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February 14th, 2012

How Much is Too Much? Best Practices for Streamlining Corporate Social Accounts

Brands often find themselves facing the difficult question of how many social media accounts is too many? What divisions within the company are allowed dedicated social media accounts? Which ones should have their social efforts integrated into broader corporate accounts?

The answer for each company may be different, but it should be based on the core principles of frequency, topic, purpose, duration, local needs, and discoverability. In order to identify which divisions or initiatives warrant a dedicated social account, a brand must consider questions such as: What topics does the account cover? How frequently is it updated? How does it differ from broader corporate accounts? Is there a specific geo or language need? Are there individual evangelists within the company who can be the voice of the initiative on social?

Below is a sample framework from which to review existing accounts for consolidation and to evaluate new social account requests from specific teams. Note that in this post, an “account” refers to a team, program, or region’s social presence; one “account” can include Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and other relevant platforms.

  • Frequency: Regular and sustained updates should be the number one consideration. Maintaining dozens of largely dormant, topic-specific social accounts not only clutters the brand’s overall social experience; it also confuses followers and dilutes the impact of the most critical centralized accounts. A general guideline is to ensure that no social accounts are updated fewer than two times a week. Beyond that, however, it is also critical to maintain regular engagement with fans and followers; an account that simply syndicates links to press releases or blog posts twice a week will not cut it.
  • Purpose: Each official corporate account must have a unique purpose and rationale. For example, a marketing team for a single specific product likely wouldn’t require their own dedicated social profile (there may be exceptions for products that are brands in and of themselves). Instead, this content can often be folded up into an account that covers a family of products, all products, or a centralized corporate account.
  • Topics: Similar to the above point, each social account should cover unique and different topics. If overlap exists, you can generally consolidate multiple accounts under the umbrella of a single account. When evaluating a new account request, a good stress test is to request an initial editorial calendar for the account – make the requesting team put some thought into the content they want to send out over the first month. Compare this proposed content to the existing topics covered by other accounts to see how much overlap exists. Then ask the requesting team to either adjust their focus or join in under another umbrella account.
  • Duration: Social accounts by their very nature should be designed as ongoing communications channels, not temporary accounts to support a short-term initiative or event. There may be rare exceptions where an account can be set up to support a short-term initiative, but there must a very compelling reason to create a new channel. Instead, consider a dedicated hashtag for use across other corporate channels in support of the short-term initiative.
  • Global Geos: Because geos across the globe often have different areas of focus, different audiences, different timezones, and even different languages, most brands maintain geo-specific social accounts to fulfill the localized needs and reflect an understanding of local intricacies. The key here is to leverage local teams’ knowledge of what unique elements are going to best resonate with local audiences. Typically we’d recommend no more than 2-3 accounts per geo, but there should be flexibility based on language needs and specific team/content needs.
  • Discoverability: Be sure to make it easy for visitors, fans, and customers to find and engage with the corporate social handle most relevant to their needs. Each team should be responsible for promoting their own social channels to their key customers, partners, and stakeholders. In addition, be sure to maintain a centralized resource with links to all of the corporate accounts; this often takes the form of a dynamic, easy-to-find social landing page on your site.

These core considerations can help streamline the brand online and minimize confusion. Keep in mind, though, that each brand’s needs are different; your brand may see value in maintaining dozens of accounts dedicated to specific items or in centralizing everything under a single account.

Either way, don’t overlook individual evangelists. Chances are you’ve already got a bench of experts at your company who are active online and who cover all sorts of relevant topics on their own. Leverage these resources as ambassadors for the brand – first equip them with training and governance, and then set them free to build relationships and expand the reach of your brand.

These folks already have a social audience you can tap into, an expertise to demonstrate to key stakeholders, and an ability a corporate channel does not have to build relationships and engage on a personalized level. No, you don’t want to hinge your entire social strategy on an individual who could leave the company, but building a broad bench of internal evangelists can “diversify your assets” and simplify your corporatesocial channels.

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