If you’ve just now hired a social media manager, you’ve made a smart move—but you’re still behind. The progression for most companies today goes something like this:

  • Try to handle social media efforts within existing staff, realize it can’t be done with current resources.
  • Bring on an intern, manager or consultant to handle social media exclusively.
  • Become frustrated at lack of demonstrable ROI.

Let me propose a smart next move (or really smart first move, if you haven’t yet begun):

  • Un-silo your social.
Which silo holds your social strategy?

That’s right. Stop treating social media as if it’s an isolated project that should only be touched by your guy or gal with the capital-S Social in their title. This might sound strange coming from me, because I am that guy, but hear me out. There’s a smarter way to use my kind of talent.

To manage is to own, in the responsibility sense. I’m a Social Media Manager, therefore I own my company’s social media efforts. I direct our social goings on; I read the reports and maintain the contacts; I am on the hook for the ever-present questions about social media ROI and measurability. That’s not news to anyone. But if I managed a widget factory, would I actually manufacture the widgets, in a hands-on sense? Not typically. Sure, I might pitch in and help out when things were slow, but I wouldn’t be doing the bolting and the polishing. In fact, I would probably mess things up if I were to join the guys on the floor.

If your social media guy is tasked with creating every bit of content, you’re throwing him on the factory floor and jamming up the line. Smart companies understand how to un-silo expertise within their organization—a killer product idea, for instance, will not fall on deaf ears just because it doesn’t come from someone with capital-P Product in their title.

Beware the content factory.

A recent example: I received an email last week from an excited Client Success Director, detailing the truly innovative ways one of our clients is using our products to increase on-site conversion and revenue. At the end of the note was, “Can you write something for the blog?” Well, sure, I can. But I shouldn’t. No, I’m not lazy. Yes, I could probably squeeze it in. But she is the liaison with this client, speaking with them at least every few days. She is enthusiastic about our client’s success in a way that I couldn’t easily match in tone or detail. She, it’s clear, is the expert on what she wants me to write about. So I asked her to write it. The post was already written in her head, and nothing I could crank out would be anywhere near as compelling. I might give it some edits; I’ll tag it and categorize it properly; I’ll add images; I’ll schedule it for maximum exposure; I’ll distribute it across social media channels. I’ll make sure my expertise compliments hers in a way that makes the most sense for Bazaarvoice.

Here are 5 crucial steps to take when applying this winning concept to your social efforts:

  1. Make sure your social media pro knows where to find the different skill sets that make up your organization. Do a “skills audit” if necessary, and create a central document where strengths are indexed across your company. Employees should understand that they may be asked to aid in your social media efforts in some way, and make sure they understand the value of this.
  2. Encourage your employees to view your social media pro as a manager of your social efforts, rather than the sole contributor to these efforts. For instance, he or she might create a list of blogs that each department should be reading, or people in HR, Sales, etc., to follow on Twitter. He or she might then hold some training on Twitter and blog comment etiquette. Ultimately though, employees should be encouraged to engage in social media themselves, with guidance provided (and guardrails outlined) by the social media manager.
  3. Establish an official channel whereby content is submitted for publication or ideas are discussed. Make sure that your organization knows what type of content aligns with company goals and messaging. Incentivize contributions with contests, prizes, and encouragement from department heads.
  4. Keep employees apprised of results from their efforts. This will encourage more participation, and a broader understanding of the value behind participation.
  5. Define your social media pro’s bandwidth and priorities. Avoid letting them get so mired in operational detail and content creation that they aren’t able to devote time to high-level strategy and ideas. Give them the resources and trust they need to do their job and guide your organization through the ever-changing social media landscape. That’s why you hired them, right?
Be ready for what's next.

Only recently has the value of social media become evident to most businesses. Let’s call it the social adoption wave. Maybe you were ahead of the wave; maybe you rode it; maybe you’re still struggling to catch it. You’ll want to be well ahead of the next wave, and it’s all about social optimization. To get in front of this one, you’ll need to optimize internally before you do so externally.

Your first task: Un-silo your social.

How has your company un-siloed its social? Help others get there by leaving a comment.