Home Blog Uncategorized State of social media teams: Small, under-resourced with a growing list of responsibilities

State of social media teams: Small, under-resourced with a growing list of responsibilities


One question I’ve consistently heard from companies re: social media marketing over the last 10 years of consulting has simply been: What are other companies doing with their social media teams?

Implied in that comment are the following sub-questions:

  • Where do these social media teams sit in the organization? Who do they report up through?
  • How many people should be on our social media team? What should the titles be?
  • What should our social media team be responsible for?

Remember, social media is still a relatively new thing–it’s only been around for 10 years or so now. So, I don’t think it’s all that surprising that companies are asking all these kinds of questions about how to build and nurture a social media team.

Rhonda Hughes, head of social at SurveyMonkey, recently took the initiative and polled her friends and colleagues about what other social teams look like. In total, Rhonda collected almost 300 responses (not bad!).

There were four big takeaways:

  • Companies still don’t know where to put social–was split fairly evenly among comms, digital, social media, brand and content.
  • Most social teams are small–27% of companies had just one social person; 23% had 2 and 16% had 3; that’s a full 66% of companies with 3 social people or fewer! On the flip side, only 11% of companies had 11 or more social employees.
  • Social teams are under-resourced. When asked if they were adding headcount this year 29% said yes, 24% said no and 47% said: “I wish”.
  • The laundry list of items social media teams are responsible for is long–and growing. 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. But, they had a huge list of activities in here that social teams managed–speaks to #3 above.

These results don’t tell us anything we didn’t essentially already know.

We knew social didn’t necessarily sit in one consistent spot in the organization.

We knew most social teams were 1-2 person bands.

We certainly new social teams were under-resourced.

And, we’re all well aware of the laundry list of tasks and to-dos social teams are responsible for on a day-in, day-out basis.

So, what are the takeaways here? I have a few takes based on my experiences working with social teams over the last 10 years:

  • Social should sit in marketing, but be run by comms people. Controversial take right out of the gate! 🙂 I think social should sit in marketing for one big reason–budget. Let’s not beat around the bush–marketing teams have money. Comms usually have to fight tooth-and-nail for budget. I’ve seen this scenario play out way too many times for it not to be an almost-universal truth. I also think social teams should be run by people with comms (or journalism, in some cases) backgrounds. Look at some of the social media teams in the Twin Cities–they’re led by and made up of former journalists (Sue Serna at Cargill, Kevin Hunt at General Mills, and a host of folks over at Best Buy).
  • Focus on three key positions: Strategist, content builder and analyst. If I were building a social team, these would be the three key positions I would build around. Why? I would never want to outsource strategy–I’d always want that in-house. And, a great content builder is worth his or her weight in gold in 2019. I’d search for a journalist looking to make the transition or someone with a journo background. And, a good analyst is key to merchandising our work across the company and making sure we’re measuring the right stuff. I’ve seen this go terribly wrong when measurement is left to agency partners–again, I want that skill in-house. I’d outsource the rest–even community, potentially, if I had to.
  • Laser focus on four key areas: Content creation, strategy, community and measurement. I realize those are broad areas, but I also think focus is absolutely key to running a good social team. I mean, starting an employee social media advocacy program, for example, could easily derail your team for six months! Remember the laundry list of tasks and to-dos above. It’s pretty long, right? I think a lot of times, our own ambition and want to please our bosses is what contributes to these additional tasks. Whereas if we continued to focus on these four key areas, I think the results would be much more impactful.



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