to Social Media Staffing

  1. Andrew Gossen says:

    Liz,

    Two quick, off-the-cuff thoughts re: an excellent post.

    1) While I agree with you completely about distributing responsibility across the organization, location of staff is just the tip of the iceberg. An effective training program is essential to making this work, since so many people managing social media channels don’t have much experience beyond managing their personal profiles. I’ve recently been admiring training programs developed by Dell and Intel and yearning for the time to develop something similar for higher ed. (See http://mashable.com/2011/01/18/social-media-training/ for more details.)

    2) The more exposure I have to the turbulence that can arise when you actually start implementing a distributed SM model such as the one you describe, the more I realize that it’s not a sign of trouble. It’s natural. Adoption of a disruptive technology is…wait for it…disruptive. If it’s all kittens and rainbows, you’re probably not doing something right. Productive discomfort is the “new normal” associated with this space, and it’s vitally important that people not panic and scale back because of it. You *need* the discomfort to get to the point of productivity.

    • Elizabeth Allen says:

      Thanks Andrew – great thoughts.

      For 1) YES, training is key. Having a personal Facebook profile doesn’t make you a social media expert. And 2) it’s the trials and tribulations that make things truly – dare I use the buzzword – authentic.

  2. Pingback: Bel's Blogging 101 » The Evolution of School Marketing Communications in the Digital Era

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