Don’t choose the digital natives for your social media team

Social media
A diverse social media team

Last Friday I attended the Opening Ceremony of the European Year for Development 2015 in Riga, Latvia. I am not an expert in development cooperation, so I learned a lot1 – many ideas and concepts that transcend the field of development cooperation were shared. One striking comment was made by Homi Kharas, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution: he recommended not to choose the best people when setting up your project team; or your project will end with the end of the project. Advice that can be applied to many domains, including the social media project team of your company.

In small and medium enterprises (SMEs) resources are scarce. Only 30 % of EU enterprises used social media in 2013 (30% in Luxembourg). Being active on social media can benefit all kinds of enterprises, but only few actually manage to release the necessary resources to activate the potential of digital communication. If, as a company CEO, head of human resources or marketing you finally decide to invest in social media, you only want your most tech-savvy, social-media-ready, always-online digital natives in the team, right? Not necessarily.

The bus factor

“Projects end”, as Homi Kharas reminded us at the EYD2015 Opening Ceremony. Even if you don’t rely on external experts, your activity on social media has to be an ongoing adventure that has to take into account that your company’s social media expert might go on holidays, be sick or leave the company. When building your social media team, you can’t rely on the availability and activity of one person: having an inactive account because your community manager is on holiday leaves a disastrous impression on your social platforms.

It’s not only necessary to avoid putting the responsibility of digital communication on one single person, it is also important to include people in your team who don’t spend hours and hours on Twitter and Instagram.

The value of not being a social media expert

Due to a constant lack of resources in SMEs, not relying on a single person to manage all social media activities rarely means to hire more staff – in practice it means dividing the work on employees who already have other duties. This also means that they are not social media experts – they might be journalists, accountants, designers, secretaries, gardeners or janitors. A picture from the top of your building by the window-cleaners might impress your Instagram followers, as well as give credit to the hard work of those people in your staff, who are not always in the spotlight.

This diversity of backgrounds and varied levels of experience is not a disadvantage, but a strength of a good social media team. Regular input from departments other than marketing or communication increases creativity and reduces the risks of silo-effects. If social media is not just handled by the office’s mobile phone addicts from marketing, but encompasses a large, cross-departmental team, you will create a more acceptance for the new way of communicating in your company. An integrated team guarantees reasonable response times (more people know how to answer you clients’ questions) and regular updates (more people are able to post more diverse content) – you don’t depend on the availability of one person. Most importantly, all your efforts (and money) put into creating a social media strategy, training sessions and workshops by external agencies as well as convincing your staff to engage online will not be a waste when the (probably) few digital-natives in your SME leave the company, are on holiday or the cooperation with an external agency ends.

Of course a diverse team still needs strategic coordination. You need to set up an online communication strategy defining the goals of your activities, relevant target groups, tonality of your content and set up regular monitoring. This strategy will set the stage, but the success of your new way of communicating online will depend on your team!

Don’t hesitate to contact me if you want advice from Clement & Weyer Consulting in setting up your social media team:

Show 1 footnote

  1. I attended to present the video competition Shining Stars of Europe

Jerry Weyer

Jerry Weyer co-founded Clement & Weyer Digital Communication Consultants in 2014 and consults European institutions in Luxembourg on social media management. He studied European law at Université Robert Schuman in Strasbourg and at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is a founding member of Pirate Party Luxembourg and former Co-Chairman of the Pirate Parties International (PPI).

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