Do you need a social-media succession plan? - SmartBrief

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Do you need a social-media succession plan?

3 min read


SmartPulse — our weekly reader poll in SmartBrief on Social Media — tracks feedback from leading marketers about social-media practices and issues.

Last week’s poll question: Many successful corporate social-media campaigns rely heavily on the leadership and insight of one person. Does your company have a social-media succession plan in place in the event that your internal expert leaves?

  • We have a decentralized social-media team than can easily adapt to losing a member — 32.04%
  • We’re up a creek if our in-house expert leaves — 30.10%
  • We have an internal candidate in mind as a quick replacement — 15.53%
  • We don’t use social media — 14.56%
  • We have a plan to divide up social-media responsibilities until a replacement can be found — 7.77%

A long time ago, I worked at a place that relied heavily on a special piece of software that the company’s mad tech genius — let’s call him Igor, shall we — had developed by himself and maintained for years, toiling away in secret and scowling at anyone who tried to understand his brilliance. One day, Igor decided that his plebeian co-workers didn’t appreciate all he’d done for them, and so he tromped off into the wilderness, never to be seen again. Or maybe he got a job in Silicon Valley. I forget which. The point is that when Igor left, he took all his magical secrets with him, and the people he left behind were well and truly screwed.

Eventually, the company managed to wrangle up more Igors, but they weren’t quite up to snuff. The system was never the same. The magic was gone.

Of the 121 SmartBrief on Social Media readers who took last week’s poll, about 30% say they’re headed for the same kind of situation with their social-media programs. They’ve got themselves a mad genius who handles everything. It’s incredibly convenient for a while, but once your genius is gone … sure, you can bring in new people to fill that void, but you’ll have lost institutional knowledge and experience that can be a real bear to earn back.

But it doesn’t have to be that way, and 32% of our readers say they are already on the right track. The trick is to embrace a somewhat decentralized model that can regenerate after losing a limb, like some kind of social-media starfish. How can you pull this off?

  • Don’t hire Igors. I’m all for hiring mad geniuses, but go with the kind who are willing and able to collaborate and to share what they know. Trust me, they’re more common than the Igors of the world want you to believe.
  • Don’t wall it off. The more fingerprints you can get on your social-media presence, the easier it will be to carry on if your genius leaves (or gets sick, goes on vacation or gets hit by a bus). Plus, having more hands involved helps build social into your company’s DNA, making your presence more authentic and distinctive. That’s what you want, right?
  • Don’t wait. The time to come up with a workable succession plan is now. Do it before something goes wrong. Do it before your social-media efforts scale up and become more than any one person can manage. Plan for a disaster in clear weather and you’ll never have regrets.

Do you have a different social-media succession planning model? Do companies even need one?