Building up a strong organic social media presence is hard, and rather than investing the resources needed to make it grow, it has somehow become this strange part of operations that businesses feel obligated to conduct but never really take that seriously. They’ll freely put time and effort into bettering their product or improving their customer service, but never into social media. This is a problem, and there are steps that can be taken to make a difference. To start, stop making the social media manager an entry level position.
The moment you decide to not prioritize social media by hiring inadequate talent, you have triggered a self-defeating cycle of underperformance. When you hire new staff and silo them from other departments, there is no direction and inspiration from leadership. Without direction and inspiration, there is no performance. Without performance, a proper budget will never get established. Without investment, social media stalls and can never truly grow. On top of that, young talent ends up getting burnt out and desires to do something different because they realize that social media management is a dead end in their marketing career.
This seemingly endless struggle is way too common, but to be fair, there’s a really clear reason why this is happening, and it’s not really your fault.
Before the internet happened, we got really, really good at marketing.
The golden age of the ad agency was a glorious time. It built the agency behemoths we know and love today and created some of the most iconic brands that still mean so much to us. We got so dang good at marketing, it almost became formulaic. Everybody knew that to be successful you needed a few key components: a creative director, account staff, designers and copyrighters, and media (typically TV) buyers. We knew exactly how to spend our marketing budgets and how to keep work flowing through the shop. There were little changes along the way that forced us to adapt ever so slightly. TV became more commonplace, print became cheaper and more affordable, brands became bigger and we could scale their marketing efforts quickly, but for the most part, things stayed relatively the same for decades.
Then the internet shows up. Somewhere between the 80’s and 90’s, the internet and proliferation of computer technology really starts to speed things up. Media buying becomes faster, teams get more accurate at measuring ad performance and a massive amount of other disciplines get better at their jobs. Digital marketing starts to emerge but doesn’t really take off yet.
Fast forward to today and one of the world’s largest marketing platforms is barely 10 years old.
Facebook is one of the largest media buying platforms the world has ever seen. But how many businesses treat it that way? Businesses often have entire divisions for branding, design, product, or strategy, but then there’s social media, a lonesome team of two 20-year-olds posting company updates on Facebook and Twitter. Why do we do this? Somewhere in this story, organic social media went from being “the marketing of the future” to “the weird part of marketing nobody understands, but you know you have to do it.”
Organic social media was forced to fail because few took the time to understand it.
It started with the budget. Marketing budgets have always been a strategically divided pie where each team received money based on their needs and the potential return. Business leaders knew how much money was out there, and they knew exactly where it was going. Because things really didn’t need to change much, they found their financial sweet-spots and stuck with them. Then social media shows up to the party and demands a chunk of the pie. Nervous and not really sure of its potential, they decide to give it a shot. Then, they quickly realize that nobody on their team quite understands how social media works. What do they do? Hire the new young person because social media is what all the kids are doing and the more experienced folk won’t ever understand it.
That exact moment is where we doomed it to fail.
Look at the division of staff in a typical business. Your design and branding team might be five or six people. Your media and paid advertising team might also be four or five individuals. Product development, customer service, distribution, all of these departments will have entire teams managing their work and setting visions and goals. Oh and that guy over in the corner, he’s the social media manager. He just takes photos of the office and shares them online. What exactly did you think was going to happen?
Great results take investment. Social media isn’t any different.
Social media needs to be treated just like every other department of an organization. If you want great results, you have to invest in your people. That means hiring great talent, allocating a budget, giving time, collaborating with others, and providing administrative leadership and support. We tend to have this false expectation that social media can be effectively managed by one individual. Unlike every other form of digital or traditional marketing, we are all creators of our own content in our personal lives. We post on Facebook, write tweets, share snaps, and naturally, we think that it can’t be much different to run it for a business. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Look at the brands that do things excellently. They aren’t run by some kid in the corner.
Taco Bell is one of my favorite brands on Instagram. The photos they take, the design and language behind it all is nothing short of brilliant, but it is so incredibly obvious that they have an entire team of people dedicated to organic social.
Take a look at Beats by Dre., another national brand that clearly puts time, effort, and resources just into managing their Instagram account.
It’s not just huge, national brands either. One of my all-time favorite social media case studies is the watch company Daniel Wellington. At 3.3 million followers, DW blew up the watch industry when they decided (as a tiny little brand out of Stockholm) that they were going to excel at social media and dominate the younger market in a dying and aging industry. Today, they are massively successful and one of the worlds fastest growing fashion and accessory brands. It all started with a belief in something and putting resources to back it.
Believe that social media can work for your brand, start by investing in great talent.
Social media is no longer a tool for all the young kids, and as business people, it is always your responsibility to learn and understand the new perspectives and trends of the world. Businesses that stick around adapt. They understand that what is working today will be different tomorrow. Your social media staff is an incredibly crucial part of your team. Invest in them, coach them and empower them to do great things. When was the last time you chatted with your social media manager and asked them what their dreams are for your brand? You will probably be surprised.
By investing in your organic social media, and into other new practices in general, you are investing in the future of your company. It’s a mindset we all need to take. Learn to take risks, believe in others, and make your brand one to remember.
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