Posted 04.14.2017 by Maggie Martin

The Social Media Marketer’s Guide to Agile Methodology

Agile social media marketing helps teams create attainable goals and repeatable processes so they can test, learn, and grow quicker. Here's how it works.

We get it. As a social media marketer today, you don’t have a job. You have jobs. You wear a lot of hats and fill a bunch of roles within your company. Customer care? Check. Community management? Check. Customer acquisition, content production, amplification, and measurement? We’re barely scratching the surface.

Still, even superheroes need systems. Keeping up with traditional time and work management processes isn’t going to cut it for an ever-evolving and adapting team. You need to plan content efficiently, balance short and long-term initiatives, estimate available resources, and test campaigns that achieve the greatest return on your investment. From our experience, there’s a smart way to accomplish this.

Enter, Agile.

Let’s explore a few of the challenges social media marketers face:

  1. Social media requires coordination by people all over the organization:
    While you sit in on big quarterly goal meetings for your company, you sometimes feel like different departments are on completely different pages, or don’t realize what is going on in other departments.
  2. Social media platforms keep changing, and so must the strategy:
    With the rapid change of social platforms, their capabilities, and the role they play in your consumers’ lives, it’s become harder to keep up. Things may pivot so quickly that your programs set at the beginning of the year will most likely become irrelevant by the end of the year.
  3. Feedback is not a weekly part of your team’s process:
    You and your team don’t have a system in place to actively discuss what worked and what didn’t work in your strategy on a week-to-week basis. Things get forgotten or overlooked in big quarterly meetings.

We ran into these challenges all the time. Three years ago, we discovered Agile and have been using it ever since.

OK, so what is Agile social media?

Agile has been traditionally used as a work management system for programmers and product managers, but has been gaining popularity in a variety of roles and industries.In Agile marketing, the original values have been translated for communications environment. Agile values smaller cycles of work in the form of sprints (anywhere from 1-3 weeks) to react to changes faster. You can plan for an entire year of Instagram posts, but if you learn one of your formats performs best in the first six weeks, would you stick to that schedule?

Agile methodology forces you to plan exactly what you need to do in smaller increments of time so you can execute your plan with realistic bandwidth. Agile values testing and data over opinions and conventions, and frequent experimentation versus planning large and expensive campaigns.  In Agile marketing, collaboration is key and individual ideas are more important than a one-size-fits-all approach. The last sentence you will hear in an Agile setting is “this is the way we’ve always done it before.”

The social media marketing landscape is poised for constant change; Agile can help your team test, learn, and iterate plans with greater speed and insight.

Frankly, it’s also a lot of fun. In Agile ceremonies, everyone within the company is encouraged and empowered to gain feedback, ask for help, and be completely transparent with their tasks at hand so that help can be offered when necessary. With these touch points between departments every few weeks, you will be able to bring together ideas from across the organization to make stronger content while keeping everyone on the same page.

Agile has revolutionized the way that tens of thousands of organizations work, and it could help yours, too. Let’s get started.

How does it work and who should be there?

In Agile, everything revolves around a Sprint cycle, a time-boxed set of activities tracked to a specific set of goals. A Sprint can last anywhere from 1-3 weeks, and serves as a shorter check-in time to make sure that your team is on the right track to hit bigger quarterly or yearly goals. The length of your Sprint cycle depends largely on the size of your company, business model, and marketing funnel. If it makes sense for your team to be on multiple Sprints, this is also an option.

For example, if your marketing team starts their Sprints on the first week of every month, your social media team starts on the second week, and the business development team starts on the third week, you will always have a different set of ceremonies to attend at the ends of the Sprints.

 

Agile Roles in a Social Media Marketing Context

The roles within Agile have been set up in a way that favors tech and development teams. We’ve interpreted the different roles to fit to our social media marketing agency while keeping in mind other potential marketers.

agile-guide-development-team-icon

Development Team

Your development team are those who have a direct hand in all of the work that your team produces during a Sprint. They are behind the strategy, production, and implementation of campaigns that work towards those goals set for the year. In a social media marketing context this could mean a community manager, media buyer/analyst, designer, and strategist all participate. In smaller team settings, one generalist marketer could wear all of those hats. In an agency setting, you’d include the client lead and core producers for the account.

agile-guide-product-owner-icon

Product Owner

The Product Owner role has a clear sense of business goals, and owns the prioritization of your social media marketing efforts. At a mid-sized organization, this could be a Marketing Manager, Director, or department VP. For smaller businesses, your CEO or another executive may fill this role.

agile-guide-scrum-master-icon

Scrum Master

The Scrum Master helps things get done the right way, with no wasted time. Think of them as the team’s facilitator or coach. The scrum master works to identify and remove obstacles throughout the Sprint, like scheduling meetings with stakeholders or getting access to tools.

agile-guide-stakeholders-icon

Team Stakeholders

These can be your investors, the President or VP of your business, or even your clients, if you work in an agency setting. Your team stakeholders would most likely be invited to one of the four core ceremonies, Demo, over the other ceremonies. Even then, it’s considered optional to extend that invite each week.

Understanding the Four Core Ceremonies

Daily Standup

Probably the easiest of the four core ceremonies to incorporate into your routine is the Daily Standup, a 15-minute status check with your entire team. At the same time each day, team members will answer three key questions in effort to promote task transparency and to discuss obstacles that might be in their way to complete those tasks.

Team members should answer these three questions everyday:

agile-daily-standup-routine

Since Agile methodology supports visualization of tasks and goals in a Sprint, using a scrum board or a digital alternative like Trello to track tasks is crucial. In addition to answering the three questions during your Daily Standup, you will move cards/ sticky notes that are either physically up on a scrum / kanban board in your office, or on Trello. Your task cards/sticky notes/ Trello cards will move from stage-to-stage (ex. to-do, doing, done) based on the status of that task.

For a more in-depth look into how we host Daily Standups, check out our blog below.

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Why Daily Standups Will Help Your Social Team Become More Agile

Sprint Planning

Once you have established a Sprint cadence within your company, you will start out each Sprint with the Sprint Planning ceremony. Sprint Planning is the time when your team gets together with your Product Owner (the person who oversees the marketing strategy as a whole for your team) to prioritize the tasks that will take place during that Sprint. Since your Product Owner is very aware of the company’s goals overall, it is crucial to have their input.

Sprint Planning usually takes from 30 minutes to an hour depending on how long your Sprint is and how many people you have working on projects. The conversation should be broken into three sections:

Goal setting
Task setting
Task sizing

Keeping in mind your big, overarching company goals, plan out smaller goals to attain within the week(s) that your Sprint takes place. Your goals could be focused on hitting a certain engagement metric, or finishing out a campaign. Whatever makes the most sense to your team.

When your team is creating tasks, it is important for these cards/sticky notes/ Trello cards to be broken down as much as possible. If multiple people are working on parts of a task, make sure there are separate cards to represent them.

For example, instead of saying something like “Launch Digital Ad Campaign by 3/30”, you would make cards that say: “Ad creative production,” “Create Adsets,” “Write ad copy,” and “Publish ads to Facebook.”

agile-guide-sprint-planning

Once you have completed creating your task cards, it’s time to Size them. Sizing is an estimation of the time, complexity, and interdependencies of each task. We are still perfecting this process ourselves.

Curious about how we plan our Sprints? Check out our blog below.

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How To Start Your Social Media Team on Sprint Planning

Demo

A Demo (also known as an Iteration or Sprint Review), is a chance for your team to take a look and give feedback on the content created during that Sprint. Your development team, product owner, and scrum master should all be in attendance. This is the ceremony where the previously mentioned stakeholders might make more sense to attend.

During your Demo, the entire team will be looking at a visual representation of what you have produced and published during that Sprint. In a social media context, this could be a simple as going through the social media accounts for your company and talking through how certain pieces of content performed.

Feedback from other members of your team really makes the Demo process worth it. If a piece of content didn’t perform as well as you thought it might, make sure that your team discusses what could be improved on for your next Sprint. If things performed particularly well, discuss how you can duplicate that process.

To see an example of Demos that we host at Sculpt, check out our blog below.

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How Demos Motivate Your Social Media Team to be More Agile

Retro

Retros, or Retrospectives, are a time when your team is able to look back on a Sprint as a whole, and talk through your next steps for the following Sprint. Where in a Demo you are looking at concrete images or prototypes of things produced during a Sprint with everyone, Retros are purely a dialogue between specific team members on each account. Demos are a time to speak to your work, while Retros are a time to speak to your process.

During Retros, you will answer four questions for each account you are working on.

agile-guide-retro

Because of the nature of the dialogue during Retros, this is very much an internal meeting. Team members that are working most directly with you on a Sprint are invited, but outside voices are not. No outside team stakeholders need to be in attendance for this meeting. The only exception might be your Scrum Master who is there to take notes on your discussion.

In Practice

Who else is doing Agile marketing?

Agile is becoming a more popular workflow management system for marketers big and small. On the big side, companies like Dell and Coca-Cola have seen success in using Agile for their marketing team or even just on specific campaigns. Some companies like Hopscotch took it for a whirl for 100 days before having a collective vote to decide if it was the best change for their company (it totally was). Expedia, who didn’t implement Agile marketing techniques at the time, got so much flack for one of their commercials featuring a violin, that they took an Agile approach to re-shooting an ad where they threw the violin out the window. Their quick, adaptable response made a huge return on their investment, gaining more trust from the general public and making them feel like their opinions had been heard.

Here are a few more case studies from Agile marketers that are worth checking out:

Kissmetrics, teaching us to think “outline” and not “campaign” when it comes to Agile.

Adobe, teaching us to look for tools to use as “boomerangs and not bullets.”

Mozilla, teaching us how to pitch to higher ups by pointing out how competitors have outperformed them using Agile.

It’s been harder to find good examples of Agile social media teams in action. If you work in one, or can point to one, we’d love to share their story.

How does it work for us?

Since we started implementing Agile into our social media agency’s culture and workflows, we have gone through many iterations. Our first foray into Agile was with all-hands retrospectives and twice-a-week standups, allowing our team the chance to talk through what’s working and not with our transition. Within a year we added the other ceremonies and had reorganized our teams around sprint schedules. While we were getting our feet wet, we didn’t concern ourselves as much with sizing our tasks during Sprint Planning and tracking our velocity. We decided to use Demos as a time for dedicated feedback more than it traditionally is. It made sense for us to have both a physical scrum board and a digital copy on Trello since so much of our day is spent online.

agile-sprint-board-social-media

There will be aspects of Agile that you will need to adapt to fit your team, and the only way to figure that out, is to experiment.

Want to see Agile in action at Sculpt? Check out the video below.

Where Can I Learn More?

Below are resources that have been especially helpful to us in our implementation of Agile for social media. Consider these websites your official homework.
The go-to guide on Agile Marketing methodology: http://www.agilemarketing.net/what-is-agile-marketing/
Agile overview: http://agilemethodology.org/
Agile Marketing overview: http://www.marketergizmo.com/guide-to-using-scrum-methodology-for-agile-marketing/
General Agile Marketing info:
http://theAgileMarketer.net
http://www.agilemarketing.net/
http://info.cmgpartners.com/our-a4m-operating-system-why-be-agile-now
http://www.cmo.com/features/articles/2013/5/19/agility_in_action_ho.html#gs.U0jdUzE

Any Questions?

If you’re seriously considering switching over to Agile methodology, you can start by dipping your toe in with a few ceremonies. Or, like Hopscotch, you can do a trial run and decide if it works well for you. Either way, don’t get too tied to trying to replicate someone else’s process. Find the parts of Agile that will work well for you and your team and make them your own.

We know we’ve thrown a lot of Agile jargon your way throughout the article that might be challenging to understand without context. Catch up below.

Agile Social Media Glossary

Sprint/Scrum Board: A place to track your goals and tasks for a Sprint within columns for “Sprint Backlog” (completing this Sprint), “To-Do” (completing this week), “Doing” (completing today), and “Done.” Agile boards vary by team preference and agile method (here’s an overview scrum vs kanban boards). For our board, we’ve adapted four basic categories more closely associated with Kanban: Backlog, to-do, doing, and done.
Sizing: An estimation of the time, complexity, and interdependencies of each given task in the Sprint Backlog. This process helps us determine our teams’ velocity on both a Sprint and account-level, making it easier to forecast how much bandwidth certain clients will take in the future.
Sprint: An amount of time that is designated for tasks to be completed. Designed to break up quarterly and yearly goals into manageable pieces.
Time-box: A specific amount of time designated to complete a task. Tasks must be completed in a specific amount of time if you are time-boxed.
Trello: An online alternative to a Scrum Board. Use Trello to organize tasks and goals over a Sprint.
Velocity: The speed at which certain tasks are completed over the course of a Sprint.

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Maggie Martin

Maggie Martin combines her love of words and obsession with social media as an Associate Community Manager at Sculpt.

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The Social Media Marketer's Guide to Agile Methodology

Agile social media marketing helps teams create attainable goals and repeatable processes so they can test, learn, and grow quicker. Here's how it works.

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