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    5 ways to be a better CMO for your social teams

    In October 2023, I interviewed for a VP of Social and Content Strategy role for a very well-known and established brand. I met with the executive recruiter and had a pleasant and positive conversation that made me initially excited for the role. As we were wrapping up, they asked if I had any questions for them. I replied, “Can you give me an idea of how involved the C-suite is with the social team?”

    The recruiter paused to collect their thoughts and replied, “The CMO is very passionate about social media so I think you’ll find they’ll be actively involved in your day-to-day.”

    To me this was a red flag.

    I decided to reach out to the predecessor of the role and asked if they could give me any insight into this specific response. They responded, rather quickly, with a slew of feedback like, “They’ll text you an idea at 1:00 am and expect you to text back at 8:00 am” and “They approved the overall strategy, but never supported our ability to execute it.”

    In my 16 years of social media experience, this is typically a recipe for failure. A week later, I ended up removing myself from the recruitment process.

    In a previous role, I had the benefit of reporting into some of the best marketing executives at American Eagle who gave benchmark-level leadership for social media teams by providing encouragement, curiosity and humility. I’d encourage you to analyze each of these bullet points and ask yourself how you can improve in each area if you want to be a better CMO or marketing leader to your social teams.

    1. Trust your social teams

    This seems like such a basic principle but it’s one that’s a rarity amongst marketing leaders. Because everyone consumes social media on a day-to-day basis a lot of people incorrectly assume that they are experts in the area. One of the best ways to lead your social media practice is to empower your social team to be the experts and decision-makers and trust their POV.

    For example, surprise and delight has become the hottest trend in marketing (not just social media). We’ve seen brands like The North Face and Stanley 1913 blow up recently because of their social listening efforts and I can guarantee you those teams have built-in budgets and autonomy to be able to act quickly and swiftly. The best marketing leaders might only have five minutes to get a briefing and process, but they will see the conviction from their social teams on why it’s important and should—as often as possible—provide a, “Sounds cool, let me know if you need my support to push it through” response.

    5 ways to be a better CMO for your social teams

    Another great way to create an environment of empowerment is to encourage them to let you know when a content series or content type just isn’t working and to provide them the ability to kill it. Far too often, social teams feel locked into continuing to produce content that just isn’t working and because it’s already been approved, they feel compelled to keep making it.

    But social media doesn’t work this way.

    Teams have to be able to pivot, respond, react and optimize based on engagement.

    Remember that they are the experts and that they truly know your audience better than anyone else so trusting their eye, their voice and their tactics is key.

    2. Ask curiosity questions vs. panic-inducing questions

    A lot of marketing leaders assume because social media moves at the speed of light that assignments can be done at a rapid-fire pace. This creates a lot of anxiety for your social teams.

    For example, it’s a common narrative in the social media community that marketing leaders will regularly send a link to a social post from another brand with commentary like, “This is cool, should we do this?” This action creates a lot of chaos. Not because the post isn’t good content, but because you are effectively briefing your team over DM on what might be a huge project.

    Instead, send a question over email that’s something like, “Hey I saw this post from _______. Do you think this is something we can consider or explore? Let me know your thoughts on it.”

    In doing so, you are still allowing them to be the expert in the room and showing that you respect their work.

    3. Establish your funnel position

    This is something missing from too many social media strategies. To have make sure your team is able to define what success is, leadership has to determine where social sits in your funnel. Too many social strategies are trying to do everything everywhere all at once and this “strategy” almost always results in frenzied reach and engagement.

    If your core purpose of social is top-of-funnel brand awareness, then allow your teams to focus on entertaining their audience. If it’s to drive product or service awareness then it should be a mix of entertainment, edutainment and product / service consideration. If you want social to be middle of the funnel and closer to direct response, let them do the best they can to optimize that content.

    Just remember: The closer you are to bottom-of-funnel, the harder it is for social to have quality reach and engagement. The best social strategies sit somewhere in between brand and product awareness, but YOU have to provide and establish that direction.

    4. Be a student

    One of the best ways to be a better leader to social teams is to be humble enough to go to your social leads and ask them for their expertise. I would encourage every CMO or marketing leader to have a 30-minute meeting every month, where the purpose is to have your social lead provide you with a report or presentation that includes recent trends in both your social practice and the industry overall.

    The report should not be a recap of performance and post results by channel but more of a trend report on how each channel is performing, how content is performing overall and how the team plans to pivot in the upcoming months to address algorithm shifts.

    Not only will this make you feel more confident in leading them, but it creates a positive narrative that you respect their position and expertise.

    5. Don’t just give them a seat. Give them a gavel.

    A common narrative is that social media teams consistently feel like they are given assignments after a marketing meeting has already occurred. The phrase, “We decided this is a social campaign,” gets thrown around far too often and typically the social team wasn’t a part of the decision in the first place.

    This is where the phrase, “Give your social teams a seat at the table,” is often used.

    But I don’t think that’s good enough anymore.

    LinkedIn post from Crocs' Head of Organic Social, explaining how leaders need to ask their social teams directly about what kind of support they find most valuable.

    Social leads and managers need to not only be given a seat at the table, but they should be empowered with the ability to have a strong voice and opinion at the table. Nobody but your social team is more equipped to know what will work, what won’t work and what good social campaigns look like. So if you have an inkling of possibility that a campaign will come to life on social media, not including your social team in that meeting almost always results in poor ROI.

    So don’t just give them a seat at the table. Give them the gavel.

    Bonus: Start incorporating the phrase: “You can tell me if this is a bad idea” as part of your communication with your social leads and refer back to point #1 if they say it’s a bad idea.

    For more expert insights like Nathan’s, subscribe to our newsletter today.

    The post 5 ways to be a better CMO for your social teams appeared first on Sprout Social.

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