Blog post

Solving the Distributed Social Marketing Dilemma

By Jennifer Polk | January 12, 2018 | 3 Comments

MarketingContent Marketing and ManagementDigital Marketing Strategy and ExecutionMarketing Data and Analytics


By the time I left a well-known big box retailer in Spring 2011, there were at least 92 people throughout the company who had “social marketing” somewhere in their title or job description. As Director of Social Marketing, in some ways, I felt a sense of accomplishment. I had helped the organization mature from skepticism over the value of social media and frequent references by marketing leaders (many of whom now list their title as Digital CMO) to Facebook as that “that thing my kids use.”

Social marketing had arrived.

Most business units had a budget allocated to the channel—albeit a meager one. They were hiring or dedicating resources, even if those resources included unpaid interns. Some had social marketing strategies, though precious few had successfully connected their social marketing efforts to multichannel marketing or advertising, customer insight or customer care. We’d rolled out social listening tools like Radian 6 (remember that!), built a dashboard and established a Center of Excellence.

But, if more money means more problems, more social marketing managers (never mind experts, gurus and ninjas) all but guarantees issues—from siloes to redundant software. As the number of social marketing mavens mounted so did these and other challenges. We had matured in some ways—the company believed in the power of social media, although they were still learning how to wield that power. But in other ways, we were still in our infancy, lacking alignment to business goals, enterprise-wide technology or governance.

Many marketing teams, such as those in B2C, large enterprises, have survived the dark days of their social marketing infancy, stumbled through adolescence, and emerged with well-planned strategies, well-designed teams, fully-funded budgets and effective campaigns and program. But others haven’t been so fortunate. You need only watch the brand missteps on Twitter, learn of the failed campaigns or tally the wasted budget to see how social marketing expansion could also be its undoing.

Marketing leaders in many B2B companies and regulated industries like financial services and healthcare have a unique opportunity to learn from the best practices and pitfalls of those companies that have come before them. But for those that are still navigating this tricky terrain, here are some pieces of sage wisdom to help you scale your social marketing efforts, overcome common challenges and proactively prevent future issues.

Scale for success

Growing and advancing social marketing takes resources. But hiring more people may be a short-term fix—and one that creates long-term problems if you can’t sustain this investment or offer a career path. Avoid hasty hiring decisions.  Use agencies and consultants for immediate support while you determine the right team size, structure and skill set. Don’t embark on any social program without a resource plan, success metrics and strategy for how your investment supports business objectives—this is key to a scalability and sustainability.

This doesn’t just apply to people.

Scaling social marketing takes the right set of tools, as well as talent. But before you make an investment in social marketing technology confirm you’re buying incremental capabilities not duplicating something you already have. Review each vendors’ roadmap to decide if the tool will meet your needs today and tomorrow. Investigate the availability and cost of an enterprise license and pursue a pilot to solidify your choice, prove the value to the enterprise and secure funding from teams that will use or benefit from the tool.

Establish Governance and Guardrails

Leading distributed social marketing with a command and control approach is less likely to be effective and more likely to backfire than establishing social media governance and setting guardrails. Focus on policies that manage company and brand reputation, protect data and balance authenticity, which is necessary in social marketing, with good business sense. Communicate these expectations and train teams to apply these guidelines, from social marketing managers at corporate headquarters to local field marketing teams and partners.

This week’s Analyst Picks highlight best practices in social marketing, including strategies and tactics for managing and scaling distributed social marketing operations. Gartner’s research also focuses on critical technologies, like social marketing management tools, and techniques, like content marketing. This week’s headlines explore distributed, decentralized and localized approaches to social marketing, as well as examples of companies and brands that have adopted these approaches.






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  • You said “But, if more money means more problems, more social marketing managers (never mind experts, gurus and ninjas) all but guarantees issues—from siloes to redundant software.” – Agreed, and if you’re not providing some form of value-add in the social strategy development space, then you’re likely to be viewed as a mere social facilitator (i.e. of limited value). I don’t see technology as an issue, in the B2B space the challenges are still associated with practitioner skills. By now, those who are able to apply what they’ve learned are actively engaged, the rest are likely to remain bystanders.

  • Scaling a perfect social media movement needs some serious brainstorming to get the best outcome. The mentioned points are very effective to draw my attention towards a successful social media distribution. Presently I am also handling different social media projects and I believe your efforts will work tremendously good for my work.