We can all see it. We envision our company’s presence on social media as a robust arena where our customers get to see best in us and gain insight into our products and who we are. We see a place where we have followers and friends who respond to the things we post and they will make a real impact to our business. The challenge is we can only get to the place where we have those kind of followers and friends if we regularly post interesting share/retweet worthy content. “Group Sourcing” your social media content is a way to get there. The classic role of social media management for small and medium size companies often requires a single person to be an expert in technology, content creation, grammar, scheduling and marketing. Not only do they need to be an expert in all these things but they also need to be where the action is happening in the company. The result for many companies is a social media presence that operates in fits and starts having little impact on the overall success of the company.
“Group Sourcing” your social media presence includes diversifying the content side of your social media presence into three roles, Reporters, Poster and Director.
Succinctly put, Reporters forward content to the Poster, the Poster follows guidelines set out by the Director to decide what and how content should be posted to social media.
Segmenting the responsibilities of social media among a group of people in the company can allow a company to have a social media presence consistent and effective in communicating the breadth of what your company does to the public.
Reporters The most significant key to group sourcing social media is in the gathering of content. In stark contrast to companies where social media is the job of a single person, a company that group sources their social media content can allow anyone in the company to collect content considered for posting to social media. Anyone in the company who comes across an idea, article, product, pictures or videos that they consider might be worthy of posting simply forward it to the person or people responsible for posting. These can come through email, chat, text message, etc. Whatever medium the Reporters are most comfortable with can be used to collect and communicate content.
Even employees of your company completely unfamiliar with (or even personally opposed to) social media can be Reporters. For Reporters the requirements are low. They don’t need to worry about the appropriateness of the content, the timing, punctuation, grammar or how it fits into the larger picture. They can simply pass content on to the Poster as they come across it. A company may set expectations around how much content a Reporter should send but there is nothing that inherently requires them to send content on any sort of schedule.
The ideal Reporters will vary depending on your company’s goals for social media. I personally love the idea of including people from every corner of the company. Enlisting the help of a wide range of people has it’s benefits. Imagine seeing posts created with content provided by the warehouse crew, accounting, HR and sales instead of just the marketing team. It can also be a great way to find people in your company who have untapped talents in writing, photography, etc. It also has the effect of helping the entire company to feel a part of the company’s mission and when someone’s content gets posted it makes them feel valued as a contributor and employee.
Asking someone to be a Reporter also has the result of getting them interested in your company’s social media. You can be sure if they send something they will be watching to see if it gets posted. When you have a wide range of people in the company engaged in your social media presence it helps move towards that robust presence we all dream our companies will have.
Poster Receiving content from Reporters, editing it and posting it to social media per the Director’s guidelines is the job of the Poster. While many companies will have someone who is marketing focused be the Poster, it can actually be helpful to have someone who isn’t at trade shows, or caught up in the normal marketing cycle be the Poster. It is important that the Poster be able to use proper grammar and understand the marketing direction of the company. It can at times be best to have someone with a more technical focus and someone who is skilled at receiving and processing large amounts of information. This could (potentially) be a great role for a hired contractor or intern as well. If your company has a college in the area it can also be helpful to hire a social media intern who is responsible for the posting. It is also possible to have multiple Posters although it can be challenging if you have Reporters sending content to more than one person.
The Poster can perform this role part-time, or in the context of other parts of her job. With appropriate direction she could even work outside the company. If you have someone in your company who is active on social media in her time outside of work, she may jump at the opportunity to add professional social media to her resume. When thinking creatively about your employees skills and passions, you might be surprised at who you find that could perform this role.
Director The Director is possibly the role most critical to long-term success. The Director is responsible for setting the direction of the company’s social media and coordinating everyone involved. She sets philosophical ideas like the purpose and goals of a company’s social media, examples of content types, the voice in which posts should be made and the frequency of posts.
The Director will also be responsible for communicating with Reporters how often they are expected to submit content and the type of content being sought.
The Director monitors the company’s social media to provide guidance and feedback to the Poster for fine tuning the company’s social media presence. Once the structure is in place, the Director can have only occasional involvement and can be allowed to focus on other things. This allows the Director to be anyone in the company who has (or is given) the authority.
One frequent roadblock I see in companies wanting to expand their social media presence are fears of key stake holders around giving up control of social media accounts. One of the great factors of this group sourced method is it allows those stake holders to be Directors and still have control of the process but it doesn’t require their direct daily involvement in every social media post.
The Director could also ask for reports from the Poster about who is sending content to allow her to encourage people who are helping to provide value or verify that Reporters are meeting expectations.
In Practice I’ve seen this strategy work well both formally and informally. In very small companies where someone has already taken responsibility for social media, simply letting others know that they can serve as Reporters by simply texting or emailing the right person can be a big help in boosting the content of social media. It helps keep things from getting stale and always from the same perspective.
One place where I’ve seen this method provide great results is in trade shows. In the past I've struggled with the fact that at most trade shows the entire marketing team is focused on important things. Social media can take a back seat. Simply having the phone signal strength to get your postings out can be a hurdle at many events. When you are busy with other things, it is difficult to take the time to compose and send posts. Group sourcing your social media means that the Poster can be back at the office. People attending the show can simply send a quick text message or picture and get on with their work. They don’t need to worry about crafting the perfect message including grammar and spelling. The Reporters don't even need to worry about if their content is completely appropriate as the Poster will follow the guidelines that has been provided by the Director.
I had the privilege of experimenting with this method at CES a couple of years ago. We told everyone who was attending the show from the company that one of their responsibilities was to send a minimum of one picture or comment to the Poster each day. With 20+ people at the show, this provided the Poster with lots of content to choose from. After the show, people who attended continued to send content to the Poster occasionally as they came across things they thought might be interesting. I toyed with the idea of including "Social Media Reporter" to the job description of every person in the company but I never pulled the trigger on that.
There are many ways to create a robust social media presence for your company. All of them require content and consistency. My hope is that something in this article has provided some small solution to helping yours be the one you dream of.