Leaders, Managers and Social Media

I think one of the exciting things about social media, and what has made it such a hot topic is the way that it seemingly amplifies the voice of the individual. Over and over, we hear stories about how a David of a customer took on a Goliath of a company, and won using social media. As individuals, we like the idea that a huge brand with thousands of employees is actively listening to my very thoughts. It makes us feel, well, influential.

The problem with social media is that while it can be great for individual consumers to voice individual opinions – making the concept work the other way around with a company is sometimes difficult. Consistency, proper escalation, etc. become roadblocks to social media success. This is because, in a lot of ways, the social media programs are often staffed by leaders, but not necessarily managers.

What do I mean? Well, many of us are familiar with the “leader/manager” dichotomy in sales organizations. Sometimes a great, charismatic sales person gets promoted to sales management, due to the fact that he or she was a great producer, had seniority, or was just thought the best person for the job at the time. But while that person had natural leadership skills and a great personality – they simply did not have what it takes to be a manager: strong organizational skills, a “coaching” mentality, etc. And thus, the department suffers, misses quota and that person is penalized for being in the wrong position for their skills.

A similar danger exists in social media. I am seeing a lot of people getting hired out of the social universe, individuals who made strong personal social brands, to lead corporate social media programs. It is thought that an understanding of the mechanisms of social networks and channels means you can manage a team of marketers using social tools.

I disagree. While many of these hires might do an awesome job – simply having the ability to use social media does not automatically make you a good marketer, manager or high-level strategist. And while many of these individuals built personal bands, will they have the management skills to keep a consistent social strategy and manage escalations in a comprehensive and ordered manner? Who knows?

Look, not every amazing Super Bowl caliber quarterback goes on to become a championship coach, or a coach at all. Skill in playing the game does not mean you can manage and coach other players. Usually, the individual strides needed to perform (in sales, sports or social media) are what makes people less inclined to put the team’s goals above their own.

So, as you start to put together social media strategies, and staff, think about how you staff your sales teams. While you definitely want leaders and strong individuals, make sure you hire social media managers just as carefully as you would your sales management.

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