social media teamBy now, most businesses have some type of social media presence. For many businesses, however, especially small and medium-sized businesses, social media is still treated as an afterthought. As a result, too many businesses are still posting to social media channels in a hit-or-miss, nearly random fashion; they don't track their results, they don't analyze their content to see how it could be improved, and oftentimes, they don't even know which channels are right for them and which aren't.

Businesses that already have social media marketing teams should use 2014 to make sure they're getting the best results from their teams. Businesses that don't have a team should make one. Here's how to build and use a social media team in 2014.

Develop a Strategy That Integrates Social with the Whole Business

Before you charge off to hire a young hot-shot social media marketing whiz, the decision-makers in your business need to sit down to talk about how social media can be integrated into all areas of the business, and then you need to develop a social strategy that focuses on that integration.

For example, businesses like Best Buy recognized early on that Twitter was a great medium for customer service. They were one of first of several enterprise-class businesses that pioneered the use of Twitter for responding to customer questions and customer complaints.

Ask the team leaders within your business, "How can your team use social media to improve customer experience?" Customer service and tech support are two arenas in which social media can definitely help; think through other parts of your business in light of social media in order to integrate your social media efforts with the rest of your business efforts.

Based on the feedback and brainstorming of your team leaders or department heads, develop an integrative social media strategy that reaches beyond merely broadcasting your company's marketing messages.

Define Roles for Team Members

Does your social media team have clearly defined roles that enable them to enact your social strategy in the most effective way possible? Here's one possible team structure, as suggested by social media expert Nate Riggs in a post for Content Marketing Institute:

  • Team Leader: Your social media team's leader should be someone focused on the big picture, someone who can measure the team's overall results against the social media strategy, someone who can lead, who can handle interpersonal issues, and who's a quick-witted problem solver.

  • Conversationalists: The conversationalists are the writers and the editors, the "community managers" who reply to customer questions and comments succinctly, write compelling blog posts and readable ebooks, and who understand that each social media channel has a different culture and tone. They understand how to tweak content from one channel to another and how to encourage good content to go viral.

  • Content Engineers: These guys are the ones in the trenches, the creative types who actually make and help to post new content. They're always hunting for amazing photographs, terrific quotes, and video footage. They're designing infographics and promoting user-generated content. Working closely with the Conversationalists, they create content that tells a cohesive story about the brand.

  • Listening Analysts: The analysts might be the least creative member of the team. They have a head for numbers and data; they're less interested in what's pretty than what improves the team's ROI. They know how to use various tools to listen to social chatter about the brand and interpret the data in order to advise the team where to go next.

Is your team organized like this? If it's not, do you at least have people fulfilling all of the roles above? Leaving any one role out -- for example, having content engineers but no analysts -- can spell disaster for your social media team. If "disaster" is too extreme for you, at the very least, leaving out any one role can lead to a lot of wasted energy and money. Even if you're a small company with a small team, make sure that all of the areas above are getting covered.

Helpful Resources

Conclusion: 2014 is the Year to Improve Your Social Media Process

Social media marketing isn't a responsibility that's going to get any smaller. With audiences fragmenting more than they ever have before, the slice of your overall marketing strategy that is social media and content marketing will only grow, which means you need to get organized, systematic, and strategic about how you approach social.

Do you have insights on how to build and use an effective social media and content marketing team? Have you learned from big failures or big successes? Share your story in the comments section below.

(social media team / shutterstock)