Sunday, 20 November 2011

Change of personnel in your comms team? Manage your social media carefully

Managing communications through a change of personnel so the service is seamless is incredibly difficult. New people have new ways of doing things and chances are that's why you've employed them - because you want something new. Managing social media through a change of personnel is even more difficult.
In managing social media for our organisations, we invest so much of our own personalities and often, at this stage of social media development, where it's not truly embedded in many organisations, a change of personnel can mean a total halt to social media activities.
Two recent examples I've spotted are Testway Housing and Housing Plus Group. Testway was the first ever housing association on Twitter and used to be on of my favourite examples. It tweeted several times a day with useful, often funny, information and news. It had worked hard to build genuine relationships with its thousand plus followers.
Then on 6 July 2011, its twitter personality changed: it started tweeting much less frequently and then between August - October, it only tweeted twice and hasn't tweeted at all this month. I'm aware they've had a change of personnel in their communications team and it may be that they're reconsidering their approach to social media overall and twitter specifically. But to the outside world, it would look a bit odd and like the account has been half-abandoned.

With Housing Plus, it has been on Twitter for a shorter time (since 21 January 2010) than Testway but has still built up a good 300 followers. It had been tweeting regularly but its last one was on 19 August this year. I know their communications team has had a reorganisation (one of whom, Christine Howles, will soon be joining my comms team at Wolverhampton Homes). It's a shame their hard work building the community will have been damaged by stopping so abruptly without explanation.

It's really difficult to avoid this happening when the people who leave are the ones who've been pushing social media. When people are new in post (or there isn't anyone in post), their head is often spinning just getting to know the organisation. Keeping all the balls in the air without dropping one is practically impossible. The risk is because social media isn't embedded it becomes the most droppable. But to tackle this, the business needs to have truly embedded the ethos of social media far beyond 'so and so looks after twitter'. It needs to carefully manage any changeover, even if the new people feel they want a new approach.
Some organisations have embedded it brilliantly. For example, Walsall CouncilDan Slee, one of their communications officers, does an awesome job managing their multiple social media presences. But from what I've read of the organisation, and its other employees that I know who are on social media, if Dan was to leave, their presence would continue. That is the level of embedded-ness that communications teams should be looking to establish - that social media bigger is than one person, that the organisation truly gets it and that the external reputation management is what guides them to make a seamless transition.


  1. Wow, thanks, Kate.

    It's very true that for a good while the social media presence at Walsall Council was me. But as it dawned on me that social media was another channel to talk to people it seemed daft to have it as just one person.

    You don't have one person handling email for am organisation. So why should the social web be different?

    There is a rota of comms people who look after our Facebook and Twitter presences so I don't have to respond to tweets while I'm watching a Test match anymore.

    Besides, there are some amazing people at the sharp end with some good stories to tell.

    For example, @walsallwildlife is our countryside officer Morgan Bowers. Her boss Kevin Clements is on there too as @countrysidekev.

    Both of them do countryside far better than I can. They use social media with passion and enthusiasm that shines through.

    In short, I'm a strong believer in whoever may be responsible for social media needs to share the sweetie jar. They need to hold the door open for bright people. Help, advise and enthuse definitely. But share too.

  2. Hi Kate,
    You are right - changes within our communications team have meant that we have halted our social media activity for a short time. However we have made sure that we continue to keep in touch with our customers and stakeholders in other ways. Social media forms part of our wider communications and engagement programme, which makes sure we keep people informed and listen and respond to their feedback. We hope to start Tweeting again very soon, but equally don't want to post content for the sake of it. As you say, social media needs to add value rather than simply add to the noise! Normal service will be resumed soon, and in the meantime we are making sure that we monitor what is said about us through social media mentions.
    Stephanie Sullivan, Communications Officer, Housing Plus

  3. Hi Stephanie
    Thanks for your comment. Great to hear you're keeping in touch in other ways and monitoring what's being said. Hope all is going well with your new team and feel free to keep in touch if you ever want to bounce around ideas.


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