In the olden days (like, before 2006), public relations was pretty straightforward. The PR professional created communication pieces aimed at accomplishing any of the following: generating awareness in her client’s products and services; addressing controversies that came up for her client; explaining company shifts, such as a CEO stepping up (or stepping down); and generating media interest to help boost brand identity or sales. The PR professional wrote press releases, took meetings with media professionals, sat in board meetings, and worked with marketing departments to accomplish all of the above. Her means of communication were the typewriter and telephone, and, later, the fax machine and computer with an email account.

Then came Facebook.

And Twitter.

And Pinterest.

And YouTube.

And Instagram.

Nowadays, a strong public relations plan must incorporate not only the press release but also a large and ever-growing body of social media platforms. As Susan Balcom Walton and Timothy J. Pasch pointed out in the latest issue of The Public Relations Strategist magazine, the PR professional is no longer merely a generator of communication. She is also an aggregator and curator of content. Not only does she need to write good press releases, but she also needs to aggregate other stories for her company’s Facebook fans and Twitter followers, and she needs to become so effective at curating those other stories that her audience will frequently look to her for good content.

As a PR professional who has changed her fair share of fax machine paper spools, I have watched the industry change so much in the past twenty years or so. And when it comes to managing an effective social media effort, I am thoroughly convinced that, in most cases, it takes a village—or at least a small team.

But how do you build a social media team? Especially if you’re a sole proprietor or small business?

Here are a few ways to build an effective social media team to help manage your PR efforts online.

1. Decide on the platforms to which you will commit, and the ones you will not. Will you use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube? Or just Facebook and Twitter? Or just YouTube and Instagram? Because the main factor in effective social media is consistency, it’s important to decide which platforms you will commit to. That will help you with step two.

2. Find people in your immediate audience who are good at a particular platform. If you know that you want to have an effective Twitter presence, find someone who gets your company’s mission, vision, and values and who has demonstrated proficiency at Twitter in their own personal account or working for another company. Use LinkedIn to find people in your connections who list social media in their skills. Put a call out on Twitter for a part-time position in social media and see who bites. Some people are great at Facebook but don’t even have a Twitter account. Same goes for Pinterest.

3. Decide how much you can spend. Will you be looking for volunteers? You’ll probably be able to find some, especially among your friends. However, I find that, usually, you get what you pay for. For a professional social media team, plan to spend at least a bit of money. Perhaps you can offer two or three people a monthly stipend to be part of your social media team. I know one organization that has a team of twenty people, each being paid between $25 and $100 per week, depending on the amount of time they devote.

4. Once you have your budget and your people, make a plan. Perhaps Jo will commit to curating posts on Facebook twice a week, while Pat will make sure that everyone who has pinged you on Twitter gets a response that is not auto-generated. Alternately, you might sign up for a professional HootSuite account, which allows multiple users to log in and see what has been posted, responded to, retweeted, and scheduled for Twitter and Facebook. (FYI, it’ll cost you about $10-20 per month for this). There are many ways for a team to collaborate on social media; you have to find what works best for you. (For more tips on managing a social media team, I recommend this article by Russell Working for Ragan’s PR Daily.)

With a little bit of teamwork and a well-organized strategy, even individuals and small companies can build highly effective social media practices that will elevate their brand, promote their products and services, and build up a devoted audience base.

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One Response to Social Media: It Takes a Village (or at least a small team)

  1. Kenny Jahng says:

    Christy, I think even before assembling a team and divvying the platforms and tactics, the communications person really needs to define WHO they want to reach and WHAT they want them to do as a result of the connection. Only then can you start to figure out if social media or which platforms are relevant, how much energy/bandwidth/content/team members you need to make it all happen. In my experience, strategic analysis must come before jumping to the tactical execution plans.