Social Media Is Too Important to Be Left to the Marketing Department

By: AngeloBrinkley

When customers need help, they expect companies to offer it quickly and through multiple social media channels — but most companies aren’t set up to do that. Some companies increase their social media staff to offer live responses during big events like the Super Bowl or the Grammys, but then they return to predominately one-way social media or content marketing. Since 2013 the number of customers who expect a response through social media has doubled, according to research from Sprout Social, yet seven out of eight messages to companies go unanswered for 72 hours.

Complicating matters further, consumers expect one brand account to contain responses to all kinds of needs, including marketing information and customer service. But marketing managers simply are not trained to deal with questions or complaints about service, product performance, or other nonmarketing requests.

To be more effective at building relationships with consumers online, companies need a cross-functional social media team, one where marketing works together with other departments. Distributing social responsibilities to relevant people across the organization can be efficient, be effective, and help make one-on-one customer engagement scalable.

Cross-functional social media teams can leverage the stages of the buying cycle, connecting the right employees with the right customers at the right time. Consumers’ needs change when they are in the prepurchase, purchase, and postpurchase steps of buying, so different employees are more useful to customers at different stages.

How can an organization create a cross-functional social media team? First, research and analyze existing social media. Who controls the official brand channels? What systems, policies, and employees are responsible for monitoring social media? From this research, organize a new system. Here is a simple process from my book Social Media Strategy, Marketing, and Advertising in the Consumer Revolution.

  1. Develop a social care team that can address all areas of social information efficiently and effectively. Identify policies and software systems needed for implementation.
  2. Organize departmental responsibilities in the social care team. Clearly define roles and responsibilities among marketing, customer service, public relations, sales, corporate communication, human resources, etc.
  3. Assign specific employees from each department to social media tasks. Set up social media accounts and give employees access to social media systems.
  4. Create brand guidelines for standards, tone, and style of social media communication. Ask legal and human resources to provide a list of do’s and don’ts for real-time consumer engagement.
  5. Define specific goals based on key performance indicators such as response time, sentiment analysis, engagement, views and shares, and other important metrics.

When companies implement a cross-functional team well, the results are powerful.

In 2014 Hertz shifted from a marketing-centered social media strategy to a cross-functional system built around customers’ needs and expectations. Previously, the marketing department had controlled social media accounts. Marketing staff would publish brand content, but they also received customer complaints. They forwarded the complaints by email to customer service agents, who would then process the requests and email them back to marketing to post on social media. Social media response was limited to Monday through Friday.

For the new 24/7 cross-functional team, Hertz partnered with software company Conversocial to easily connect customer service agents to the software that marketing staff uses to monitor social media conversations. The multidepartment system has enabled Hertz to respond within 75 minutes to more than 1,000 individual customers per week. The company that responding to customers in real time through social media has increased customer loyalty, contributing to customer lifetime value.

The gourmet burger chain Five Guys, too, utilizes a cross-functional social team through social media monitoring software Hootsuite and a process that empowers local franchises and frontline employees. Each of the over 1,200 Five Guys locations has its own social media accounts to market local promotions, new products, and events to its community. Individual locations also provide customer service, responding directly to customer feedback. For them, monitoring on the local level is more efficient, making one-on-one consumer social media engagement scalable, personal, and sincere.

Today’s consumers expect more from companies. They increasingly look for brands that engage with them online and organizations that do reap real benefits. David Packard, of Hewlett-Packard fame, once said that marketing is too important to be left to the marketing people. For social media, that statement is as true as ever.