Finding the right combination of personalities and skills for your agency’s social media team can seem like an act of staffing wizardry—especially with resources at a premium. But it’s imperative to strike a balance so that your team can execute great campaigns, both for your clients and for your own social presence.
To help managers optimize their social teams for success, we asked four professionals out in the field for some advice. Below are their thoughts on how to assign responsibilities, how to avoid burnout and how to plan for future growth.
Putting Clients First
At Pure Visibility, a digital marketing agency of about 13 people, Social Marketing Lead Meredith Brandt runs the bulk of her agency’s social media efforts, with some support from a summer intern. Together, the pair manages about 17 social media accounts in all for their clients, tackling a range of duties—from content creation and community management to advertising and analytics—and Brandt would have it no other way.
“In my previous experience at a much bigger company, the more team members who had to be reached, the higher the chance of a miscommunication,” she said.
On the other hand, with only two people, Brandt said it can challenging for her to take full advantage of all the social media platforms out there.
“For instance, participating in Twitter chats has proven to be extremely helpful for building followers, but it can often occur at a time that we are in a meeting or busy with another project,” she said.
“The more team members who had to be reached, the higher the chance of a miscommunication.”
—Meredith Brandt, Pure Visibility
— Pure Visibility (@PureVisibility) June 3, 2015
With just seven team members—half of whom are dedicated solely to social media—Spyglass Digital is a tight-knit operation broken up as such: Agency Principal Katie Mayberry manages strategy and client relationships; two full-time employees manage the social content, which includes everything from graphic design to posting; and the fourth person acts as a community manager.
Like Brandt, Mayberry said agility is one of the main benefits of having a smaller team, enabling her staff to react more quickly to client needs and market trends.
“There’s no red tape; we just adapt continually,” she said.
But Mayberry said that can also come with frequent spikes in workload.
— Spyglass Digital (@SpyglassDigital) June 4, 2015
Aalap Shah’s team at SoMe Connect consists of 10 full-time staff and about a dozen freelancers. Teams are divided up to provide each client with a partner-level, manager-level and associate-level team member, with specialists as the account requires. Clients respond well to this setup, Shah said.
“We find that our larger brands that we work with love the size, nimbleness and efficiency of a smaller account team that can execute quickly and rapidly to changing landscapes almost instantaneously without much red tape,” he said.
Still, Shah said this is not without its challenges.
“While our small size can be a huge advantage, it can also be an obstacle from a company operations perspective, as we often have to hire and ramp up new team members and contractors extremely quickly,” he said.
— SoMe (@SoMe_Connect) March 24, 2015
Leading by Example
Blue Fountain Media
So what about managing the social channels for your own business? It’d be a tough sell, after all, for an agency that doesn’t have a stellar social presence to secure clients.
At Blue Fountain Media, an agency of about 150 people, two people run the social marketing team. One person manages all content creation, from working with designers to aggregating outside posts. The other handles all content marketing, such as promoting blog posts and thought leadership by Blue Fountain employees.
“The biggest strengths of a team this size is that everyone is involved in the strategy, planning and creation of the content we release in some capacity,” said Austin Paley, Blue Fountain’s Corporate Marketing Communications Manager.
Still, while the small size is a boon for communication, it does put a hard cap on Blue Fountain’s available resources.
“This often means that we have a backlog of great ideas that we can pursue,” Paley said, “which is useful when we’re short on content or waiting on design resources but can be very maddening, as we can’t do everything we would like.”
— Blue Fountain Media (@BFMweb) June 10, 2015
With a small team, preventing burnout is key. To that aim, here are the two main things our experts recommended.
1. Watch for Warning Signs
“Often it is the little things that signal burnout on the team—not taking the time to proofread new posts, not being as proactive on some of the new initiatives we’re putting to use and coming up with new ways to take the account to the next level or not sweating the details of the content we’re releasing,” Paley said.
On the other end, Shah said he’s mindful of overzealous efforts as a warning sign.
“I look for excessive hours on site or late emails from the team to recognize work overload and/or participation in company/team events to monitor burnout,” he said.
Tracking results with the right reporting tools can also alert you of potential pitfalls.
“We make sure to keep an eye on what’s being produced and how it’s performing with audiences,” Mayberry said. “When communication gets delayed or deliverables aren’t returned on time, then you know there’s a potential problem either with workload or something else and it warrants a conversation.”
2. Invite Feedback
Shah emphasized that the small size of SoMe makes it easier to have open communication about potential workload fatigue.
“Because we are a smaller team, we are pretty close knit and encourage open communication as much as possible to mitigate burnout type of situations,” he said.
To that end, SoMe Connect schedules regular check-in times with employees to discuss potential problems and solutions.
With a small social media team, the decision to add a new hire is a delicate one. You need to strike the right balance between staying nimble and not overloading your workers—all while making sure your team members have the right disposition and skill.
“As a small company, we look for well-rounded entrepreneurial people when looking to add team members,” Mayberry said. “Everyone who works with us needs to be not only comfortable with but excited about wearing a lot of hats. A balance between analytical and creative is important.”
The details of the decision-making process can also change depending on how long your team has been in operation. For Blue Fountain, that means starting with generalists and then building out to find people with more acute knowledge and expertise.
“I’d advise any new social team to make sure that the first hires are people who have a broad understanding of all of digital marketing,” Paley said, noting that specialized employees should be among the second stage of hires.
Your hiring choices can also be guided by the needs your clients share. Shah’s team takes this approach in hiring for a particular area of expertise.
“We recently, in the past three months, have added two new team members,” he said. “Generally, it’s in response to our confidence level in new business, our contracts renewing or for a specialized skill we may need.”
“I’d advise any new social team to make sure that the first hires are people who have a broad understanding of all of digital marketing.”
—Austin Paley, Blue Fountain Media
Brandt’s group at Pure Visibility also looks to client needs in hiring.
“The majority of our clients use us for monitoring at the moment (content creation and curation), but I have a feeling that the paid advertising clients will tip the scale in the near future,” she said.
Those two types of client take different skill sets, and Brandt said she’d keep those responsibilities in mind when the hiring process begins.
“I’ll be looking for someone with an analytics or advertising background and a penchant for crafting insights from data, not simply just regurgitating numbers,” she said.
No matter what your agency needs, if you’re smart about how you handle your growth, you should be able to strengthen the bonds between your team members and, in doing so, deliver even greater results for your clients.