By Nate Riggs published August 2, 2010

A Simple Framework for Building Your Social Media Marketing Team

For years, marketing departments of all shapes and sizes have built teams of individuals charged with the task of reaching audiences. But the tasks of marketing have changed in recent years. To reference the Cluetrain Manifesto, the markets themselves have become conversations.

So the question is this: How do marketing teams need to change to listen to, respond to and use those conversations to create meaningful connections with customers?

A Case Study in Conversational Marketing

In Canton, Ohio, a conversational marketing firm called Incept (they are a client) has modified its marketing department to include a Human Business Team comprised of social media agents who actively participate in online conversations.

To help identify and select a team made up of individuals with the right skills, experience and passion for social media marketing, we used a combination of assessment tools including personality testing (MBTI), score-based multitasking games and one-on-one interviews to gauge technology aptitude.

This team is made up of four types of individuals, each having unique responsibilities, but also a bit of overlap in terms of skills.

Listening Analysts

Monitoring conversations around your brand and category keywords is critical to any social media marketing program. I suggest having at least one individual in your marketing team who is tasked with listening and who has a very solid understanding of the following:

  • Keyword strategies
  • Advanced Boolean search techniques
  • RSS
  • Various monitoring tools across social networks such as Hootsuite, SWIX or even Radian6
  • The functionality, organization and processes related to CRM and Social CRM (SCRM) applications
  • Internal processes and how information flows throughout their own organization
  • Various analytic platforms and how to interpret the data collected

Content Engineers

Solid content engineers are masters of content strategy and execution. Their role includes leadership in the production of written content as well as video, image sharing and podcasts. These individuals tend to be familiar with the following:

  • Video and audio production techniques including shooting, editing and distribution
  • Basic photography and lighting design
  • Postproduction applications like Photoshop or Gimp, iMovie or FinalCut, etc.
  • Knowledge of graphic design applications like InDesign
  • Interviewing techniques
  • Basic HTML and PHP
  • Production equipment and accessories

Conversational Marketing Agents

The industry, for lack of a better title, refers to conversationalists as “community managers.” But online communities are essentially large, ongoing conversations where control and management of the discussion are traded for participation and influence.

Conversational Marketing Agents stay focused on engagement across platforms. They frequently possess the following skills:

  • Understanding of the culture and context of different social networks and online communities
  • Understanding of the functionality and features of different social web tools
  • Ability to use and leverage information stored in SCRM tools
  • Strong interpersonal communication skills
  • Typically the strongest copywriters and editors

Team Captains

The captain coordinates the team and is responsible for the performance of the program. As such, he develops, tracks and reports on success metrics. Effective captains tend to possess the following:

  • Knowledge of and aptitude in all team roles
  • Project management skills
  • Problem-solving skills and the ability to think on their feet
  • Strong interpersonal communication skills
  • Leadership abilities
  • Analytical skills

Each of these teams is typically charged with a specific business objective. It could be anything from managing a collaborative blog to facilitating a customer community.

In the not-so-distant future, I believe that a large part of corporate marketing departments will be organized via a network model of multiple human business teams.

What about you? How is your social media marketing team organized?

Author: Nate Riggs

Nate Riggs is the Founder and CEO of NR Media Group, a Columbus, Ohio-based marketing agency that works to change the way businesses use digital media to connect with customers, earn their trust and win their business for life. Nate will be releasing the Video Engineering Playbook early in 2015, and you can download sample chapters for free.

Other posts by Nate Riggs

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  • Vargaslmv

    Thank you for the shout out as a listening tool. We have also undergone a lot of exp[erimentation in building the right community team. I am very curious about the “combination of assessment tools including personality testing (MBTI), score-based multitasking games and one-one-one interviews to gage technology aptitude” used to selct people for this team. Will you be sharing additional details?

    Lauren Vargas
    Sr. Community Manager at Radian6

  • Joe Pulizzi

    Nate…excellent layout of how to develop a listening team. We should create an infographic on it.

  • nateriggs

    I'm actually working on that and have some ideas – both for how each different position overlaps (gap analysis) and how each unit is structured. Still in process. May I send it to you when I'm done? Would love your thoughts.

  • Joe Pulizzi

    Absolutely. Bring it on!

  • nateriggs

    Thanks for the comment, Lauren.

    Yes. From working with some early clients and also some of our own research on social networks, we are starting to see correlation's between MBTI type and individuals who have high potential to be successful in using social media for business.

    For instance, there appears to a high percentage of naturally introverted personality types (INFP and INTJ) that take to using social media. Right now, we're guessing that the technology could be acting as a barrier between in person interaction, making it easier for introverts to communicate. What's interesting about that is that more traditional marketers are typically thought of as extroverts.

    For multitasking, we used a few games adapted from Dave Crenshawʼs The Myth of Multitasking: How Doing It all Gets Nothing Done while assessing Incept, but are investigating others and possibly building out our own.

    Technology aptitude is done via survey as well as one on one interviews. Right now, we're using Survey Gizmo. It's a great tool.

    As we go forward, I'll be detailing things on my blog at

  • Summer Huggins

    It's so nice that we can talk about social media teams now instead of just throwing that task to a three-hour-a-week intern. Kudos to the businesses (big and small) who are forward-thinking enough to embrace it!

  • nateriggs

    Only took a few years to build the business case, right? 🙂

  • Cheryl Harrison

    So many companies get caught up in the “we need to do social media!” stuff and completely ignore the “who the hell is going to ACTUALLY do this social media stuff?” factor. Which is pretty freakin' important

    This is a great framework for how companies can establish the “who” and then worry about the “what.” Thanks for sharing, Nate.

  • nateriggs

    It's important to remember that social media is NOT automated like some other internet technologies. It's taken a while for businesses to put the focus back on skilled humans and not shiny technology. Thanks Cheryl.

  • Sam Falletta

    Thanks for shout out and creating such a clear summary of the people part of the technology that gets so much attention. Your guidance has been extremely valuable helping Incept develop it's online conversational marketing group. Thank you!

  • nateriggs

    Glad to be working with you guys on this. Paving the way for a new paradigm in marketing…

  • Rebeca Weiand

    Awesome post Nate and thanks for the mention!! You have been a valuable part to our success at Incept and we can not thank you enough!! I am excited to see where we head next!

  • nateriggs

    Becky – it's the ride of a lifetime and there's a lot of different opportunities when you think in terms of human business teams. Incept is incubating something that will change things going forward…

  • Gerald Cotley