Who should run social media? Communications, the expert or an agency?

Estimated read time: 4 minutes

As many organizations are realizing that social media is not just a fad and a valuable channel for customer acquisition, the question arises: Who should run our branded social media account?

Your options include:

  • Marketing, communications or a related function in that area of the business
  • An agency
  • The expert – the person who has the most knowledge about the topic being discussed on your social channels.

This question first came up in a September #HealthXPH Twitter chat in which medical and communication professionals discussed topics surrounding social media and healthcare.

Communications often runs social media and some experts have accounts with their own names that are used with varying degrees of success.

Do we need branded accounts

The first question to answer perhaps is if we even need branded accounts. Why does every brand need to have an account on social media and participate? Apple does nothing on social media and they are doing just fine in social media engagement.

Every time a new iPhone is released, our streams fill with pictures of people waiting in line, people blogging about the experience and the new device and of course tons and tons of news articles.

Maybe brands instead should focus on reaching those advocates who will then run the brand’s social media through their own personal channels. That’s powerful.

Breaking down the roles

There is an advantage, though, to have a branded account. You can share news, deals (depending on your business), and respond to people’s questions. Think of it as another channel of customer service and communications. That’s something that wouldn’t be possible without a branded account.

OK, let’s decide for now that it’s good to have branded accounts.

For this, you’ll need somebody:

  • Who can say something meaningful in 140 characters.
  • Who can simplify a complex message.
  • Who is listening to audience questions and can respond in a timely fashion. Timely fashion means within one hour on social media.
  • Somebody who knows a topic well enough to explain it, answer questions and follow-up questions.

Who is best suited to perform these social media tasks in an effective way? It’s likely not an either/or answer. Organizations, businesses and nonprofits that are pulling this off in a relevant and nimble way incorporate a mix of roles and responsibilities.

Let’s be honest about experts running social media accounts. They probably don’t have the time to monitor and respond in real time. But the expert has the expertise they will help social media communication move from general, and sometimes stale, to informational, educational and engaging.

Communications might not have the staff availability but has some of the expertise on how to communicate publicly.

The right agencies have the experience across many projects and clients that in-house departments might not have had exposure to. In a fast-moving and ever-changing digital world, this experience and guidance can be invaluable. Isn’t it easier to learn from the mistakes others made than making them ourselves?

The most likely way to success is to combine the different groups and draw on their strengths.

The expert offers expertise on the topic.
The communications team publishes, schedules and monitors.
The agency helps with workflow, expertise on the medium and execution.

One of the keys is that the internal expert is available. Let’s take this scenario:

The agency scheduled a Tweet. The communications team saw two questions come through in response to it. Monitoring social media in real time has become easier and easier, and for some smaller organizations can be as simple as one key person getting notifications on his or her iPhone for new messages.

The communications team has some templated responses for common questions, but this one hasn’t come up before. Communications texts the expert with the question. The expert immediately acknowledges the message and a response to the actual question within eight minutes. Communications cuts it down to 140 characters to make it fit on Twitter and texts it back to the expert, who understands the need for the edits and approves.

The response is published within 16 minutes – well within the one-hour time frame that customers expect for a response. The answer is saved for future reference in the case of the same question coming up again.

Social media is about exchanging ideas, connecting and collaboration. And this workflow is most likely to succeed when it’s collaborative.

Why “most likely?” and why isn’t it s sure thing? There aren’t many sure things in the digital roam – just strategies that are more likely than others to set you up for success.

And after all, you still have to share relevant content before people start connecting with you.

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