Last week we ran a workshop on the topic of ‘Organising for Social’, looking at how social teams can and should play a bigger role in improving the business as a whole. It was an early preview of an upcoming series of events we will be organising in the coming months.

We framed our workshop discussion in an introductory blog post, arguing that external engagement requires better internal organisation, and the session opened with a discussion of the importance of building a capability to respond to change, in order to become truly customer-centric. We focused on ideas for building capabilities from the outside-in, increasing agility, and the role of social media teams in this transformation, as well as looking at the wider questions of technology, structure and organisational design.

We were interested to find out first hand from practitioners what their daily challenges are, especially with regard to influencing change within the organisation. We started by mapping all the stakeholders that social media / marketing teams liaise with on a regular basis:


What emerged from the mapping exercise was a clear indication that although social media teams interact with a wide range of departments and stakeholders inside and outside the organisation, some of these relationships (e.g. with brand, legal, compliance, etc) are often problematic. The discussion also highlighted the wide variety of functions performed by social media teams that are known under different names, but often have overlapping responsibilities and tasks, such as traditional marketing, PR / press, communications, web management, mobile, and online branding. 
We then focused on the barriers and challenges of social media teams during their daily activities. The resulting list of pain points collected from around the room was incredibly detailed and more extensive that we had expected, so we decided to focus on top 3 issues identified by each participant. A basic clustering of challenges exposed the following high level classification:

Workflows: inefficient / siloed workflows, difficulty in sharing information across departments and having little visibility of goals and assets, lack of integration into existing workflows

“Peers don’t channel key information that should be shared.”
“It’s hard to coordinate comms with company schedule and get pre-planned content.”
“I’m not sure we even understand how we could help other departments.”

Roles: lack of clarity on roles, collective vs. individual responsibility, individuals often become bottlenecks in getting things done

“Senior leadership doesn’t show any engagement in social.”
“Product team doesn’t want to listen to feedback, and brand doesn’t understand the customer.”
“‘That’s not my department’s responsibility’ approach.”
“Social media is seen as a purely marketing focused domain; there’s lack of understanding of what the role of social media manager actually requires.”

Processes: legal bottlenecks, inefficient decision-making processes with regards to tools, approvals, content selection, etc.

“Corporate communications have rigid structures and working processes.”
“Too many cooks in the kitchen – this slows down real-time communication.”
“Our company has a natural risk aversion due to the nature of our business.”

Governance: confusing or lack of governance policies in relation to establishing organisational voice, tools, social media usage etc.

“It’s hard to see what we are trying to achieve from a strategic perspective in view of the tactical initiatives that are taking place around the organisation.”
“Every post is about ‘how to get a sale’. It’s sets a wrong tone.”
“We are always lacking resources to push things forward.”

Infrastructure: cost of IT tools / software, working behind the firewall vs. social channels, problems with resolving issues efficiently

“Our IT can’t deliver apps and required tools as the costs are simply too high given the size of our organisation.”

Knowledge & Training: lacking competencies with regards to social media, tools and new ways of working

“Some key stakeholders are lacking necessary knowledge and skills to participate in social and hence drive change.”
“HR will support the company, not me, if I make a mistake.”
“There’s a felt lack of trust in letting people using social in the organisation.”

The debate naturally moved towards finding potential solutions to some of these issues as people shared experiences of pain points encountered and the way different organisations have found to tackle them. They included:

  • Education: educating people within the entire organisation on how to use social media, having innovation teams inside the organisation, etc.
  • Ways of working: adopting more agile ways of working, with short iterations to show progress, build trust and confidence in teams (e.g. Extreme programming)
  • Data-sharing: social teams spotting opportunities and socialising them with the rest of the organisation

But what really stood out was that in many cases, there is no internal platform or network where social media teams can be sharing their insights with the wider company on an ongoing basis. The solutions we discussed were very tactical, but is still important that the pain points affecting performance are on the executive agenda so that attention is paid to addressing them. The first step is therefore to gain momentum around the need for changing the status quo and creating awareness for the potential of social technology and new ways of working to provide a means of tackling these existing challenges.

To do this, impacted teams might need to position their pain points within the context of known issues and gaps within the wider organisation. This is particularly true in social media teams that might still be relatively new inside the company and tend to be made up of younger people, who might lack the political and social capital to influence change in the wider organisation.

Some of the ways we have tackled this in the past include:

  • Developing a dedicated platform to share relevant or actionable customer insights across the business in a way that encourages other areas of the business to take ownership and get involved
  • Using the social media team as community managers for internal social networks or social platforms, educating the wider firm on becoming more networked and social, and sharing exemplar content to help people understand how others are doing that
  • Hunting down micro-content and people within the business that could be shared externally to create more authentic marketing content
  • Taking ownership of the wider social strategy, workflow and process design, not just limited to external marketing
  • Reverse mentoring senior leaders to help them better understand the role they can play in the firm’s social engagement

Finally, here is a short list of reading and references on themes we discussed during the session: