Earlier this week, I met with a client struggling to get its social media efforts off the ground. One challenge is that it’s a complex organization, with multiple locations, missions, and constituencies. Another challenge—one every organization faces—is that social media continues to change, with shifting user preferences and new opportunities arising almost daily. As we talked, however, I realized that their biggest issue wasn’t deciding which tools to deploy, how to measure success, or even what their overall strategy should be.
Instead, it came down to the two most vital questions every organization must answer:
– Does one person (not a team, task force, or department) have the authority to lead its social media efforts?
– Does that person have the unwavering support of the organization’s chief executive?
Why are these questions so crucial? First, a good social media strategy needs a leader–someone who can integrate your social media strategy with your larger marketing and communication strategy. It’s a lot like sailing a ship: there may be a lot of hands on deck, but there’s only one captain at the wheel.
In addition, a good social media strategy must leave out as much as it includes—and someone has to say no. Just like your organization can’t advertise in every media outlet every day, you can’t have a robust presence on every social media site. You have an infinite number of choices and finite resources. Saying yes to Facebook, then, may entail saying no to YouTube. Starting a blog may be a better choice than tweeting on Twitter. You may have to focus your efforts on Foursquare instead of Gowalla. If there is no clear authority—no clear leader—your organization will waste time rehashing old arguments, fighting territorial battles, and fragmenting its efforts.
This is where your chief executive comes in. He or she must give your social media leader the authority to lead, and the authority to say no. It’s okay to debate behind closed doors, but there must be consensus when final decisions are made. After all, if your social media strategy doesn’t have top-down support, you don’t have a social media strategy.
These may seem like simple matters, but they’re actually quite complex—which explains why so few organizations take these steps. What about your organization? Can you identify the person steering the ship? Does he or she have top-down support? Why or why not?