4 learnings from our peer survey

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

It started with a question

Social media marketing is still a relatively new line of work. So what social media teams look like varies pretty considerably from company to company — from team size to reporting structure, to areas of focus. Wouldn’t it be great if we had a better understanding of what each other’s teams looked like?

Wouldn’t it be great if we knew what other social teams looked like?

For our social team, that question started a conversation, which sparked an idea, which turned into a survey. My social media manager Melissa Francois and I decided we’d reach out to our peer community, gather some insights and share the results with everyone.

The state of social media teams

We collected nearly 300 responses from social media peers (271 to be exact — which our research team says is a good amount for a peer group). What did we learn? Let’s just say we validated our hypothesis: social teams vary considerably.

I’ve highlighted my 4 biggest takeaways below. You can see the full data here. Let’s dive in!

1. Companies don’t know where to put social

Turns out, where social teams sit marketing varies pretty considerably. 22% of social media peers said they report into digital, 20% comms, 15% social media (as a standalone team), 12% brand, 10% content and a surprising 20% said “other”.

Social media crosses the entire business so it’s no surprise that companies aren’t sure where best to put it. In my own social media career, I’ve reported into brand, communications, demand gen, and, as a stand-alone social team. I prefer the latter.

Brands can (and should) use social media for all of these areas but, ultimately, where the team sits influences their priorities and KPIs. If your team’s main goal is driving website traffic or demand gen, then the social team will need to focus more on activities that align with this purpose.

That’s not to say the team won’t be doing all the other things a social team does — but it’s tough. In my experience, if an initiative doesn’t align to your broader team’s metrics, it’s really difficult to get resources for it.

2. Most social teams are small (but mighty)

The goal behind doing this survey was to get a better sense of what other social team looked like. It turns out, our small but mighty team of two is very much the norm: 50% of social teams have only 1–2 people. (27% have just one.)

3. Social teams feel under-resourced

Across teams and company size, one thing came through loud and clear: social teams feel the need for more resources. 71% of respondents said their team was too small. When asked if they were adding headcount this year 29% said yes, 24% said no and 47% said: “I wish”.

Some teams get external help. 35% of respondents reported using an outside agency to help with social media tasks. Here’s a word cloud of the tasks respondents say they outsource.

4. Social teams do more than just “tweet”

So, what do social teams actually do? For most established job areas, the answer is pretty clear. But for roles in social, this isn’t as straight forward.

Broadly speaking, 60% of respondents said their team oversees both paid and organic social strategy. 43% also manage global social media across both U.S. and international.

Social content planning, ideation, copywriting reporting and creation are all core areas of ownership, but that’s not all. Here’s the breakdown of what social teams are responsible for:

Nearly all . . .

  • 98% Social content planning & ideation
  • 93% Social copywriting
  • 89% Social reporting + analytics
  • 81% Social content creation (i.e. videos, images, etc)

Most . . .

  • 75% Social tools & operations
  • 74% Social listening
  • 73% Social care/ support
  • 65% Community
  • 60% Social advertising strategy

Many . . .

  • 59% Social media education
  • 52% Social advertising execution
  • 48% Social media governance

Some . . .

  • 43% Executive social media
  • 35% Employer brand
  • 33% Blog planning/strategy
  • 32% Blog execution
  • 28% Employee storytelling (i.e. #LifeatCompany)

A few . . .

  • 26% Monitoring and engaging in forums
  • 25% Surprise & delight program
  • 24% Monitoring and engaging on review sites
  • 21% Influencer program
  • 21% Employee advocacy program
  • 19% Customer advocacy program
  • 11% Other tasks

It’s no wonder my team struggles with making people aware of the scope and impact of our role — we don’t have norms for what we do.

To further illustrate my point about lack of awareness (and show off my new-found-survey-nerdiness) I created a quiz. 9 multiple choice questions to see how much our peers know about what we do. The average score was 66%. One of the questions was a freebie where all answers were correct.

Where we go from here

One thing is for sure, we’ve got a lot of work to do to educate our cross-functional partners on the scope of our roles. The question in my mind right now is: Do we focus on re-educating what the role of social encompasses or do we reframe the role entirely?

I don’t think there is one right approach but having data and insights into how social “works” across companies will help.

Seeing a small glimpse into how social teams work across 271 companies was oddly comforting. “You are all struggling with the same things!”

While what we found confirmed a lot of our thinking, there’s power in having the data. My hope is data like this can help us start to establish norms and open up opportunities — even if this survey is just the tiniest nudge in that general direction.

With that in mind, here’s what I commit to doing next:

  • Leaving the survey open. The more data we gather, the better. Take the survey and share it with your social media peers.
  • Making the results available to all. You can see the full data here.
  • More surveys in the future! Turns out, a lot of us have the same questions. This survey gave us many more to think about.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, to everyone who participated in the survey for your support, and your enthusiasm. Hearing that you’d find this information valuable was incredibly encouraging!

Melissa and I are already thinking about what our next survey will focus on. What questions would you most want to ask your social media peers?

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