Managing Multiple Brands In Social

This article was originally posted on MediaPost.

Spredfast Social BusinessSocial media has become an increasingly complex undertaking for large companies. Compared to two years ago -- when social communications was often relegated to an intern or junior staffer -- today’s social media commands significant budget, dedicated headcount, input from almost all areas of the business, and often a seat at the executive table.

To drive meaningful business outcomes, today’s brands are employing more social accounts -- managed by more social users -- than ever before: according to recent research, large companies now have an average of 99 social accounts via 53 social users.

This explosion of social has resulted in mind-bending complexity. Companies are desperately searching for efficiency as they grapple with distributing responsibility and empowering sometimes disparately located brand managers. Simultaneously, the right tone, personality and voice must be maintained across multiple accounts to uphold brand standards.

Smart brands realize that keeping their social house in order and efficiently managing social efforts fuels engagement and impacts multiple business areas. The end result is enabling more people to hold more relevant conversations with increasingly social customers.

Social can now be used to build issue awareness and constituent advocacy, as the California Milk Processor Board or Clinton Global Initiative does; target social activities to products and business outcomes by launching a multichannel campaign, as demonstrated by the latest Dove YouTube channel and Facebook page; or drive in-store visits by providing perks to customers who check in on FourSquare, as Walgreens has done.

The common thread of these socially successful approaches can be found in five key components.

1. Governance

Managing tens, if not hundreds, of accounts with hundreds of contributors is no small feat. To provide focus, companies must first and foremost define the goal(s) for social activity. Second, brands need to identify who, internally, should be active across social properties. This includes the core social team, but increasingly also includes subject matter experts, customer-facing roles and contributors who can be valuable additions to social communities. In addition, all activity must be led with strategic guidance so that team members who execute social communications do so in the ways deemed appropriate and effective by brand standards and social best practices.

2. Orchestration

If brand communications has taught companies one thing, it’s that orchestration of activity is mission critical to success. The need to assign and moderate conversation is imperative. Beyond determining who should be communicating where, successful social brands also need to establish responsibilities for planned activity. Moreover, outlining conversation priorities and developing escalation and approval paths for different types of responses separates the “social” from the “socially successful.” This internal coordination should address both corporate brand mandates while also upholding the expectations of community members.

3. Organizational enablement

Once social contributors are defined, mapping out different levels of access to accounts -- from administrative rights to editorial content privileges -- safeguards companies to ensure the right activity and permissions are given to the people participating in public conversations. Efficient social programs that create a path for success provide direction and guidelines on how team members access their focused accounts, what they are responsible for contributing, how they can assess timely content and messages, and how they can streamline the process of obtaining necessary approval.

4. Cultural and corporate buy-in

Success is in the eye of the beholder. And if company decision makers don’t value social media as a key brand communications channel, the highest level of success can’t be reached, and brands will not possess the ability to expand efforts as quickly as social customers need and expect. The entire C-suite does not need to be personally hyperactive on social. However, recognition from executives and other business units that social can be -- and is -- playing an increased role in impacting business through customer satisfaction, brand loyalty and sales results in an increased value being placed on social engagement. Ultimately, internal buy-in provides an additional opportunity to optimize and expand social efforts in ways that positively impact the entire business.

5. Technology and tools

Finally, as with any other business area, efficiently operating an expanding and successful social program is quickly becoming a reality with the aid of technology. Imagine big brands organizing and coordinating hundreds of social accounts and hundreds of users across thousands of daily conversations manually. The result would be social chaos -- as it is still for many. Today’s social communications software is enabling social brands to centralize internal people, processes and permissions to help engagement thrive. What’s more, the right technology allows brands to assess, report and eventually enhance the impact of engagement, and more importantly, demonstrate business results -- a long-term, and now attainable, vision of social business.

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