Fighting the Social Media Shortage

Has it really come to this?

I attended a social media conference in New York last week called “The Corporate Social Media Summit.”

The conference featured an impressive array of brands showcasing their social media campaigns, programs and best practices.  Presenters included executives from Pepsi, BestBuy, American Express, Kodak, Dell, Marriott, Newell Rubbermaid, Adobe, AFLAC, Whole Foods Market and many others.

There was one theme that kept bubbling up during the two days of presentations.  A theme that you might not expect from a conference filled with brands that are household names:

Corporate social and digital communications are vastly understaffed and underfunded.

From the mega-large technology giants to global consumer brands, the message was consistent – they are working with few internal resources, don’t have enough employees, and are spread thin across communications, marketing, advertising, IT and customer service while under increasing pressure to prove the return on investment for social media.

As Ashley Brown, director of communications and social media at Coca-Cola, noted: “(We have learned that) done is better than perfect.”

That is a refrain I’ve heard a lot lately in social media circles.  I’m not a fan of the concept that getting things done as a priority over providing high quality, but I can understand how a team that is understaffed and with limited resources may be forced to embrace that mantra.

James Wisdom, the director of new media at ALFAC, said: “Measurement in social media is tough.  Shareholders don’t care about social media ROI.  They care about revenue, stock price and company stability.”

In other words, increasing the number of “likes” on Facebook 100 percent in one month might impress your peers, but not the C-suite or the board of directors.  They don’t care nor do they understand those kinds of metrics.

So with mounting pressure to provide tangible value, social media executives at corporations are struggling to keep up.

One big brand social media executive told me that his department went into a funk after their social media director left for another opportunity.  “He was handling so much and knew the brand so well that is has been a nearly impossible task to replace him,” the executive lamented.

“We do what we can with what we have,” another social media executive said.

Another common complaint at the conference was finding qualified candidates.

“Finding someone who gets Twitter is easy,” an executive told me.  “Finding someone who understands brand strategy and communications and how to apply it to Twitter isn’t so easy.”

Here’s one smart solution: Hire an agency.

Outsourcing social media is a no brainer these days.  Brands already outsource PR, advertising and dozens of other functions from customer service to legal services.  Social media are no different.  Using an agency gives brands access to senior consultants that can help develop a strategic framework and then help guide it up to the C-suite.  Agencies can also scale resources quickly and are generally on the cutting edge of new technologies and platforms.

They are also a more affordable option than hiring an internal staff.

What do you think?  Is your brand struggling to keep up with social media?  Does your company need help?


Corporate Social Media Summit

Quality Matters in Social Media

5 Reasons Brands Should Outsource Social Media

3 Responses to “Fighting the Social Media Shortage”

  1. Wow! Done is better than perfect?

    I can see both sides of this argument. But we have found when a customer is upset about something a product has done or won’t do, or needs help, or tweets that they’re having a problem and the 800- 365/7 support isn’t working, such an operation can pay for itself.

    Thanks for sharing this insight.


  2. Hi Donald:
    In defense of Ashley, she was not advocating shoddy work. She was making the point to defend against being paralyzed into inaction. But it can be a slippery slope to put “get it done” ahead of “quality.”

  3. I didn’t think she was my good man. It’s just more frustration with the C-Suite than anything else. Some times the old if it’s not making me money that I can put in my pocket right now mentality can ruin a business just as much as help it.

    If we can ever work together on anything, please let me know. Will keep an eye on other important things you share.


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