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What Social Media Managers Really Do and Why They’re Necessary

When approaching social media, more and more companies are realizing they need someone, if not multiple people, to manage their presence full time. With the results, successes and detriments we have seen in the past few years on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest and more, it’s no wonder it’s a full-time job. A couple weeks ago at the Internet Summit in Raleigh, NC, I had someone ask me:  “Well, what would a social media or community manager do for my company? Why do I even need a position like that?”

Personally, I’m biased because I see success stories every day – sales, new followers, engagement, conversations – and I constantly interact with social media and online marketing professionals. But I wanted to show some other people that just like any business person, social media professionals have goals and benchmarks they set and achieve. I asked a friend, Rebecca Harrelson, to write a guest post about her experience with two major brands she has worked for, Beachbody and the NBA, and their evolution in social media.

When obtaining my master’s degree in sports business, marketing, and media at New York University, social media had not taken off to the degree it has now.  It wasn’t even discussed as a possible outlet for customer service, connection, or any other use for marketing sports teams or business entities.  However, upon graduation I worked for the National Basketball Association (NBA) and about a year later, social media was all the rage.  As a member of the Global Merchandising Group (GMG), who oversaw both the brick and mortar NBA Store on 5th Avenue in New York as well as, we needed to connect to our customers and tell of special promotions, sales, launches and other product-based information.  The only way our customers knew of these product-based call outs was if they visited our website randomly, or searched through layers and layers of information for the brick and mortar store. Neither of these allowed us to connect to our customers the way we felt we should.

I took on the job of social media community manager as a project, again pointing out that companies weren’t really using social media at the time.  I created a Facebook page and Twitter profile, and where the emphasis now is on tabs, games, and contests. In 2008, it was solely based on content.  Through word-of-mouth only, the social following grew to more than 10,000 fans on Facebook and 5,000 followers on Twitter – back then, that was equivalent to having 500,000 fans now!  I started connecting to the fans by giving special passes to autograph events – our very first one was a Twitter winner who could skip the line and be first to receive an autograph from Boston Celtic legend Bill Russell.  From then on out, our fans were hooked.

I worked closely with my fellow employees of GMG, giving our fans sneak peeks of the new Jordan or Kobe sneaker three weeks before anyone else, special interview sessions with basketball greats, and of course, winning a coveted slot at the front of the line for signings with Common, Dwayne Wade, Chris Paul and Magic Johnson.  These social platforms were so successful in organic growth and production that I was asked to speak at the annual Team Summit held in New York City in 2009 to all team social media managers.  There, I pushed the content that built social media for companies from the ground up – photos, videos, exclusives, etc.  We didn’t focus too much on tabs, games, contests,  or online shops.  We were more focused on connecting with the fan/customer, and making them feel connected to the league they loved so much.

I left the NBA later in 2009 to gain more experience in social media, taking on more brands working for Beachbody, the makers of P90X, Insanity and other at-home fitness DVDs.  The new manager of the NBA Store page is quite different from me and the focus and emphasis is no longer on fan connection, but with brand and product promotion.  Due to this, the fan base growth has stalled, only gaining 35,000 additional followers in three years. The League Facebook page has more than 14 million fans, but no cross promotion of brands, signings or other events have taken place in the past three years, leaving that fan base in the dark about all the exciting things happening in merchandising and on the Store’s Facebook page.

As an example of the stalled activity, and the disappointing growth the brand has shown based on the content, I will compare it with the growth of a brand I now manage at Beachbody. Insanity (not even the most popular product of Beachbody’s repertoire, that would be P90X), started 2012 with 215,000 fans.  Growing exponentially year over year after already accumulating more than 100,000 fans is extremely difficult. Most brands only grow about 85% year over year after amassing more than 100,000 fans. However, I took this brand and the challenge of making it into the number one product of Beachbody for 2012; no easy feat to overcome P90X where the First Lady, as well as other presidential candidates, were all over the news using that brand.  In order to achieve my personal challenge, I needed to find a way to grow the Facebook page organically and quickly, while not forgetting about the fans I was trying to acquire.  I knew that it would take the perfect balance between motivation, fun content, and business to achieve my feat.  After 11 months, the brand has grown more than 235% and overtook P90X as the number one selling brand for Beachbody in 2012.

This is why basic content is important. By basic content, I mean really paying attention to your fans, what they want, what they need, and what they will respond to.  The NBA Store continued to post merchandise-based content.  Which is not all wrong, but not entirely right.  Fans started only coming to the page to see what kind of deal they can get, or when the new shoe is launching.  But all other events and content that the Facebook page could have pushed out is now null and void.  You need to keep content more conversational.  Yes, since we work for businesses, we must focus on content to push product and grow our customer base.  But in order to continue growth with acquisition, reach, virility and repeat customers, social media managers must give their fans more conversational content, and make it more about the FAN than the SELL.

Rebecca Harrelson is currently a social media strategist at Beachbody where she manages 15 brands on various social media platforms. Previously she was a member of the Global Merchandising Group for the NBA as well as social media community manager. She earned her master’s in sports business at New York University and bachelor’s in political science and sports business from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

Is your company new to social media? Are you interested in hiring a social media manager but don’t know where to start? Are you using social media but are still unsure as to how to incorporate it into your existing marketing campaigns? Are you interested in learning how to measure the ROI of social media? Learn all of this and more in our Social Media Boot Camp!

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