Long gone are the early days when social media was the job of an intern or the responsibility of one person in an organization with few resources to support it. Today, "social" has matured into an integral part of a brand's marketing mix.
But as the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility.
Activations that are social by design actually go well beyond the responsibilities of an organization's social team and/or agency partner. Here at Edelman, we like to refer to this growing practice as Communications Marketing.
Social posts are a good indicator of this evolution—while the posts themselves may reside on a brand's social channels, it is no longer good enough to draft a tweet and push a button to publish it.
Content has matured and is now often the product of creative and editorial teams who may or may not be considered part of the social (or even digital) team within an organization. These newly welcomed players are instrumental in the creation of compelling content, which is often the currency that gets shared across social media.
Take, for example, a recent activation we launched in partnership with Dairy Management Inc. on behalf of U.S. dairy farmers, called "The Udder Truth." The program was conceived knowing that social media would be instrumental in achieving the shared goal of giving dairy farmers a voice and bringing together a complex network of industry stakeholders.
In this case, the "social team" is a hybrid composed of both staff from both the client and a full ecosystem of partners. On all sides, key players from multiple disciplines, agencies, and the dairy industry itself were integral to the process.
From managing our partnership with The Onion to creating, directing and producing several video interviews, to integrating paid amplification and coordinating with earned media outreach and even managing internal communications—multiple teams across multiple organizations and partners needed to be in lock step.
The above scenario represents an increasing reality for organizations and brands. While departments and heads of social, creative, content, media, analytics etc. are needed to do things at scale, it is at the activation level we realize how important it is for these teams to collaborate seamlessly. And when they can't or don't, you can literally see the seams and handoffs.
I often say that the new ideal is less like an assembly line than a mosh pit, whose dynamics are in constant sync with the beat and rhythm with which it co-exists. And if you've ever been in a mosh pit, you know it's not for those averse to occasional bruising.
If you're trying to evolve your social practice from silo to sync, here are a few tips we've learned based on what we've seen work for organizations of all sizes:
1. Leverage data and insights to earn a seat at the table: Social channels can possess vast amounts of data and potentially insights. Use these to add another dimension to traditional data sources.
2. Evolve toward becoming a publishing platform: The early days of social media were about establishing, owning, operating and globalizing channels. Now it's about coordinating these channels with third parties and campaigns with a focus on quality over quantity.
3. Act as a bridge between creative and editorial: As social media expands into content marketing, it requires the ingenuity of creative mashed up with the media savvy of editorial. Whether in partnership with agencies or other entities, find this sweet spot and focus on scaling it in partnership with other marketing functions.
4. Don't settle for seams: Push your social teams to be included in the upfront and planning of an initiative, and likewise push other teams (creative, communications, marketing, etc.) to be engaged on the activation front where the social teams are often tasked to deliver.
It is only through this mutual accountability that miscommunication can be avoided.
We're rapidly moving toward a future where brands must seamlessly mix the nimble, contact-sport nature of communications with the rigor, accountability and scale of marketing. In that context, social teams will find themselves in a position where success is less about ownership than about consistent, sometimes messy collaboration.
David Armano is global strategy director for Edelman Digital. You can follow him on Twitter at @armano.