The Social Media Manager’s Lament

Social media inside brands is something of a red-headed stepchild. It came out of nowhere to a position of prominence and is now suffering from “guru fatigue.”

Being so new means social media managers at brands need to find their way in byzantine corporate structures. According to four social media managers Digiday spoke to, they encounter a litany of hurdles: lack or understanding (and faith) at high levels, miniscule budgets for what’s often called “free media,” and outsized expectations in impossibly short time frames for something that by its very nature is a long-term endeavor.

Social Media Manager 1
There are a myriad of hurdles. The biggest challenge is operationalizing everything within the various departments that touch social. There are various needs for social within the customer service, PR, marketing and even quality assurance divisions and bringing that all together is hard. It’s hard because everyone has varying knowledge capital in social. Another thing is making people within the organization understand that the value from social comes in different shapes and forms. There are still people asking why we should be there. You have to ask yourself the cost of not being there. If there’s a crisis and consumers are talking about it in social media and you are not there to be part of the conversation, that’s a problem. Lastly, I am sure we can all use a little more budget as well. Like I said, there are varying levels of understanding [of social] within the organization. The good thing is that the budget has gone up, but I am sure I speak for all of us social media guys/gals when I say it isn’t growing as fast as we’d like it to.

Social Media Manager 2
The biggest hurdle internally is the difference of understanding and experience with social media. A lot of it is still managed from the top down. And a lot of the folks at the top don’t understand what social does and what it could bring for a brand. With that come unrealistic and incorrect forms of measurement and actions that they expect out of it. The other hurdle is these megabrands like Coca-Cola and Red Bull doing amazing things in social media and basically knocking it out of the park. Then you have execs that see this and come to you and ask why your brand is not doing the same thing. It’s important to understand that not all brands are interesting. Realize what your brand is and is not. We can’t do what a McDonald’s or a Starbucks is doing, and that’s OK because our brand is totally different. Budget will continue to be a hurdle and an obstacle. Social media is the new kid on the block and justifying an increase in spend will continue to be a challenge.

Social Media Manager 3
Consolidating and boiling down what the focus is and should be for us in social is the biggest challenge because we have limited dollars to spend, so we can’t do all that much. There’s so much we want to do, but determining the best use of the channel is hard to narrow down. And honestly, we’ve been playing it safe in social as a result. We aren’t doing these big crazy social campaigns, and I think that’s why maybe our pain points aren’t the same as some of the other brands. Right now, we are just using social to amplify what we are doing in other marketing channels. We’re not spending a lot.

Social Media Manager 4
The biggest obstacle is understanding. There are a couple of decision makers within our organization that don’t fully understand social media and how it should be carried out. They believe it is a marketing function, but it should really be pervasive throughout the company. They want to pigeon hole it and say it’s just another channel and expect us to just repeat what we do in the other channels. That’s frustrating. We just did TV spots and had people within the company ask us to just post them on Facebook. For me, the biggest challenge is the fight for integration. To me, I want to be creating new content to complement that TV spot. Our new spots have interesting personalities in them, and I think it would be neat to give our fans an in-depth look at these people through social media. So if someone sees the spot and they encounter us on Facebook, they see that personality and can get to know them. I don’t want to be on an island and own social in the company. I want everyone on board, and I want it integrated into everything we do.

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