Elevate: Launching and Leading A Social Media Practice

On June 7, 2010 the late Steve Jobs took the stage at the World Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco to announce Apple’s latest break through release, the iPhone 4.  The tag line read “This changes everything. Again.”

He wasn’t lying.

I was 6 months into my newly minted role managing social media for RadioShack, their first foray into the space.  This announcement signaled the end of my honeymoon phase and represented the first time in RadioShack’s 90-year history that the iconic retailer would be a launch-day destination for Apple devices. Previously they only received Cupertino’s finest imports after the national release and  after the competition.

That day we sardined into a conference room, throwing out options and brainstorms for how on earth we could tell the masses we would be slanging Apples.  The launch was in 17 days, which meant we had 7 days to convince customers we were actually selling the device and 7 hours to say it first.  Every eye in the room was like a spotlight facing my direction.  Enter social media.

Social Media Takes Center Stage

Seemingly overnight, social media at  RadioShack accelerated from being a nascent, emerging tool for niche conversations to an urgent channel for driving the business. What was previously a thermometer – reacting to consumer and business stimuli – became  a thermostat, setting the pace for how our brand comes to life across 35,000 associates in 27 countries and 6,000 stores.

It was the end of my honeymoon and the beginning of an inevitable journey.  The business no longer needed someone to manage social.  They needed someone to lead it.  My approach was no longer sufficient.  They needed a visionary and a coach more than a community manager.  The business required internal alignment and strategy, not just advocacy.  It was time for me and social media to grow up.

I’m convinced any conversation about social business has one undeniable punchline: social leadership.  When done right, social media marketing evolves into a business practice that builds internal and external relationships across the organization.  It was never intended to be a solo show.  For me, this conversion from circus act to ring leader involved 7 points of individual and organizational elevation.

Social leaders must elevate…

1. From Community Manager to Coach

Community is the currency of social media.  Managing those relationships is vital, but it’s also teachable and transferable.  Recruit the right talent and give them permission to fail.  I know, it’s one of the hardest things to do but also the most critical.  Don’t expect them to say and do things exactly how you would.  Instead, a good coach builds a playbook that agencies, interns and co-workers can follow.  Create a social media  practice that works without you, not because of you.

2. From Evangelist to Educator

My focus is no longer on spreading the gospel of social media.  Ironically, the ever-growing ocean of stats, facts and figures regarding social usage are useless until you educate your business on how to be social.  This requires an elevation in your approach.  Speak to people about data, specific use-cases, financial impact and consumer response.  Most CMOs already know the cost of social so it’s a leader’s job to show the value.

3. From External Advocacy to Internal Alignment

Without an audience there is no brand.  Without alignment there is no business.  Outreach to influencers and brand ambassadors requires dedicated efforts across the organization.  As a social chief, it becomes my job to balance this external focus with my internal function as a liaison, ensuring we deliver on the conversations our advocates are having.  It’s perfectly OK to have multiple leaders own a piece of social strategy.  In fact, it’s a sign of organizational maturity. Just remember: leadership is plural, vision is singular.  Elevate and be the visionary.

4. From Test & Learn to Prove & Do

Innovation is important but it’s not everything (I can’t believe I just typed that).  Once you test a platform and evaluate its merits, it’s time to take action.  I had to elevate my conversations from mere recaps of engagement metrics (likes, fans, followers, retweets, etc.) to performance measures that are relevant to the business.  Contrary to popular opinion, there is a ROI component to social media and it’s the leader’s responsibility to represent this internally.  Here are the 4 measures I have found most valuable:

1. Competitive Share of Voice – How much of the online conversation did we impact/influence versus our competitive set? Measured via Radian6, Alterian or whatever your listening tool of choice is.

2. Media Efficiency – How much money did we save by using social channels and tactics versus conventional media?  Measured by calculating a CPM for the total audience and comparing directly to paid media rates (or industry benchmarks if you’re in PR).

3. Revenue Attribution – How many sales transactions resulted from this campaign? Measured by injecting a direct response component (unique code, digital tracking, etc.) into the social experience that connects potential customers to actual transactions.

4. Online Profit – How much profit (return on ad spend) did this interactive campaign drive.  If your business has an e-commerce function this is simply measured using the same approach as other digital drivers.

5. From Brand Program to Business Practice

As it matures, social becomes much bigger than a marketing channel.  Leading a practice requires oversight of enterprise-wide needs that fall well beyond the job description of a community manager or individual contributor.  This includes budgeting for operational support and social advertising, constantly reviewing agency rosters to assess scope and competency, evolving and championing staffing plans and procuring proven talent for specialized needs.  This point of elevation required me to take off the rock star hat and build a stage where everyone can have rock star results.

6. From Mobile as 3rd Screen to 1st Screen

I’ll admit it.  Smartphone penetration in the U.S. is increasing faster than the I.Q. of most marketers.  What was once an extension of our traditional campaigns has become the center of our consumer interactions.  Forty percent of social users are accessing the channels via mobile devices and some, my wife included, have no clue what the desktop version of Facebook even looks like.  I suppose we can thank Mr. Jobs for that as well.

7. From Policies to Protection

This one isn’t much fun.  When I wrote the social media policy for The Shack, it was intended to instill guiding principles and philosophies for navigating the online space.  It was an internal document with an intentional focus – protect our brand from itself.  The most urgent need now is protection from others.  The business of social media is the business of trust.  Without it, disaster ensues.  That trust must be protected by guarding privacy, securing intellectual property, scrutinizing licensing agreements and even counteracting legal claims.  Technology has created immense opportunity, especially for lawyers.  Leaders keep their enemies close and their lawyer on speed-dial.

What’s Next?

Managing communities, growing advocates, testing technology and crafting creative marketing programs are the core of social media and abundantly necessary.  A social leader must be able to manage these critical components while also looking at the bigger, sometimes blurry, picture.  These are the guiding principles I will take with me in my new position leading social, mobile and emerging media at Intuit.  I start next Monday.

I’m looking forward to presenting them today at the Social Fresh conference in Tampa.  As a follow-up, I’m committing to post links and more detailed examples of the tools I used to elevate.  If you find them helpful let me know your thoughts and if you totally disagree, let me know why.

UPDATE: Follow the tag #ElevateSocial for more updates, including my SlideShare presentation and a follow-up blog post, Staying Social Fresh.


Twitter – @adriandparker
LinkedIn – www.linkedin.com/in/adriandparker

7 thoughts on “Elevate: Launching and Leading A Social Media Practice

  1. Wow, Adrian, I loved this. Very smart way to explain and break it down using these subtitles “From Community Manager to Coach” and “From Evangelist to Educator”, etc. Such a great read. Congrats on your new position and thanks for giving Radian6 a mention!

    All the best,
    Trish, Community Manager @Radian6

  2. filoi sobareftite kai balte tin “maxitikotita”(osoi exete) stin akri, giati peprei na diaxorizoume merika pragmata.i sinxisi ginete tis perisoteres fores dioti sxedon oloi exoun “ligo” dikio, alla monoplevra den einai pote oli i alithia. (kai tha mou peite, kai pios tin kserei oli tin alithia)se prosopiko epipedo mporei bebaia o kathe askitis kai kathe anthropos na askei tapinosi kai na kathete iremos apenanti se kathe ibristi tou.mia koinonia den mporei na exei tin idia kritiki i ta idia antanaklastika, idi texnika adinato, kai idika otan prokite gia prosopa apodekta i sebasta se megalo meros tis koinonias.kati allo ine kai i politiki pou emplekete tora kai pou sigoura “paizete politiki” edo pano apo ola. kai avto ofiloume na to ksexorizoume apo ta parapano.oti afora ton nearo, ki eno ine apolitos aksiothrinito avto pou ekane, ki avtos distxos egine politiko thima.avto pou eprakse peprei na katigoroume kai oxi to kinigi tou drasti pou egine istera (mi ksexname oti politikoi kai dimosiagrafoi dipsoun gia oti mporei na tous apospasei apo to stoxastro tou laou)oute loipon na eimaste apatheis otan diakomodounte epangelmatika (p.x. se theatra) i eksibrizonte fthina ta prosopa pou tima kai sebete o laos (kai oxi mono thriskeftika alla kai istorika/ethnika) , alla oute na eimaste (kai oute imastan pote) opos oi fanatikoi allon thriskion pou trexoun na lintzaroun kapion me to paramikro.i paradosi mas didaskei ksekathara: den polemame ton amartolo alla tin amartia.to teleftaio omos skopos na to kanoume kiolas, kai distixos ,as min ipokrinomaste, anti avtou ginete to proto… perita alla logia

  3. I will immediately take hold of your rss as I can not in fnndiig your email subscription link or newsletter service. Do you have any? Please let me realize in order that I could subscribe. Thanks power inverter .

  4. You go boy

  5. Neat Website, Preserve the very good job. Thanks for your time!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close