Jun 26, 2018

Composition of the Modern Digital Marketing Team

Written by Ekaterina Walter

When it comes to the organizational structure, there is no such thing as a perfect team structure framework. Why? Because each company is different. Large companies have different business units and supporting functions as well as different geographical locations. Some have centralized organizational structures, while others are decentralized. All of it impacts how you form and staff your teams.

In my years leading digital teams inside brands, as well as working with global enterprises across a variety of industries on their digital transformation strategies, I saw similarities in roles that are necessary for the success of the digital marketing function. In this article, I will walk you through just some of the critical ones that you need to consider in shaping your own team. But please note that this list isn’t exhaustive.

Moreover, the most successful teams I’ve seen do the following two things:

  1. Get creative with the roles: The leading brands tend to create new roles and/or hybrid roles as the digital space evolves. They understand that, to truly innovate, they cannot stick to the rigid organizational structures. Innovation often requires doing something others haven’t tried yet or creating roles that are new to the industry. They are not afraid to experiment with strategies and with growing the talent from the inside.
  2. Collaborate across the organization: The best-in-class companies don’t just create teams in a vacuum. Digital is now woven into the companies’ DNA across functions and roles. The best-performing digital teams are the ones that collaborate well with other teams, such as PR, brand, IT, HR, legal, security, and many more. The top leaders realize that, for their global digital strategy to be successful, their teams need to influence other executives within the company and work well with a variety of functional teams across the enterprise.

Keeping that in mind, let’s look at the key roles you need to consider in building out your digital marketing team.

Digital or Social Media Strategist

A strategist on the team – whether he or she focuses on digital in general or social media specifically – is a senior role that can cover a variety of responsibilities:

  • Create a global digital and/or social media strategy that is adopted both locally and internationally. Here, it is important to ensure digital is incorporated into a bigger strategic outlook from the start, instead of being a stepchild.
  • Audit – and often clean up – the brand’s presence across social networks. There should be a unified approach to how the brand is represented both locally and globally on every single social network. Social networking strategy needs to be created.
  • Collaborate with key stakeholders and ensure the team’s strategy aligns with others’ strategy.
  • Work with executives on either educating them on the role digital plays in helping drive business, or advising them on their own personal presence across digital and social.
  • Report on the success of key campaigns and how digital contributes to the bottom-line.
  • Design and lead the digital training across the organization. This function shouldn’t be taken lightly or given to a junior person to run, because no matter how advanced your company might be digitally, there is a constant need for education in this ever-changing space, and training is a critical element to help your team be taken seriously.
  • Create and distribute point of view (POV) summaries around the trends and changes in the digital space and what they mean to the organization.
  • Create blueprints and playbooks for successful campaign execution. 
  • Create a crisis management strategy, plan, and approach.

Community Manager

The role of community manager is critical, because it represents a face of the company and is usually the first line of defense on social networks. My recommendation is to hire a more senior person into this position – and not an intern – because this person will be engaging with your customers daily and he or she needs to have enough experience and stamina to do so in a professional way.

The community manager needs to know and understand the brand and its values, tone, and messaging. He or she needs to balance the needs of the company and the needs of the target community in a delicate way, because, let’s face it, a lot of times they don’t align – the company wants to push its product, while the community wants value-add and entertaining content. The community manager needs to know each single network inside and out, and understand the latest features that the company can use to its advantage.

The right person will also be able to collaborate well with both the content strategist (to figure out which content performs best and what types of media the community wants to see the most) and the data scientist (on the impact of the engagement).

Content Strategist

A content strategist is someone who creates impactful content strategy; collaborates with the branding team and agencies to produce compelling content in a variety of formats for various digital channels; and partners with the community manager to not only distribute the content, but to create the feedback loop with the community on which content performs best.

Business Intelligence (BI) Analyst or Data Scientist

A BI analyst or data scientist looks at the overall business impact of the digital function across the responsibilities of every single team member. He or she builds reporting dashboards and consolidates the data. This individual could also be responsible for the ‘listening’ function – using social listening tools to gather intelligence and understand what consumers are saying about the brand and its specific products, as well as monitoring any potential social media crisis.

This person is also responsible for compiling data from multiple sources and turning it into actual business insights; sometimes a supporting agency involvement is required, as this might take multiple tools and more time that one role can allow for.

Paid Media Specialist

Some say there is no such thing as organic exposure anymore. Due to the ever-changing algorithm across social networks, most brands will need to promote their content to be noticed. There are two ways to approach this role. One is to partner with someone on the media team (sometimes it’s a separate function) and the other is to create a position that would specifically deal with the new ways of digital promotion (starting with social media).

To boost the visibility of the content created by the content strategist and distributed by the community manager, you might need a budget and a person to manage the paid media side of the house.

Program Manager

The program manager is a supporting function across the team. This person, for example, can be responsible for:

  • Managing product launch campaigns (provide support from the digital perspective)
  • Helping manage the elements of the training strategy
  • Handling stakeholder and agency relationships
  • Collaborating with IT on enablement of the digital technological infrastructure within the team and/or across the company

These are just a few of the critical roles to consider as you are building your team. Interestingly, more often than not, team members share in different responsibilities. If your team is small, the members will need to get creative in how they perform the critical roles, and several roles on the list may sometimes be combined under one person until additional people can be approved for hire.

Furthermore, as certain strategies get created and implemented, the roles might change and grow for each person. As certain processes are created, the needs might change and the roles shift accordingly. I have seen that happen, often – it happened to me when I was building digital capability inside a brand. The key sign of the progressive team is its members’ willingness to learn in real-time and adapt their roles and responsibilities as the function evolves over time, together with the market.

Earlier in this article, I mentioned collaboration as a critical factor of a digital marketing team’s success. Examples of key indirect stakeholders you need to work with closely include (but are not limited to):

  • IT – Work with IT on integrating your marketing technology stack.
  • Legal – Work with the legal team on any issues that might come up with the content, disclosures, crisis, and so on.
  • Branding – Align your content strategy closely with the branding strategy; you want to project a single brand and consistent voice across social networks, content pieces, and more.

Ekaterina Walter
Ekaterina Walter

Ekaterina has led strategic and marketing innovation for Fortune 500 brands such as Intel and Accenture. She is an international speaker and author of Wall Street Journal bestseller 'Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook’s Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg'. Find out more about her profile here

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