Building A Digital Media Department

“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or services fits him and sells itself.”  — Peter Drucker, author, professor, and management consultant

If you are like most of my clients, you’re probably just beginning to build a social media team. Over the past few years, I’ve seen departments range from a part-time intern managing a digital strategy to a team of eight full-time social media professionals. Every organization operates differently, and each company has access to different resources. Whatever your situation may be, it is possible to create a plan that fits your organization. My recent book Manager’s Guide to Online Marketing breaks down the steps on how to do this and more. As a starting point, I have provided a few bullet tidbits here to help get you started.

No Resources/Small Team
The part-time option is where many companies begin, so let’s start there. If you’re a company of one or simply don’t have the budget to hire a digital marketing team, there are still ways to leverage online marketing effectively. Creating strategies that require a lot of your time or tons of content will quickly overwhelm you. Remember that it’s worse to start and stop than never to begin an online presence.

Consider starting out by creating a self-running group on LinkedIn. One of the smartest things we did at our company before we had access to a team was to create a LinkedIn group and open it to other people. In doing so, we maintained our company brand in front of thousands of marketing professionals while they posted all of the content. It was easy to garner attention when we wanted to promote one of our upcoming white papers or webinars. Since we controlled the group, we could post whatever we wanted to the page.

Some Resources/Medium Team
Perhaps you’re just establishing a digital marketing team and have access to resources that can help kick-start your effort. Often I meet with companies that have a public relations person, an advertising person, an e-commerce person, a brand manager, or a marketing director. More often than not, they are already overwhelmed with their existing workload and now their boss has dumped “figuring out digital marketing and social media” on their laps. Sound like you? Well, there is hope. My suggestion for groups in this position is to form a digital media/social media committee. Agree to dedicate 5 percent of your time to digital media, dividing up responsibilities based on individual expertise. Agree to meet at least weekly, and try to never miss a meeting or reschedule.

Here are some tips for your new committee to get started in digital marketing and social media:

  • Create success metrics. Remember to define “what success will look like” before you begin. It’s better for everyone if you have a clear understanding of what success in digital marketing means before you begin. Start with your end goal in mind and work backwards.
  • Develop a routine. At the initial meeting, determine the committee’s objectives. Consider exactly what each staff member will contribute to the group every week. Evaluate tasks by individual expertise and interest, and align a plan that works with staff schedules. Be sure to have an agenda before each meeting and never end a meeting without defined action steps for the next week.
  • Repurpose content. Several companies have quality content available from public relations or marketing pieces that can be used in social media. I’ve seen companies take sections of their published newsletters and reformat them into an RSS feed reader, then distribute it on their blog, Facebook page, and website in a shareable Web application. Look for videos, stories, or audio clips to repurpose into your social media channels.

Build a Digital Media Department
One day, (perhaps you are here now), you’ll need to operate an entire digital team. Recently, a CMO from the banking industry asked me to design a complete digital marketing organization for him, and I’m providing the same plan here for you. It’s becoming more common to have a c-level executive leading the digital side of marketing. The Chief Social Officer oversees an entire digital marketing organization and is responsible for budgeting, hiring, and business planning. This position should have a pulse on your industry and online marketing expertise with the ability to predict trends. This position leverages relationships with industry analysts to forecast a predicted positive outcome—meaning understanding that the efforts will be successful in the end. Qualified candidates should have several years’ experience in leading a digital advertising agency or come from a digital platform company (Google, Facebook, etc.).


For more in-depth detail on how to successfully build a digital media department, you can purchase my book here.