The Loneliest Number

On June 15, 2011, in Social Media, by Shane Barnhill

As some of you may know, I have recently moved into a new position.  It’s a role that I’ve wanted for a long time, and I worked hard to land it.

So while I’m thrilled to be following my passion now, I’m learning that there are a lot of emotions that come with leading digital (and by extension social media) strategy for a large, resource-constrained organization.  If your career path takes you in this direction, then you’ll probably experience these same feelings.

You’ll likely feel excitement (more than any other time in your career), anxiety (it’s natural to get butterflies when you start something new and care deeply about delivering value) and jubilation (over the opportunities in front of you).

What About… Solitude?

Probably so.  You see, while there a number of very important and well-defined social media jobs, many organizations simply don’t have either the budget or the proof of value to fill these roles.  They may not yet have a team dedicated to manning a social media listening center, for example, and it may be difficult to find enough budget to staff up with community managers, content planners, digital project managers, copywriters, etc.

Prepare to Wear a Lot of Hats

Image credit: Thaliapap

As you can see, you might have to wear a lot of hats as a digital/social strategy leader.  And if you’re the type of person who loves the social aspect as much as (or more than) the business aspect of digital strategy (Gasp!), then that can be a sobering prospect.

Getting Social… IRL

The good news is that if you look around, you’ll inevitably find incredibly smart and talented people who care deeply about driving successful business outcomes: talented designers, functional business leaders, technical experts, agency teammates… and so on.  Your task will be to outline the value of an integrated digital strategy that spans social media, mobile technologies, websites and other digital pillars in order to rally these teammates around important initiatives.

Consequently, the path to success in your new leadership role, when resources are constrained, depends upon a few critical behaviors:

  • Collaboration:  After all, it’s called social media for a reason, right?  Find the right partners in your organization — whether they’re peers, agency team members or executive leaders — and find out how you can enable mutual success via digital and social initiatives.  You’ll be surprised at how quickly this will accelerate the traction of your digital strategy.
  • Communication:  Get out in front of stakeholders to communicate how digital technologies align with your organization’s business goals.  Illustrate how all of your projects start out with business outcomes in mind — increased revenues, reduced costs, improved customer service — and the value of your work will be evident immediately.
  • Education:  It’s no coincidence that organizations such as Intel and Dell, which have mature, scalable organizational models for supporting social media and social marketing have formal learning programs in place to support these efforts.  Developing a foundation similar in nature to Intel’s Digital IQ program will require you to form cross-functional partnerships and better understand how social media and other digital initiatives can deliver value across your organization.

There are more keys to success, of course.  But the behaviors that I’ve noted above are critical in the early days of a new role leading digital (and/or social media) strategy, especially when you’ll need to engage a large number of stakeholders to build momentum for your efforts.  They’re certainly working for me.

In Summary

You can’t do it alone, and even if you could, you shouldn’t try.  So let me wrap up with a with a tune that is not going to become my theme song.  It shouldn’t become yours either.  Give it a spin and enjoy.