Scaling Social Media

clothes on a wire If you’re a company considering using social media tools for business communications, marketing, sales, etc, you’re no doubt wondering about how much time it will add to your already busy day, especially if you’re a smaller business. The answer varies depending on how you’re using it, how many platforms you’re engaging, your goals, and more. But we can still walk through some potential recipes and give you a sense of what will take time, how you might budget for it, and how to consider your engagement efforts. From a business perspective (and you can stretch this for non-profits and other organizations), it comes down to a mix of prioritizing and satisfying customer needs. Here are my thoughts on scaling social media.

Methods of Engaging in Social Media

First, let’s level-set what we’re talking about here. When I talk about scaling your efforts, here are the efforts I’m talking about:

  • Listening/monitoring for PR, for customer service, for marketing opportunities, for R&D opportunties.
  • Customer service.
  • Client relations.
  • Social marketing (such as two-way sales conversations).
  • Sales prospecting (including two-way conversations, but also listening).
  • Publishing (blogging, video, etc).

Of these six, everything but “listening/monitoring” assumes a little bit of two-way participation, meaning that you choose to comment on the other people’s posts and statuses, etc. This takes time, as well. It’s part of the relationship-building, however, and can’t be skimped on.

Approaches to Assigning These Tasks

Listening/Monitoring – In my estimation, every social media effort has to have Listening/Monitoring at the core of it. I tried thinking of exceptions, and couldn’t (without accepting that some people choose to be scammy). That said, you can opt to split the listening/monitoring chores out such that each member of your team that will be touching the social web owns some level of the process. For instance, your PR person can use the tools to listen for crisis issues, for storytelling opportunities, etc. Your customer service team can use the tools to enhance their customer service channel. Your marketers can listen for opportunities. Thus, you’ve already looked at how to split the vast bucket of information that comes in during listening. Someone should still own it. Maybe that’s the product lead, the manager of that line of business, whoever is responsible for the bottom line. They should have their eyes on listening the whole time.

Customer Service – Some companies already have this nailed down. Dell and Comcast have built great customer service integrations using social channels. Zappos has, as well. This area seems the most important to scale. Customer service is a tireless experience, and requires prompt attention. Thus, you need a deep bench. I think Frank at Comcast has 14 people on his team at this point, to give you a sense of it. Of all the social media tasks, this is tie for the most time consuming and most important (client relations would be the other). Learning how to scale this might be nuanced and customized, but just by knowing that it’s the hardest part might be enough to get you a little further in this part.

Client Relations- I split out client relations from customer service, because I think this part includes managing things like Facebook groups, managing blog comments, etc. It’s the “there’s no problem, but I’d like to keep you warm” part of business. You sometimes see “community manager” in this role (though I see the best community managers as a blend of a few of the above topics). This is tied for first place in time-consuming with Customer Service. People want the warm touch. It’s also the hardest of the brand promises, because if you’re nice to me on Twitter, but your counter help stinks, did you really move the needle? I vote no. With time, this one requires perhaps even more special care and attention. If you start offering this to your customer base, you’ve got to maintain it. Toy with the hours spent here at your own risk.

Social Marketing – By social marketing, I mean things like finding new customers via Twitter, or coming up with YouTube challenges, things like that. This clearly falls into the marketing department of larger companies, and it falls on the shoulders of whichever of your small business partners markets the best. Like all roles in a small business environment, you should cross-train. Don’t get lulled into thinking that just because Surya has a Twitter account that he’s the only one who should do social marketing. This is probably the easiest to scale, but it’s also the one where you can see the most obvious results of marketing effort. For instance, if you build a loyalty program and you need sign-ups, you can count pretty easily how many people took advantage of your offer, so you now whether or not to add attention to it. This is probably a lot less personable than client relations and customer service, so can likely be scaled the easiest.

Sales Prospecting – Your sales team (or you, if you’re a company of one or two) should already be realizing the sales benefits of the social web. Every day, someone’s out there talking about their needs, and giving you a sense of how you could sell to them. It’s lots of opportunity and requires a bit of time, but not much more than old fashioned prospecting. Switch out some of your time from sifting through phone books or wherever you find your customers, and put it into using search tools on the web to find new clients. Also, for ongoing relationships, if you’re not keeping tabs on their social presence, you’re missing the opportunity to know how they’re doing before you make your important sales calls. This doesn’t take a ton of time, but requires you to build it into your process.

Publishing – Blogging, shooting videos, all that stuff – that’s where some of your time gets eaten up, and yet, that’s where a lot of the value comes from. In seeing some of the comments from my post about redrawing, a lot of people offered that maybe I should blog and tweet less. That’s where I get my revenue. This post? It will generate a query for business where someone wants me to further customize and formalize these processes for their organization. I give it away to you for free, and you can run with it, but someone will ask for that next step, and I’ll make money from that. Thus, publishing should never be considered the thing to slip. Hell, it’s the product sometimes, and other times, it’s the best advertising you could ever create. Never skimp on publishing.

Where Does That Leave You?

I’ve told you that everything’s important and that nothing can be cut back. So where do you scale?

  • Spread listening/monitoring as deep as you can.
  • Enhance customer service and deepen that bench internally.
  • Add to client relations when you can, from internal resources. It pays off.
  • Social marketing can be augmented by external help.
  • Sales prospecting is a sales job, but can be augmented.
  • Publishing is important, but can be augmented by external help.

That’s how I see it. Again, if you’re talking about smaller scale operations, you’ll have to find the mix. I’ve put it almost in order of importance, from top to bottom. You can shuffle it a bit. Is that how you see it?

For those complaining that social media doesn’t scale, the trick is this: we equate these tools to personal relationships. Because of that, we can’t just open a “call center” for many of the touchpoints. However, as we move forward, and these tools become the new phone, the new radio, the new TV, it’s no longer going to be a world of solo trust agents, but trust agencies.

Will you be ready?

Photo credit Bill Lapp

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  • http://davefleet.com davefleet

    Great post, but I'm interested in the services you suggest can be augmented externally compared to those which you suggest spreading deep in the organization.

    I'd suggest listening and monitoring can easily be handled by external sources – they require less internal knowledge, need fewer approvals and don't suffer from a risk of a lack of authenticity.

    Publishing and social marketing, meanwhile, are tougher nuts to crack externally. From a strategic “ideas” perspective it absolutely works, but at a hands-on nuts and bolts level its more difficult. It doesn't mean it can't be done, of course, but it's not ideal – for all of the reasons for which monitoring CAN be handled externally. The greatest of those is the potential lack of authenticity, which can both hinder the success of efforts and actually prove to be an issue requiring management.

    Curious on your thoughts.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZ9-xe_7xhU Timothy

    I think you make some great points Chris. The biggest reason most social media campaigns fail is due to the company's lack of knowledge around social media and how to use it effectively. It's really a dialogue and businesses need to be able to listen to their audience and what they want. Monitoring the conversation and addressing issues sooner than later can help businesses long term marketing efforts.

    Great article.

  • http://www.ann-sense.com/ Ann Marie van den Hurk, APR

    Chris, I appreciate how you used the term, “social media tools”. So many people don't realize that social media is one of many tools used in a well-thought-out marcomm or sales plan. Scaling is so important especially for small businesses and nonprofits. Social media has to fit the organization's business/mission goals, but I think organization should be participating in social media to listen for opportunities and threats to start with then evolve from there based on a plan. And remember plan is also a verb which implies motion.

  • http://www.TheFranchiseKing.com The Franchise King

    Terrific post, Chris. The hits just keep coming!

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    Super happy to hear from you, Manish. I have met many on your team and think it's going really well overall. I wish I could've heard your presentation.

  • http://regentpress.typepad.com/socialmediabuzz/ Linda Locke

    Chris,

    Learning to scale your social media activities is so important. Thanks for helping us learn how to prioritize them better.

  • http://regentpress.typepad.com/socialmediabuzz/ Linda Locke

    Chris,

    Learning to scale your social media activities is so important. Thanks for helping us learn how to prioritize them better.

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  • Chris_Eh_Young

    Thanks, I was just trying to find a breakdown for a customer the other day. I hadn't really thought about scaling.

    I have been working with the concept of augmenting for a while now, it's the only way to get through to locals. I live in a small town that is very slow to adapt to new technologies. I am bringing them along though, albeit, very slowly.

    Chris Eh Young

  • susanyoung

    Hi Chris,
    As always, you're right on target. Thank you for explaining “scaling” with these key areas. I especially like that you separate customer service vs. client relations. I completely agree with the part about the videos/publishing. Yes it's a bit time consuming, especially at the beginning, but monetizing and rewards are there.
    Another great post!
    Susan

  • annejaa

    Great post Chris!Social Media is the top level term that describes the space overall and covers the activities around social interaction, content, videos, images and audio exposure. While most people are open to new connections and receiving messages from people they don’t know, there is a fine line between reaching out and spamming.The challenge is to make a connection clearly and effectively without wasting people’s time.Many of us are on both sides of this relationship-sometimes making the connection, sometimes receiving the invitation.
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  • annawoods04

    These are the best points where once can manage their business easily whether small or a huge company. Doesn't matters how much time you spend on your daily activity it depends upon how you engage your clients in your service, how you satisfy your users, how is customer happy with our services and how we accommodates his or needs according to his wish, this is most important.

    reputation management

  • annawoods04

    These are the best points where once can manage their business easily whether small or a huge company. Doesn't matters how much time you spend on your daily activity it depends upon how you engage your clients in your service, how you satisfy your users, how is customer happy with our services and how we accommodates his or needs according to his wish, this is most important.

    reputation management

  • annawoods04

    These are the best points where once can manage their business easily whether small or a huge company. Doesn't matters how much time you spend on your daily activity it depends upon how you engage your clients in your service, how you satisfy your users, how is customer happy with our services and how we accommodates his or needs according to his wish, this is most important.

    reputation management

  • http://twitter.com/nineworklives Louise Holmes

    I'm new enough at blogging, and so busy learning the rudiments of social media and WordPress, that I've been neglecting the piece I love the most, and that's the writing and content development. Thanks, Chris, for reminding me that the content is where I need to focus. The content is Sine Qua Non!

  • http://twitter.com/BrandiNGrays Brandi N. Grays

    Chris this is perfect. In my business I work with owners of smaller small businesses.. Many of them are interested in working with social media, but a lot of them already have their plates full. I am definitely going to integrate this into some of my meetings because this group is eager but doesnt want to get trapped by a time sucker.

    Thanks for the great post!

  • http://twitter.com/BrandiNGrays Brandi N. Grays

    I agree that external help can make undertaking social media “the right way” much easier, especially at the beginning. I think that some of the older business owners that want to get involved choose not to because they think they will have so much extra to conquer. When you realize that some, just some, of this stuff doesnt have to be done by you, it become more manageable.

  • http://twitter.com/BrandiNGrays Brandi N. Grays

    Thursday, this is an awesome comment. I think that small businesses and large corporations can both be scared by the idea of giving their customers too much information. The reality of it is this: the people who are going to do it themselves probably weren't going to buy from you anyway! I don't believe by empowering your customer base you have cut your business, you have created a deeper relationship among you and those that you serve.

  • sandi4heinrich

    Will I be ready? I feel more ready now, and more so every day. Listening, learning, toe–in-water engagement in Social Media. Commenting. Responding. Showing up. Of all the social media information out there, I am most inspired by your work. Thank you.

  • http://www.government-mailing-lists.com/ governmentlists

    Thanks Chris, this helps.

    Richard Furlong
    richard@government-mailing-lists.com

  • http://www.rondegiusti.com/ Ron De Giusti

    For me, the hardest thing is finding the time to write my blog posts. And just like you said in your post above, it is writing those blog posts that generates the most traffic and interactions for me. There is always a spike the day following a blog post.

    As someone who is new to social media and to blogging and as someone who is a Tech and not a Writer, the one thing I really want to start doing is creating an editorial calendar for myself where the calendar plans out something like 3 months in advance the blog posts I'll write. I'm thinking this might be the best way to keep myself to regular blog posts.

    Do you plan out your posts 3 months in advance or are you lucky enough to have the ideas flow out spontaneously and regulary?

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    We could definitely argue it your way, as well. To me, what an external person considers “no big deal” that comes up in monitoring might be something of huge importance to me. Vice-versa, my monitor types might think something's a fire drill and will ring the wrong level of warning too many times to be useful. That's why I want monitoring in house. Maybe not ALL of it. Maybe PR-level stuff can be external, and marketing opportunities are in-house.

    I think we could argue either way.

    My thoughts on external bloggers come from my project at workshifting.com. I'm loving the work there, and we have SOME Citrix Online writers, but a lot of our writers are from external sources, several of which just wanted to be part of the project. : )

    So, maybe not all posts could come from external, but we found that most topics that appeal to prospective buyers can be sourced externally. You're right that complicated ones would have to go internally.

  • livjon

    Scaling your social media efforts takes time and a steady focus on sticking to an operational plan. Whether you are just entering the social media ecosystem or have been a part of the landscape for a couple of years, there are four key components to scaling your social media efforts, which, not coincidentally, all start with a “C.”

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  • http://thelocallanding.net/businesshelp/services/social-media-setup The Local Landing

    This is a great explanation of the benefits of social media for business use. It's good to see more businesses becoming aware of the usefulness of some of these sites.

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  • http://twitter.com/info_partner InfoPartner

    Hi chris,

    i found this post very interesting and social media's time consumption is something that i've never thought about :) . As i am begining to use social medias as tools for my company, begining to share my posts and things i find interesting, i'd like to know if i can translate this article in french and post it on my company's blog (which is very new too :) ) ?

    thanks for any answer :)

    Regards,

  • valerica

    Chris, thanks for your approach on the divison of social media roles within companies. I was actually in the middle of a small research project regarding social media engagement and found your post most useful.
    I have however a question regarding the approach in the case of smaller companies/ organizations. While for the big organizations, the scaling – and resource allocation – is somewhat easier, even with external experts involvement, smaller companies have a harder time in dosing their effort – or at least this is how I see it, being part of one.
    If we would share listening roles, for instance, around our team, this would take quite a big part of everybody's time – compared to our dense list of responsibilities and regular functions of our jobs. Especially as you cannot separate “listening” and “monitoring” from “responding” and “reacting”, and someone needs to take this over anyway. What is more, I really believe not everybody is skilled for social media interaction, in the same way not eveybody is a good public speaker or a effective PR person.
    So my take on this is that even in smaller organizations there should be dedicated personnel (or just a person) for the social media engagement, and this person should be the owner of the task/ process and assume dissemination of information obtained through the social media channels within and from the company. And resulting from this, it kind of feels right that a PR person would more appropriate to assume this role.
    My perspective might prove wrong – but this is how are doing it at the moment. I'm really interestd in your take on this :)

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    Thanks for the daily great insights! This post is very useful to me as I'm trying to social media strategies where I work. For the time being though, I find I'm still at the “trying to educate most of my colleagues as to the importance of social media” phase

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