Posted 05.10.2022 by Josh Krakauer
“Our company is looking for an emoji-wielding poet with an award-winning Twitter presence, a growth marketing guru, and an analytics expert with 300+ years’ experience in social media management. Skilled parasailer and Mongolian throat-singer strongly preferred…”
We’ve all seen it before: a lengthy job description for a social media team member that couldn’t possibly (and shouldn’t) fit into a single package.
A pesky assumption about social media management is that it’s a job for solely one person at a company, say a recent college grad, a “digital native,” or someone with greater than 500 followers on their personal social media.
In actuality, bold brands that are doing impactful work on social media often have an entire team that makes success possible, with specific roles focused on specific functions—like content creation, measurement & analytics, or guiding the overarching strategy.
Marketing executives and decision makers face countless questions as they embark on the journey of building their brand’s social media team.
You might be wondering:
But first, you’ll need a nuanced understanding of the many ways you can structure your social media team.
In this article we’ll cover:
Ready to dive in?
Whether you’re a social media team of 1 or 101, it’s important to recognize that social media is not one job.
Think of roles on a social media team the same way you think about baking: you can substitute ingredients sometimes, but there are certain ingredients that make a recipe successful on a chemical level.
For example, you can’t make a sourdough starter without yeast. And while it’s pretty hard to find a good substitute for baking powder or baking soda, it’s relatively easy to can swap butter for coconut oil, and so on.
Your social media team is the same way. You may need a community manager with a knack for copywriting before you need an analytics wizard. Without published content on social platforms, there won’t be any data to analyze!
Growing your social media team may also involve increased collaboration with design or marketing teams, depending on the way things are structured internally at your company.
Your social media team needs to possess a certain alchemy to crush your larger business goals. There are five core roles on any social media team, but remember—there is no one-size-fits-all approach! These five functions might take the shape of individual roles at your company, or they can be grouped together based on someone’s capabilities and skill sets.
Your strategist is probably a manager who owns the company’s overarching social media strategy. They document a robust written strategy, get buy-in for important projects from decision-makers, and lobby with execs when they need new hires or team members.
Strategists can also be skilled contributors with a secondary skill set. Maybe they have a background in content creation or growth marketing, but a strategist will need to possess a birds-eye view into how social media plays into the organization’s content strategy.
Typically, a community manager is one person who is the expert at customer service, embodies your brand voice, and puts out little fires on social media as they arise. The ideal community manager is a people-person with a knack for creative problem-solving.
They’re on the front lines—responding to comments, answering DM’s, and keeping brand sentiment positive on all corners of the internet. The person posting Instagram stories on holidays or days off? That’s often your community manager. They’re the heart and soul of a social media team.
Your content producer is typically an artistically-inclined team member. They create content that furthers the social strategy and are masters at your brand’s tone of voice.
Content producers are individual contributors; they might be a copywriter with a marketing and social background, or a designer who can create compelling visuals and nail your brand voice at the same time. Other times, content production for social media teams can be outsourced to external agencies, trusted contractors, or vendors.
Content producers thrive in creative settings. They might be wordsmiths or experts in color theory. They know that the best social media teams think outside the box, but they also need to work closely with strategists to present seamless social media content.
A paid advertising lead often starts as a shared role with other departments. They might be a paid media manager responsible for other ad campaigns. They may also be plugged in to larger conversations about your company’s broader marketing efforts.
For example, if cross-functional teams don’t talk, you might never know your Creative Director is launching new subway ad creative for an out-of-home campaign. Paid advertising on social media is a huge opportunity to create synergetic brand experiences.
Measurement & Analysis
Social media analytics and measurement tends to be the role of an individual contributor to your team. They know all the tricks for spotting bot traffic, tracking engagement on your latest posts, and testing.
They might have a penchant for Excel and reporting, but most importantly, analytics people know a pattern when they see one.
Some companies outsource data and analytics to tracking platforms, but this depends on your overall business goals and budget.
Your company is bound to go through changes faster than you can keep up, especially if you’re starting from scratch with your social media. However, it’s never wise to grow your social media team before you’re ready to scale up.
The right time to hire will depend on where your company falls on the social media marketing maturity map.
We’ve mapped out six stages (or levels) of social media teams based on where they fall on the Sculpt Social Media Maturity Map. For example, a Level 0 company would have no social media presence whatsoever, while a Level 5 business would be recognizable by their innovative social presence.
When your company increases their offerings, launches a new product, or integrates a new marketing channel to their distribution strategy, your SM team needs to be able to keep up.
More mature teams will have team members that are specialists with experience as problem solvers, while early stage brands may be fine with a generalist who can wear many hats for their social platforms.
So, on a scale of 0 to 5, where does your company fall on our Social Media Marketing Maturity Map?
Level 0: No One Owns Social
You’ve gotta start somewhere.
That’s Level 0 on our social media maturity map. Without anyone to own your social channels or lift the project off the ground floor, social media is probably bundled in with other marketing projects. You might be an early-stage business or a company that’s a little behind the times. (That’s okay! It happens.)
Level 0 social media teams probably aren’t even a team yet; they may be a few scattered stakeholders who want to see social media marketing take off for your brand.
Level 1: One Team Member Manages Social Here and There
When you hit the next level of building your social media team, it tends to be a one-person effort. There’s probably an in-house marketer juggling getting content distributed, tracked, and measured across a dozen marketing channels. They might only devoting a few hours a week (or a month, *shudder*) to one or two social channels.
Alternatively, a Level 1 could be an external resource keeping a pulse check on social, but your brand likely wouldn’t have consistent storytelling, measurement, or strategy at this stage of the marketing maturity map.
Level 2: One Team Member Manages Social Part-Time
When you unlock Level 2, your marketing team likely has one part-time marketer managing just social, or social media takes up about 20 hours of an in-house marketer’s time.
Because there’s more time spent creating content and managing your online community, you’ll notice your social media teammates getting spread thin. There’s so much to do if you’re actively building multiple channels for optimal performance.
This level of marketing is frequently responding to crises and chasing their own tail to stay ahead of new trends; plus, getting bogged down by day-to-day execution means there’s no freedom or time to experiment.
With your current team’s capabilities, it might be better to commit to doing less but doing it well. As Ron Swanson once said, “Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.”
Level 3: Dedicate Social Media Manager Owns Social with Support
Congrats—you made it to Level 3! Take a moment to celebrate this accomplishment. Level 3 indicates that you’ve got at least one full-time social media manager and perhaps a small arsenal of part-time or third-party specialists there to help you. This might be a copywriter you have on contract, a photographer, or even a summer intern.
The benefits of being Level 3 are that your social media marketing will become more consistent. Your followers and community may already be more engaged because you’re posting on a regular schedule. You may even have more cohesive storytelling and an ironed-out brand voice by this point.
However, the struggle Level 3’s run into time and time again is that decision-makers are expecting your team to run when they’re just beginning to crawl.
This might lead to an overwhelmed team, tight deadlines and frustrated contractors, and a feeling like you’re always playing catch-up with your social media.
Level 4: Head of Social Manages a Growing, Full-Time Team
Level 4 is where things start to get really interesting. You’ve got your strategy and processes more defined than ever before, with at least one Director of Social Media or high-level strategist guiding (and praising!) your efforts. You’ll have anywhere from one to four full-time social media managers implementing the day-to-day.
By Level 4, you’ve proven to leadership that a robust, consistent social media strategy boosts engagement, maintains positive brand sentiment, and drives sales. But with great power comes great responsibility, and the C-Suite will want your team to one-up themselves time and again to stay top dog.
You’ll have more time and manpower at Level 4 of your social media marketing to experiment, so you can throw ideas on the digital wall and see what sticks. At this point, your team should have defined roles with growth opportunities in place. Level 4 is the perfect time to nurture talent, encourage ambition and creativity, and laser in on what’s working.
Level 5: Globally Distributed Team with Multiple Branches
Finally, a social media team operating at Level 5 is a well-oiled, global machine. They’re getting attention for their innovations, becoming trend-setters in the space, and never losing sight of their brand mission. Their social media strategy is their Bible.
Even when you build a great social media team that soars to Level 5 of the marketing maturity map, there’s always room to improve processes. It can get crowded at the top, and social media teams without clearly-defined roles can grow bloated or inefficient. Experienced teams should stay on top of emerging trends and platforms and emphasize life-long learning.
Now that you know the core characteristics of each level, you should be able to identify your company somewhere along the 5 levels.
Still need more clarity? Take the quiz to find out.
As you consider the future, you can use the SM marketing maturity map to make decisions about what your social media team needs to do next to succeed.
For example, a Level 3 team probably doesn’t have a Director-level hire that can drive strategy and affect change at a structural level, which keeps them from advancing to Level 4.
So, what are the characteristics you should look for in your next social media hire?
We’re so glad you asked.
Hiring is a key part of building a great team, and retaining talent should also be one of your top priorities. Level up your social media team with the right talent to achieve your best results.
What you want in a Director of Social Media is going to differ drastically from an entry-level social media role, so you’ll want to focus your job description on the right elements of the job.
Who you hire should depend on what you need
Your first team hires need to be talented, all-hands-on-deck teammates who can work across functions—for instance, they might double as a content creator and community manager.
If you’re searching for a managerial role, you’ll want to make sure they are excellent communicators with the potential to be a strong mentor.
If you have an entry-level hire who started as the first member of your social media team, are they itching for more responsibility? Does an internal promotion make more sense than outsourcing a new manager?
The answers to these questions will vary greatly based on your company’s individual circumstances.
Another question that’s highly specific to your individual brand’s needs: are you looking for someone with a B2C or a B2B background?
While certain social media marketing best practices remain the same, if you’re a B2B brand looking to expand your social media team, someone with experience building and/or executing B2B social media strategies might be a better fit than a generalist with a B2C background.
Where to look for social media talent
There are myriad ways to find talented social media creators and strategists—and it’s no surprise that many of these methods are online.
Here are a few:
One of the biggest lessons in life is knowing how to delegate when your plate is too full. In a “do it all” culture, we can lose sight that resources exist to lessen our workload and make our lives easier. One way to do that is by onboarding a social media agency to fill gaps in your team.
Short or long term support
Be honest when you’re thinking through a scope for an external agency. You’ll need to decide whether it’s a short-term solution or a long-term partnership, which can greatly impact the scope of work. If you plan on making a full-time hire that would do the work you’ve set aside for agency, consider a short SOW that can tide you over till you’ve hired and onboarded your new teammate.
What to outsource to an agency
Not sure what you should keep in-house and what your agency partners can take off your plate?
Try thinking about it in terms of the five social media functions we discussed earlier. Which of these areas might you need help in?
What to look for in an agency partner
Always choose external agencies based on their proven expertise and experience. This is another great opportunity to ask your network about the kinds of social media agencies they like to work with.
Not to brag, but we’re a B2B social media agency and we really know our stuff. (Ok, maybe we’re bragging a little bit. 😉)
It takes a village to raise a social media powerhouse, and that doesn’t just mean a village of people. Building your social media team requires helpful technology, ongoing training, and the latest tools.
Mental health resources are also critically important for your staff. You might want to invest in apps like Headspace or Shine for your team, which can provide opportunities for meditation and positive reinforcement. Social media teams are often online outside of normal work hours. Acknowledging this initiative and the toll it can take is critically important.
Each year, new social media platforms are invented—sometimes taking the world by storm, sometimes fading away. Social media teams are dedicated to those channels long after the buzz dies down because of the opportunities they provide to engage deeply with customers. That’s why one of the biggest things you can do to keep your social media team invested is to invest in them.
For example, you can set aside a certain budget amount for emerging platforms or technologies or put funds toward paid media. Platforms for reporting and analytics are ever-changing, so you’ll want to regularly audit your technologies to ensure your team is using tools with the most accurate data.
Finally, adequate and consistent funding can cement your team’s value in your organization. You’ll also want to look into ongoing professional development, conferences, and courses to invest in your employees’ long-term growth.
With a motivated, empowered team at the helm of your social media, your brand can reach more consumers and make a bigger splash in an already-crowded digital ecosystem. Even if you’re sitting pretty at Level 5 today, the social world is ever-changing and your business needs to be prepared for anything.
Whether you’re making your first dedicated social media hire or onboarding a nimble social media agency that has grown audiences and revenue for B2B companies since 2012 (hey, that sounds like us!), we’re here to help you level up.