4 min read

Social Media Within an Organizational Structure

Social Media Within an Organizational Structure

Organizations across many industries are grappling with restructurings, layoffs, and strategic deliberations to maximize internal resources. Some are even contemplating outsourcing specific functions or entire channel operations.

Despite these challenging circumstances, the importance of social media has never been greater.

It is pivotal in boosting brand visibility, nurturing existing client relationships for retention, and fostering a sense of community among your most devoted customer segments.

Encouragingly, brands are cognizant of this fact and continue to invest in social media content, even in times of change and budgetary constraints.

At the enterprise level, we observe a broad spectrum of social media team sizes, ranging from teams of over 100 individuals dedicated to social media to much smaller teams with just three members.

Both can yield positive results and contribute to the organization's profitability. However, the question remains: how should you strategically integrate social media into your organizational framework?

As you contemplate the ideal placement of social media within your organization, whether you're streamlining operations or expanding them, several factors should guide your decision-making to ensure that social media aligns with and bolsters your overall marketing strategy. 

Where Should Social Media Be Positioned?

Especially in organizations where influencers wield significant influence on social media or where there's an above-average demand for crisis and issues management, it's not uncommon for social media to fall under the purview of PR departments.

Conversely, social teams might be housed within the sales department in sectors like B2B, where social selling is a pivotal performance indicator for social media efforts. Nevertheless, through our extensive experience, we've found that the most effective placement for social media is within the marketing communications team. This is primarily because of the seamless alignment with other owned channels and distribution strategies.

When social media is isolated from other owned distribution channels, it can disrupt the coherence of an integrated strategy. Irrespective of the robustness of your social strategy, it typically gains the most traction when it's aligned organizationally with other marketing distribution channels. This ensures that all teams work toward the same objectives, synchronize their target audiences, and make optimal use of cross-channel opportunities.

What If Your Organization Has Separate Communications and Marketing Teams?

For small or medium-sized businesses, this might not be a relevant consideration since they often do not have both functions. However, in complex organizational structures, there may be separate communications, marketing, and brand experience teams, each with its own rationale for placing social media under its purview.

At a fundamental level, we lean toward the marketing team because it's typically where owned channel teams are located (e.g., email/SMS marketing, app team leads, website content management). Social media is another distribution channel and should collaborate closely with all content marketing channels. If the choice isn't clear-cut for your team, consider these key questions to determine the most suitable placement for social media:

  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Which team is responsible for creating and directly distributing content to that audience?
  • What role does social media play, and what are its goals?
  • Where can social media be most effective in your marketing and sales funnel?

By addressing these questions, you can build a compelling case for where social media will most impact a customer's journey, ensuring seamless connectivity with the end audience through an integrated channel plan.

What Other Factors Should We Consider?

Hurdle #1: Aligning Organizational Placement with Skill Sets

The question of "Who understands social media?" often prompts a reorganization of where a social media team is situated and which department it reports to. However, this isn't typically the case with other functions like IT. For instance, if Joe from the sales department has a strong affinity for IT, the entire IT team isn't placed under his purview. Unfortunately, this happens quite frequently with social media teams, resulting in unconventional, displaced, and less effective social media functions.

Hurdle #2: Breaking Down Silos

Decentralized marketing organizations often segregate social media strategy and management into distinct business verticals. For example, there may be separate B2B and B2C social teams, each managing its own social channels and reporting to their respective business units. This approach can be advantageous in terms of agility and expertise.

However, hybrid or centralized models allow organizations to adopt a cross-vertical, audience-centric perspective while maximizing the utilization of assets across social channels. In 2023, we're increasingly focused on dismantling internal social media silos. How do you determine what's best for your organization?

Centralized organizations feature a dedicated social media team responsible for crafting and implementing social media strategy across all channels and business verticals. This centralization allows for consistent voice, tone, brand guidelines, and creative resource allocation, while also facilitating seamless collaboration with other departments, including marketing, PR, customer service, and product development, to ensure social media aligns with the overarching business strategy.

Decentralized models grant each department or business unit autonomy over its social media team or individuals responsible for managing their specific social media channels. This approach is suitable for large organizations with diverse offerings, enabling each department to tailor its messaging and approach to its unique audience.

Examples include regional businesses (such as car companies with multiple global locations), B2B2C hybrids (maintaining separate social media channels for B2B and B2C audiences), and higher education institutions (where colleges within universities run their own social content strategies).

A Hybrid or Center of Excellence (COE) model establishes a central social media team to set the overall strategy and guidelines. However, it allows each department or business unit to adapt the strategy to its specific needs. A COE model proves effective for large organizations requiring centralization but facing the challenge of numerous business divisions, making it impractical for a single team to strategize, execute, and resource all social media initiatives.

Hurdle #3: Outsourcing vs. In-house Resourcing

Social media agencies abound, offering services ranging from comprehensive strategy and execution to specialized areas like influencer management. Outsourcing can be a cost-effective solution for smaller organizations or business units without the resources to hire a full-time social media team.

However, it's crucial to maintain strong and collaborative internal oversight of these relationships to ensure alignment with marketing goals, cooperation with other channel teams, and integrated reporting that informs overarching content marketing decisions.

One aspect that may be beneficial to outsource is content atomization, enabling the efficient distribution of content across multiple channels. A creative partner can assist the social media team maximize resources generated by other teams, such as thought leadership.

Hurdle #4: Integrated Content Planning

An overarching theme we encounter in our work with social teams is ineffective cross-channel planning and suboptimal utilization of existing creative assets. The demand for content in marketing is incessant, especially in an era characterized by personalization and customization. So, how can you ensure cost-effective content generation?

The answer lies in integrated channel planning and the strategic atomization of content across distribution channels. This dovetails with the goal of breaking down social media silos (Hurdle #1) but extends beyond social collaboration to encompass the entire marketing landscape. To maximize the return on investment from content creation, it's imperative to de-silo content plans, considering thought leadership, enterprise/brand-level priorities, and product innovation or research and development. This ensures that social and content teams have full visibility and can leverage resources across audiences and platforms.

COE and centralized structural models inherently facilitate efficient content planning and resource utilization. However, this collaborative approach should extend to encompass all marketing functions, not solely social media.

How Can I Demonstrate the Value of Social Media?

If you find that social media resourcing and creative expenses are under scrutiny, it's crucial to establish connections between your social content strategy and its impact on the business.

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