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Let's Talk About Social Team Structure
Featuring an interview with Rachael Goulet, Director of Social Media at Sprout Social.
Today’s newsletter is sponsored by Sprout Social! In it you’ll find a candid interview with their very own Director of Social Media where we dig deep into team structure.
One of the most common questions I get asked by clients is: What does the perfect social team structure look like?
Let’s start here: there’s no one-size-fits-all structure for a social team. The structure for a small B2B company that focuses on LinkedIn might look very different from a large beauty brand that prioritizes community management.
The “ideal” social team structure is one that addresses the unique needs and goals of your brand.
Today we’re going to talk about the various ways brands structure their teams and which style might make sense for you. Maybe it’s a straightforward “network” approach, assigning platforms to team members. Or maybe it’s building out teams based around audience engagement, distribution, or internal function support.
I sat down with Rachael Goulet, Director of Social Media at Sprout Social, to talk all things team structure. She gets social media on a lot of levels—she’s worked for the social media management platform for over seven years and she’s worked in social media for different brands for over 10 years.
We chat about building a case for headcount, the unique way that Rachael structures her team, and breaking down silos to greater support business goals. A lot of what we discuss can be found in the latest Sprout Social Index™ report which you can read here. Let’s dive in!
Rachel Karten: First can you tell me about your current role and any previous social (or not!) roles you've had?
I’m currently the Director of Social Media at Sprout Social. I oversee our organic social team—that encompasses everything from customer care, inbox management, publishing and distribution, campaigns, employee advocacy, and social listening and analytics. I’ve been here for over seven years.
Before Sprout Social, I worked in social at companies like INK361 (the first online desktop interface for Instagram when it was a mobile-only app), The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians in the Coachella Valley, and freelanced for politicians, lawyers, therapists, artists and more.
RK: It's awesome how long you've worked at Sprout Social for—I'd imagine you've had a lot of say in how you've built out your team at the company. Can you talk me through the current structure of the social team at Sprout?
RG: Funny you should ask as we’ve just restructured slightly!
Right now we have a strategist for each core aspect of our social strategy.
One dedicated to awareness—this encompasses social content production, expanding our advocacy program, and emphasis on being discoverable.
Another strategist is dedicated to engagement—this encompasses our customer care strategy, targeted engagement like social account-based marketing, and creator/influencer relationships.
Then we have our sr. strategist in a social media analyst role. This role is really focused on using social for business intelligence, isolating voice of customer through social listening, social data, and trendspotting. They provide those insights across not just our social strategy but across our marketing and sales teams.
RK: What have been some learnings in getting to this current structure? Any challenges?
RH: Getting buy-in for headcount was my biggest challenge, making direct attribution or lack thereof can often hinder that.
I worked to find a way to showcase how much more our team could do if we had that extra person.
RK: I know a popular way of structuring social teams is more of a "network" approach. Basically assigning social platforms that team members own. What do you think are some of the pros and cons of this style? Is there an alternative you'd suggest?
RK: We tried this and it did not work for us.
I maybe tried it as too small a team, but I found it to be really too heavy of a workload for a small team. It’s definitely better suited for well-staffed teams. It also prohibited my team from sharing insights across the company and collaborating on content projects.
Another major con was that networks come in and out of favor, make big changes, have big moments, every single day. It’s hard to keep up with all of that and could also mean the workloads might shift out of balance.
I think what teams should take away from this approach is that knowing which networks are your focus matters (if Instagram is a focus for you, you may want to allocate more resources there) and making content that is made for the specific audience of a network matters. TikTok viewers don’t want LinkedIn content and don’t behave exactly like YouTubers, so it’s just something to keep top of mind.
RK: A big question I see all the time is figuring out the first 2-3 hires on a social team. If you were starting from scratch at a new company, what would be the hires you'd make for the social team? Why?
RG: Someone who can manage customer care and build out that team. Someone who understands what happens to your customer as soon as they make a touchpoint on social. Someone to really nurture those relationships.
I’d then hire someone who can lead creative. This person can run a creative team, has a point of view on look and feel, and is willing to test and learn.
Finally, an analyst. Someone who can look at the bigger picture and suggest key refinements along the way. Not just share insights, but share solutions too.
RK: What are a few ways you make sure your team isn't siloed from other teams at Sprout? For example, I'd imagine you need to have good communication with the product team for new feature announcements, user feedback, etc.
RG: Face to face meetings! As much as meetings can be a time suck, my Tuesdays and Thursdays are regularly full with them. Whether it’s catching up on a colleague’s project or problem solving across the organization, I ask to be involved when I hear an opportunity for my team.
Next, I read every internal update—and I follow up with the folks who send them. Colleagues really appreciate when you show interest in their work and most of the time I try to use the fact that I have the users’ POV as a SMM myself.
We make sure customer and product feedback is heard and systematically dealt with, always using tags so nothing falls through the cracks.
RK: Related—what are some ways you and the social team have been able to positively impact the business by breaking down silos and communicating cross-departmentally? Do you have an example?
RG: A little bit older but one of my favorite examples is we had a bunch of folks saying they wanted Dark Mode in Sprout.
We kept tagging and watching that feedback come through and finally we put some info and a message together and shared it with our product marketing team. I remember when we launched people were so stoked and we were able to re-engage those first requesters and it just felt so good to see that go full circle.
RK: What big changes do you see in the next year or so when it comes to social teams? Any 2024 predictions?
RG: Social teams will have a bigger seat at the table. And with that seat, they will demand respect. Organizations that don’t give social a say will fall behind.
Our quest as social marketers for ROI and attribution is over, we can prove the impact so it’s about refining and giving us the budgets and teams to scale.
Networks will become a bit more fleeting, so marketers will have more room to expand out their niche audiences, focus on their core users, and generate more community spaces.
Finally, social marketing as a profession is still growing—more and more junior level marketers will be moving up into more solidified roles and being even bolder with their choices.
RK: Thanks so much for chatting, Rachael! If anyone reading this would like to learn more about team structure and the current state of social, I encourage you to check out the 2023 Sprout Social Index™!