What It Takes to Lead a Social Media Program

LeaderIn 2009, more companies added “social media director” to the org chart. Check out Lisa Hoffmann’s post on how she got a job in social media.

Wanna compete for one of those jobs? You better have social media chops, for sure. That’s a given. But it’s the intangibles, not the social media stuff, that determines whether you’ll succeed.

Here are some traits you’ll need to run an effective social media program:

Leadership

You’re gonna ask colleagues — many with years of experience on you — to buy into a new paradigm. These are people who’ve done their jobs one way for years. To make it worse, you’re the new kid on the block. Earning the trust of your co-workers is no easy feat.

A good leader must have compassion, vision, thick skin, patience, and a natural ability to command confidence. Check out what Amber said about growing into leadership.

Vision

Most social media efforts start piecemeal: Somebody starts a Facebook page. Somebody else starts another one. Somebody dabbles in blogging for a few months.

Your job is to provide strategic direction. You’ll need to think like a CEO. You’ll need to know where the company is headed and where social media fits in that picture. Think long-term and approach problem-solving from a corporate, rather than departmental, point-of-view.

Most of all, you’ll need to make choices. You’re gonna have to say no sometimes. You’ll disappoint people. Without a clear vision, making those tough decisions is even harder.

Diplomacy

Marketing wants to push a campaign message…hard. Legal wants to box you in to minimize risk. IT thinks your plan is a security threat. HR is worried about employee productivity. And you’re in charge of navigating this minefield.

Your job as social media director isn’t just to update Facebook and Twitter. You also have to teach. A lot. You’ll need to know when to stand firm, and when to compromise. Managing competing directives and diverse personalities will be you’re biggest challenge by far.

Business Sense

Boss: “We’re getting crushed in the Hispanic market. Our market share is down 18% in three years. It’s costing us $3 million a year. Ideas?”

You: “We need to focus on engagement. Join the conversation. By being more authentic and participating in community, we can connect and share.”

Boss: “Who hired you? They’re fired. So are you.”

‘Nuff said.

Dedication

It will take longer to achieve goals than you anticipate, I guarantee it. Be patient. Celebrate mile-marker victories. Keep your vision always in sight, though.

Change takes time, team members come and go, and progress is never a straight line. If you don’t have a high tolerance for roadblocks, you may want to question whether you want a social media director gig.

Ambition

If you wanna sit at a desk and Tweet all day, forget it. Get off your duff! You have internal stakeholders to win over, IT heroes to befriend, a finance director to woo, employees to (re)train, memos to respond to, long meetings to sit through (and shorten), presentations to prepare, vendors to screen, job candidates to interview, travel arrangements to make, and progress reports to complete.

Still wanna get that Facebook update out? Better hustle!

  • ShaneKinkennon

    I think you just described what it takes to be successful in any job. Well done.

  • ShaneKinkennon

    I think you just described what it takes to be successful in any job. Well done.

  • http://twitter.com/camiloolea Camilo Olea

    Great info Scott! As a newly appointed Social Media Director with plenty of hands on experience with the tools and platforms, but new to this “CEO/Director” thing, this is very useful to me!

    Thank you and cheers from Cancun,Mexico! :)

  • http://twitter.com/camiloolea Camilo Olea

    Great info Scott! As a newly appointed Social Media Director with plenty of hands on experience with the tools and platforms, but new to this “CEO/Director” thing, this is very useful to me!

    Thank you and cheers from Cancun,Mexico! :)

  • http://mediaemerging.com Scott Hepburn

    Congrats on the new gig, Camilo. Remember to remain grounded, but confident, and never be afraid to ask for help when you're stumped. Do those two things, and you'll be an incredible asset to your new company. Go get 'em!

  • http://mediaemerging.com Scott Hepburn

    Congrats on the new gig, Camilo. Remember to remain grounded, but confident, and never be afraid to ask for help when you're stumped. Do those two things, and you'll be an incredible asset to your new company. Go get 'em!

  • http://mediaemerging.com Scott Hepburn

    Good point, Shane. You can't get anywhere in business without workin' hard for it!

  • http://mediaemerging.com Scott Hepburn

    Good point, Shane. You can't get anywhere in business without workin' hard for it!

  • Anonymous

    Great post! I find that a lot of my time is spent educating others about social media. It has been extremely helpful to have a Strategic Plan that ties into our organization’s top goals and lists measurable objectives. In our case, we’re trying to relieve pressure on crowded waiting rooms and overburdened phone lines as we serve record levels of customers at a time that half of our staff was laid off. (We’re a government social services agency.)

  • cathybeckman

    Heh. What make you so sure the Social Media Director will be a “new kid on the block”? Don't discount that professionals working in the communications field pre-internet could very well be the Social Media Director.

  • cathybeckman

    Heh. What make you so sure the Social Media Director will be a “new kid on the block”? Don't discount that professionals working in the communications field pre-internet could very well be the Social Media Director.

  • http://mediaemerging.com Scott Hepburn

    You make a very good point, Cathy. Thanks for challenging my assumption.

    I wonder how the dynamic changes when the social media “lead” (for lack of a better word) is an inside hire vs. outside hire. Or a PR or marketing vet (broadly speaking) vs. a social media specialist.

    Either way, the social media director will have work to do winning the hearts and minds.

    Thanks for the great comment, Cathy.

  • http://mediaemerging.com Scott Hepburn

    You make a very good point, Cathy. Thanks for challenging my assumption.

    I wonder how the dynamic changes when the social media “lead” (for lack of a better word) is an inside hire vs. outside hire. Or a PR or marketing vet (broadly speaking) vs. a social media specialist.

    Either way, the social media director will have work to do winning the hearts and minds.

    Thanks for the great comment, Cathy.

  • mikeboehmer57

    Great post! I find that a lot of my time is spent educating others about social media. It has been extremely helpful to have a Strategic Plan that ties into our organization's top goals and lists measurable objectives. In our case, we're trying to relieve pressure on crowded waiting rooms and overburdened phone lines as we serve record levels of customers at a time that half of our staff was laid off. (We're a government social services agency.)

  • mikeboehmer57

    Excellent post. I've found it very helpful to have a Strategic Plan with measurable objectives — on that ties into our organization's strategic goals. In our case, we want to use social media to relieve pressure on our crowded waiting rooms and overburdened phone lines. We are serving record numbers of people at our government social services agency, at a time that we have laid off half of our staff, due to the economic situation.

  • mikeboehmer57

    Excellent post. I've found it very helpful to have a Strategic Plan with measurable objectives — on that ties into our organization's strategic goals. In our case, we want to use social media to relieve pressure on our crowded waiting rooms and overburdened phone lines. We are serving record numbers of people at our government social services agency, at a time that we have laid off half of our staff, due to the economic situation.

  • http://twitter.com/maryhenige Mary Henige

    Ha! Scott!

    Great post. Very well said. I often tell colleagues it's a bit like being a plate spinner — a bit exhausting, but exhilarating at the same time. Leadership and vision are clearly key as is training. There's no shortage of things to do and relationships to build.

    Mary Henige
    Director, Social Media & Digital Communications
    General Motors
    @marayhenige

  • http://twitter.com/maryhenige Mary Henige

    Ha! Scott!

    Great post. Very well said. I often tell colleagues it's a bit like being a plate spinner — a bit exhausting, but exhilarating at the same time. Leadership and vision are clearly key as is training. There's no shortage of things to do and relationships to build.

    Mary Henige
    Director, Social Media & Digital Communications
    General Motors
    @marayhenige

  • Jules

    Does anyone have examples of social media plans that they'd be willing to share?

  • Jules

    Does anyone have examples of social media plans that they'd be willing to share?

  • http://nicolena10.blogspot.com Nikki Stephan

    Awesome post! Anyone considering venturing into a social media director position should read this. Your point about business sense is dead on. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://nikkistephan.com Nikki Stephan

    Awesome post! Anyone considering venturing into a social media director position should read this. Your point about business sense is dead on. Thanks for sharing!

  • danwool

    Excellent post. You covered it a little in Vision but I would add another category: Context. It is important to discern what social media tactics are best for a given business goal or communications strategy and to separate hype from reality.

  • danwool

    Excellent post. You covered it a little in Vision but I would add another category: Context. It is important to discern what social media tactics are best for a given business goal or communications strategy and to separate hype from reality.

  • http://mediaemerging.com Scott Hepburn

    I love the plate spinner analogy, Mary. How appropriate!

    Thanks for commenting — always nice to have one of the fine folks from GM contribute to the conversation. You guys have really paved the way for other companies wading into social media.

  • http://mediaemerging.com Scott Hepburn

    I love the plate spinner analogy, Mary. How appropriate!

    Thanks for commenting — always nice to have one of the fine folks from GM contribute to the conversation. You guys have really paved the way for other companies wading into social media.

  • scotttownsend

    Initiall, the new Social Media Director is going to have to get a feel for what the company and the culture is all about, find what the threshhold of pain is in areas of the business.

  • scotttownsend

    Initiall, the new Social Media Director is going to have to get a feel for what the company and the culture is all about, find what the threshhold of pain is in areas of the business.

  • FloridaMoves

    I am the Director of PR for a large real estate brand and this post is right on the money. The vision is key because this is not an overnight process. This is a wholesale process change for every industry. Just as everyone in business adopted the Web in their marketing, so to will every industry have a Facebook Fan page in the next five years. It is the first wave of social marketing channels to go mainstream for business adoption. Patience, practice and study. Ohh…there will be successes along the way, but remember to drive success back to business objectives…always.

    Matt Gentile

  • FloridaMoves

    I am the Director of PR for a large real estate brand and this post is right on the money. The vision is key because this is not an overnight process. This is a wholesale process change for every industry. Just as everyone in business adopted the Web in their marketing, so to will every industry have a Facebook Fan page in the next five years. It is the first wave of social marketing channels to go mainstream for business adoption. Patience, practice and study. Ohh…there will be successes along the way, but remember to drive success back to business objectives…always.

    Matt Gentile

  • swonderlin

    Great information Scott! Having a plan for your social media efforts is the key! People can be overwhelmed quickly with all the information out there and how they can jump in the game. I'll be following you on Twitter for more info from you!

  • http://www.stephaniewonderlin.com Stephanie Wonderlin

    Great information Scott! Having a plan for your social media efforts is the key! People can be overwhelmed quickly with all the information out there and how they can jump in the game. I'll be following you on Twitter for more info from you!

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  • http://mediaemerging.com Scott Hepburn

    “Study” is a good point, Matt. A social media director who isn't a tireless student will struggle to stay relevant. This discipline is evolving and morphing daily. Subscribe to blogs, converse with big thinkers and front-line innovators, and experiment often.

  • http://mediaemerging.com Scott Hepburn

    “Study” is a good point, Matt. A social media director who isn't a tireless student will struggle to stay relevant. This discipline is evolving and morphing daily. Subscribe to blogs, converse with big thinkers and front-line innovators, and experiment often.

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