Why You Shouldn’t Rely on a Social Media Ringer

Let’s hire a ringer!

Or so goes the quick answer at many a business when they’re trying to figure out how to get their arms around social media. The temptation is to go out and scoop up someone with name recognition, with a prominent presence on the latest social networks, and put them in the driver’s seat for your social media strategy. That takes care of everything, right?

Not quite.

It’s awesome to hire talented, accomplished people. It’s even better to hire talented people that have skill sets and expertise that might not be prevalent in your company. But it’s very, very important to look at the long term play. Make sure your ringer is part of the picture, even an important one, but not the basket in which you’re plunking all of your eggs.

Here are a few reasons why.

1. You want bench strength and sustainability.

Think “teach the teacher”. Let your ringer lead and build, let them create interest and enthusiasm and lay the groundwork. But think in terms of having that person impart their knowledge to others in the organization. That can mean grooming full-fledged social media professionals to serve on a central team, or simply helping established professionals in other areas add social media expertise and skills to their scope.

Eventually, you want to have social media skills and abilities distributed throughout your organization, and more than one person that can serve as a guidepost or anchor point for the overall company’s social media knowledge. That gives you breadth as well as depth, and creates transferable knowledge, which is critical to building a sustainable and scalable business.

2. You want an overall perception of expertise, not a rockstar with a supporting cast.

Outside the organization, you want your customers and community to see you as a truly social business that embraces those practices across the board, not a business with a single social media rockstar in the spotlight.

There is a great deal of value in having visible talent in your organization in many places. We’ve had “rockstar” salespeople for ages. The difference here is due to social media’s nascence; as companies are learning to “be social”, you want that expertise to be part of your entire brand, not isolated to a single person. It’s too easy to say “oh, Jenna is the reason that Company X is social” if you aren’t working to bring more people than just Jenna to the forefront.

3. You want to discover new voices and talent.

There are undoubtedly people in your organization that would excel at social media. You just haven’t seen them yet.

Their role may or may not be central to communications. It could be sales or customer service or even product or brand management. But the notables aren’t your only hope! Look inside your own walls for people that have an interest in social media, and give them the resources and leeway to learn, absorb, and embrace social on behalf of your company to cultivate your own social media talent. Many a respected industry expert has been home grown within the ranks of a company.

4. Your ringer only has so much capacity.

One of the blessing-curses of being talented or capable is that you’ll always be in demand. Which means if your social media ringer is worth a fig, they’ll quickly be inundated. And a single human only has so much capacity to both build something AND maintain what’s already there.

You need that bench strength not just for sustainability, but for sheer practicality. If you do social well and at depth, it’s a lot of work, and it takes significant resources. A single person will only ever be able to scratch the surface, but an armada of socially plugged-in professionals can help you scale.

5. When your ringer leaves, stuff goes with them.

Back to the rockstar sales rep for a minute. Remember the rolodex on their desk?

When the rockstar moves on – and that’s more the rule than the exception – that rolodex goes with them. And in today’s world of complex online networks, many degrees of connections, and relationships that blur boundaries of the personal and professional, your ringer’s networks will still be part of them when they go, like it or not. Representing a brand online is a very symbiotic relationship when done well, but there’s no doubt that even the most amicable departure can leave a bit of a gap.

Unless you plan well. The ringer moving on to something new might be a bit of a hiccup, but it doesn’t have to derail you completely. Building a diverse team with lots of engaged and educated people can spread the wealth of knowledge, and ensure that relationships are forged deeply with the company, not only with the individuals. Have transition plans in mind, and successors that are part of educated teams so there’s always an heir apparent to your social media leadership roles. You’d do that for other critical areas of your company, and social media is no different (though it just might be even more visible).

Never Fear…

Having a ringer on your team is fantastic. Valuable. Lucky, indeed.

But if you plan properly, and think of how that ringer can leave a bit of their awesome behind if they head off to another adventure, you’ll always have a team of folks waiting to step in and carry on.

It’s part of the business cycle, and a little forethought and long-term thinking can let you enjoy both the contributions of your incredibly talented team members, and the knowledge that you’ll always be ready for the next generation.

Do you have amazing talent on your team? Do you fear what’ll happen when yours moves onto something new? Do you have a plan to make your business the ringer instead?

Amber Naslund