Anatomy of Social Media Departments

by Rudi Gabriel Bedy

Social Media Departments are a must for middle to large-scale companies today, but also small businesses started to do social media locally. If in some cases we have employees that do social media along with other daily tasks, in other cases we have very well-defined teams inside companies which are composed of 2 to 12 and more people.

The department where social media should be in depends very much on how the company is organised. Generally we can look at 3 big departments where it could be located:  Marketing, Communications or stand alone.

Looking at the nature of how Social Media is developing from inside companies and how this is influenced from the outside naturally and artificially by Social Media Product companies, I am tending to prefer a very independent role of Social Media Departments. Why is that? Because of how the Social Media activities have been implemented differently in companies at different levels and with different objectives, not to mention the limitations which such department can have. I am not saying this is not good, but we should look at how social media can help a company on a broader perspective and at a higher level than just focusing on one thing. Social Media Departments have to integrate with all other departments and not to be limited to one function.

Online Social Interaction happens everywhere nowadays in contact with a company, in situations like Support Issues, Sales, Special Offers, Customer Retention, Brand Loyalty, Thought Leadership, Brand Awareness and more.

At small companies what I see as ideal, is having one Social Media Manager, who covers Community Management, Online Support Questions, Social Media Marketing Campaigns (Brand Awareness Campaigns, Customer Acquisition Campaigns) and of course feedback discovery and reporting internally.

At medium/large-sized companies everything gets bigger, not only in numbers of team members but also in terms of spread around the globe. From my point of view I would say the setup of the department could be:

  1. Global driven, where you have people specialized on platforms and which are setting everything up for local team members. This type of setup helps in having a high rate of activity on those platforms and a continuity in brand communication. Total costs are less in this case but there are no local activities suited to the region involved.
  2. Local driven, where you have people employed for each region/country and they handle all the platforms/activities in that region.  This helps when social media activities and the brand image is very different based on the region/country and when there is need for localized activities. Still, there are some drawbacks: overall costs are bigger, number of activities is smaller, loss of a world-wide brand image.
  3. Glocal driven, where you have people specialized on platforms at a global level, but also local social media team members who have a larger influence on what they do locally. In this case Global Platform Managers can setup guidelines, strategy and global campaigns which will run in all countries, but the local managers will also be able to run region/country specific campaigns or modify/adapt global ones. This is a very good option for big companies which are strict about their brands but leave a space for localizations.

When I talk about local social media managers in the global context, we have to keep in mind that they have to cover  Community Management, Online Support Issues handling, Social Media Marketing Campaigns (Brand Awareness Campaigns, Customer Acquisition Campaigns) and of course Feedback discovery and reporting internally. The 3 department setups I proposed can be over-sized or downsized depending on the country/region importance and volume of work. If we have a very high work volume in a specific country we could have a Local Community Manager, Local Social Media Support responsible, Local Social Media Marketing Campaigns responsible and even more.

What is your view on how a social media department should be constructed and where it should be placed?