Social Media Staffing and the Org Chart

Elizabeth Allen is a blogger and consultant, advising educational institutions on social media and communications. She is a faculty member for the 2011 CASE conference on Social Media & Community.

Where do social media staff belong on the org chart?

Social media is still relatively new, and many organizations are trying to manage the inherent tasks and responsibilities. Job titles like “Community Manager” and “Social Media Strategist” are popping up all over the place, but there doesn’t seem to be consensus on where these roles fit in preexisting org charts and structures.Some schools consider social media and communications to be a “tech” job—it involves computers, and therefore goes under Information Technology. However, with the rise of social technologies, any average non-IT person with an Internet connection can create a blog in seconds (grab your mobile device right now and try it for yourself). Social tech has also given the masses an opportunity to engage with brands, celebrities, alma mater and more by simply posting a comment or writing a tweet.

What does that mean for the “social media experts” on your staff? They may not be programmers or hardware experts. But they do know a lot about building relationships and engaging in conversations—those conversations just happen to take place online. They have strong, high-level understanding of your organization’s mission, values and goals. They are trusted and valued members of your team.

So, where do social media staff belong on the org chart? Short answer: everywhere.

In a large, university setting, content managers should be peppered throughout your organization, communicating and collaborating amongst one another across departments and silos. Working laterally across campus means that the community managers in admissions, public relations, athletics, alumni relations and more work together to promote cohesive branding and messaging. Community managers wear many hats; give them the tools and resources they need to fulfill all of their roles. By working together, community managers across campus can form an effective, collaborative team ready to engage audiences on a variety of topics.

Managers and executives higher up in your organization need fewer details. Knowing how social tools fit in with their overall mission and goals (e.g. increasing event attendance, receiving more applications for admissions, etc) is vital. They don’t need to know how many times you tweet in a week, but they do need to know the impact and outcomes of those tweets.

Embed social media staff throughout your organization, and encourage them to collaborate across departments. Community managers are in place to build relationships and engage your constituents. Collaboration and communication are significant aspects of their skill sets. Use them!

6 responses to “Social Media Staffing and the Org Chart

  1. While org charts are in fact all of what you say it is, the visual representation of such information needs to be clear. This is precisely why you need a collaborative visual tool, like Creately that allows you to do this. This – http://creately.com/diagram-type/org-charts – is an excellent resource when it comes to drawing/designing an org chart.

  2. At William & Mary, my creative team initiated SMUG. I don’t think we are unique in our social media user group efforts but we are pleased with the results. We’ve had three meetings and attendance is growing. About 55 are members of the SMUG listserv and, on average, 30 or so (from all parts of campus) attend the meetings. We spent the first three meetings offering orientation sessions on facebook, twitter, linkedin, youtube, blogs, and flickr. We figured it would be a good way to establish a certain baseline level of knowledge for all.

  3. +1 for Mallory’s comment.
    If a university wants to continue to grow with the social web, they must invest in a position that is responsible for continuously playing/learning/sharing AND finding the silos that are unable to hold grain.

  4. I too agree, but I find putting the idea into practice is anything but smooth and easy.
    At my institution, I’m the equivalent of a community manager, but I have no budget and no upper management support. It’s as if the executive level thought to themselves “OK, social media is covered now that we’ve created a role for it. It doesn’t need a budget because the tools are free and we don’t need to actively ramp up staff because ‘engagement’ happens ‘out there.'”
    Yes, regular meetings are on the horizon, but I first have to figure out who on campus runs all the 200+ social sites affiliated with our school. I need to formulate my own strategy because the one I work under now doesn’t meet the reality of the situation (which means I’ll likely see a battle to get bosses to agree to a new viewpoint and direction). I somehow need to effectively find a way to work across silos too- we all know how difficult and ingrained that issue is.
    Is any of this impossible? Absolutely not. But it’s no wave of the wand either. Lots of uphill work, that includes copious amounts of internal communication (let along the external daily grind sort of communication), finding allies, building a case, finding the right mix of numbers and supporting documentation, etc.
    This can all be done though! I’m glad the discussion is taking place.

  5. Thanks Mallory, I appreciate your feedback. You’re right – regular communication amongst social media folks is key. That might mean getting together in person (gasp!) but it’s definitely worth the time.

  6. “So, where do social media staff belong on the org chart? Short answer: everywhere.”
    Elizabeth – excellent post! I agree with the above statement 100%.
    You point out that these community managers need to work together,
    Many higher ed insitutions seem to be going the route of having many social media accounts for the college and it’s various programs or departments vs. only having one college-wide Facebook Page, Twitter account, etc. If this is the case at your institution, it is wise to have a regularly meeting group comprised of the many different community managers. Community managers across campus likely have varying experience managing online communities and may not have the ability to keep up with the ever-changing nature of social media. Forming a group shows staff how their efforts fit into the overall goals and provides a place to offer each other support.
    Still, I think it is wise for an institution to appoint a staff member(perhaps in the Marketing department) to oversee all of the social media efforts. While that person isn’t creating the content for all the different networks, they can make sure that the messaging is engaging and consistent. We talk a lot about “storytelling on the web” and it is important to not forget that storytelling needs to extend to our social communities as well.

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