Data: Composition of a Corporate Social Media Team

How are today’s social media teams structured? Ever wonder who’s behind those corporate Twitter and Facebook accounts? Think there’s more to it than an intern just tweeting haphazardly?

This data, in the below graphic, is compiled from Altimeter’s recent survey to 144 global national corporations with over 1000 employees shows how today’s teams in 2011 are breaking down. This is the core team that operates the social media program within a corporation, often within corporate communications or a marketing function they will work with other business units. For very large corporations, they may be fragmented among many business units (the Dandelion model), and this data doesn’t even include agency, consultants, or even research firms who help out. Here’s what we found:

Screen shot 2011-12-22 at 8.11.57 AM

Finding: A Social Media Team Consists of Four Major Functions
While the team size may vary, it’s important to understand the components of a team.  Also, it’s key to look at the ratios between the groups, so companies can know how to plan and budget. Although you can learn more about the specific titles here, among the responses, we found a trend of four key groups, segmented by:

  1. Leadership Team: We found 1.5 folks are focused on leadership and vision, the most common title is the Corporate Social Strategist, and we published a research report discussing the aspirations and challenges of this Open Leader, and how they organize internally.  They are primarily focused on the overall program ROI, and are internally focused to drive business results. This role is a requirement, even if it’s a part time role.
  2. Business Unit Facing: Two folks are facing the business units (liason, education), and work inside of the company to help multiple business units from sales, support, products, field, execs get on board.  Often they can be segmented by region (like Sarah Goodall, SAPs EMEA social strategist) and even by product units. These roles are key for coordinated scale, once the center of excellence has been established
  3. Market-Facing: Three three community managers are facing customers, and serve as a go-between to balance the needs between customers and the corporation, I’ve written at length about these important professionals, see all tagged posts. These units are key for customer interaction, but in the end cannot scale and will shift to advocacy or enable customers to respond to each other.
  4. Program Management: We found 4.5 are in program management (developers, analytics) that keep the ship growing by running programs often at the corporate level like the social media managers, the analyst that’s conducting reporting and brand monitoring programs, and lastly the developer teams, which get systems to work. As a corporate resources serving spokes, these roles are key, esp as data needs to be aggregated for business intelligence.

Applying This Data To Your Program
Averages are helpful, but only if we can apply this to your business, and because it’s not easy to publish about all the variations, here’s how to apply it to your business: 

  • Company size changes team headcount –yet ratios likely stay same. This is an average, so the changes of you having exactly 11 folks is not likely, chances are your company is larger or smaller than this average –and your team size will vary.  In fact, this is often a cross-functional team, as a majority of companies are in the hub and spoke or dandelion models.   In fact, if your company is smaller, you may be wearing multiple hats –but we should expect the ratios of the roles to roughly average out, all things equal.
  • Mature programs shift to empowerment, changing team dynamic. We’ve sorted data by maturity in previous sample sizes, and know that in 2010 the team sizes were a little under 4 for novice, about 8 for intermediate, and could get up to 20 for mature programs, read the report on budgets and team sizes.  You should expect similar modeling to occur in all corporations.  Furthermore, we’ve seen trends that more advanced companies will have more business unit liasons to empower teams, and reduce their core community managers as the conversations move the edges of the company.
  • If these teams are successful, they fade into the background. In the future, these teams will likely shrink, or evolve into customer experience teams. Know that the corporate social strategist will work themselves out of a job.  Why?  Business units will be able to operate their own programs without excessive oversight, following program guidelines, and using pre0-set best practices and sanctioned software systems.  With that said, a core team will always be required, to coordinate the enterprise, but we predict this will evolve into a customer experience team (or back into the CX team)

Thanks to Christine Tran, Senior Researcher at Altimeter (and part-time tomato farmer) for work on surveying brands, analysis, and collating data for this graphic. If you’re in one of these teams, I would to hear from you, what your team size is, composition, in the comments below.

Update: Here’s a related graphic detailed the team roles and descriptions, all from the report on Social Business Readiness where the data above is from.

Average Composition of a Social Media Team

  • Wendy Harman

    This is amazing. Exactly the direction we’re headed in… Thanks once again, Jeremiah and Altimeter. 

  • http://twitter.com/jowyang Jeremiah Owyang

    Thanks Wendy, I hope to talk to the Red Cross team again in the future.

  • http://www.deswalsh.com Des Walsh

    Fascinating, Jeremiah. Thank you. I’m wondering (and will now be thinking about) how the functions and their relative proportions in terms of “person days” will be reflected for, and scaled down for, small to medium sized companies, whether with internal teams or some outsourced functions or combinations of those.

  • http://www.deswalsh.com Des Walsh

    Fascinating, Jeremiah. Thank you. I’m wondering (and will now be thinking about) how the functions and their relative proportions in terms of “person days” will be reflected for, and scaled down for, small to medium sized companies, whether with internal teams or some outsourced functions or combinations of those.

  • http://twitter.com/jowyang Jeremiah Owyang

    I addressed some of that in the post Des.  The overall ratio of responsibilities will likely stay the same across all companies–regardless of size.  The area that could change tho, is that very small companies may run the program on behalf of the whole company, which we call “centralized” and not shift to empowering business units due to scale issues. 

  • http://twitter.com/jowyang Jeremiah Owyang

    I addressed some of that in the post Des.  The overall ratio of responsibilities will likely stay the same across all companies–regardless of size.  The area that could change tho, is that very small companies may run the program on behalf of the whole company, which we call “centralized” and not shift to empowering business units due to scale issues. 

  • http://www.mindcomet.com/ Mark Krupinski

    Jereimah, this is good stuff. It’s a great blueprint for organizations who understand the importance and future of social media.

  • http://twitter.com/jowyang Jeremiah Owyang

    Thanks, this is a finding of “What is” but it’s not telling of what it should be.  There’s more analysis to do in the future. 

  • http://www.deswalsh.com Des Walsh

    Jeremiah, yes you did address some of that issue in the post and I should have acknowledged that.  I have a current challenge with a group of very small professional services practices, from 1 to 5 or so people, where I need to help them see how they can do something constructive without getting overwhelmed. Of course, people in those situations are already accustomed to wearing more than one hat so translating the concept should not be an insurmountable task!

  • http://www.deswalsh.com Des Walsh

    Jeremiah, yes you did address some of that issue in the post and I should have acknowledged that.  I have a current challenge with a group of very small professional services practices, from 1 to 5 or so people, where I need to help them see how they can do something constructive without getting overwhelmed. Of course, people in those situations are already accustomed to wearing more than one hat so translating the concept should not be an insurmountable task!

  • http://twitter.com/jowyang Jeremiah Owyang

    Thanks Des for the clarification.  I’ve seen very small teams either appoint one to do it all, or spread social across the entire culture and they all use it.  When Altimeter was just a dozen folks or so, nearly everyone was active in social on personal site, except for operations staff.

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  • http://socialfreshacademy.com/ Jason Keath

    Great stuff. 

    2 main questions to start Jeremiah. Will you be listing the companies surveyed again?
    And how are you defining “social media manager”?

  • Anonymous

    This is great, thanks for sharing Jeremiah.  It’s a great view into where companies should be looking to make investments in headcount and support roles.

    I am surprised to see the average size of teams at 11… as I have seen that most companies are still struggling to get buy-in and resources specifically for social. And newer headcounts for the ‘emerging” teams tend to be more of a “shared” resource across multiple teams which leads to its own challenges in prioritization and such. 

    I look forward to more data and findings from your team as it truly helps the people ‘in the trenches’ like myself to build better business cases to support such requests.

    Have a great holiday Altimeter team.

  • http://twitter.com/jowyang Jeremiah Owyang

    Thanks Steve!

    Thanks, there’s two reactions I get when I show this data:  1) Seems high, and 2) Seems low.   Keep in mind this is an average, as stated above, and also assume many of these team-members are part of a cross-functional team.  They may not officially all report to the strategist or managers.

  • http://twitter.com/jowyang Jeremiah Owyang

    Jason

    1) Yes, we continue to conduct surveys on the markets we cover, we’ve published this type of data before.

    2)I just embedded a graphic in the main post that speaks to this, I should have done that prior.  Hope that helps

  • http://twitter.com/jowyang Jeremiah Owyang

    Jason

    1) Yes, we continue to conduct surveys on the markets we cover, we’ve published this type of data before.

    2)I just embedded a graphic in the main post that speaks to this, I should have done that prior.  Hope that helps

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  • Anonymous

    Very useful snapshot for companies moving more intentionally into social media. However, how would you tweak this for non-profit organizations as opposed to a corporate company?

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  • http://twitter.com/jj27vv My Mind Bursts

    Invaluable. Music to my ears. The myriad of skills, the scope of task and its growing importance means that Social Media is a group activity, not something to be tackled by one jack of all trades (however versatile and hard working they might be).

  • Rose Siu

    Hi Jeremiah, haven’t seen you for long time!  Great to read this article from you, very inspiring.  Pls keep on sharing more.

  • Rose Siu

    Hi Jeremiah, haven’t seen you for long time!  Great to read this article from you, very inspiring.  Pls keep on sharing more.

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  • http://twitter.com/ChandaDevi Chanda Chhoeng

    Hi Jeremiah – Do you recommend having separate community managers to support different social technologies? For example, one community manager to support social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, G+ and another to support consumer website features such as Ratings & Reviews, Ask & Answers. Or, should the CM role cover all social technologies?As always, thanks for another great post!

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    Amazing write-up! This could aid plenty of people find out more about this particular issue. Are you keen to integrate video clips coupled with these? It would absolutely help out. Your conclusion was spot on and thanks to you; I probably won’t have to describe everything to my pals. I can simply direct them here!

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  • http://collentine.com @collentine

    Interesting with averages like this. This survey seems to have been done on national firms. How do global companies deal with their social media teams? Do they set up similar set-ups in each country? or use translators? or a SM headquarter with seperate agents for different languages?

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  • andrea07

    Great post Jeremiah! Very helpful!

    I have one question, what if the community managers are not in the company but in the digital agency? Do you recommend having them inhouse and just working with the agency for creative ideas? On the other hand there are benefits of having the community manager work in the agency…

  • http://camiloolea.tumblr.com/ Camilo Olea

    I was just recently directed to this post, great stuff! Wonder if there is an updated version for this year? Or maybe the structure remains unchanged?

    Best regards from Cancun.

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