Make Sure Your Social Media Evangelists Feel the Love

While writing my last post, I got to thinking about all of the conversations I’ve had with the talented, ambitious, entrepreneurial colleagues I’ve gotten to know over the last few years. Most of these individuals serve, in some fashion, as social media evangelists – they’re the ones leading the charge to get their organizations on Twitter, to start blogging, to start using new technology to really change how their organizations operate.

Image Courtesy of Flickr User AndYaDontStop

I quickly realized how valuable these people are to me, not to mention how valuable they are to their own organizations. They’re always willing to share best practices, war stories, and valuable content that I can use every day.  They inspire me as I see what they’ve been able to accomplish in similar bureaucratic environments.  They seem to make everyone around them happier through their enthusiasm for using social media to connect with people.  Their ambition and passion drives others to want to do more, to try new things, and to work together to solve problems.

When I talk with these people’s peers, I hear similar stories – about the innovation they’ve enabled, the initiatives they’ve championed, and the value they’ve provided others. These social media evangelists are clearly recognized by their peers (and often, by their competitors) for making a difference and being an invaluable part of their organizations.

However, when I speak with these social media evangelists themselves, I often hear a very different story. It’s not that they aren’t appreciated – they are. It’s more that their managers haven’t figured out how to appreciate them. Rather than hearing all about the promotions, raises, or awards that I would expect to hear about from employees as valued as they are, I hear things like:

  • “Sure, I may be the “Director of Social Media,” but I don’t have any authority to make decisions and wasn’t given a budget or a team to actually scale this effectively.”
  • “My bosses say they love the work that I’m doing, but I haven’t been promoted yet, because they don’t have a progression model for someone who does social media.”
  • “I’m constantly getting recruiting calls from other organizations and headhunters because they recognize the value that I bring, but I don’t think my boss even understands what I do.”
  • “Why am I putting my butt on my line to bring about some real change in policies and culture, when I get the same raise as the guy who keeps his head down, does his job, and goes home at 5:00?”
  • I love working in social media – I feel like I’m getting an opportunity to make some real changes here, but damn, it’s exhausting constantly trying to get buy-in for my initiatives and justify my existence.”
  • “I’ve met and worked with people from across other teams throughout the organization, but because those teams fall outside of my boss’s area of responsibility, I don’t receive any credit for that work.”

If, by most accounts, these social media evangelists are highly valued for their contributions by their peers, colleagues, and competitors, why then, do they not feel like they’re valued members of their own organization?  Why aren’t they moving quickly up the corporate ladder?  Why do they feel exhausted and frustrated (but simultaneously excited and motivated)?  Why are these social media evangelists highly sought after by recruiters and competitors, yet often ignored or misunderstood by their own management chain?

If you’re the manager for one of these social media evangelists, here are five ways to ensure that they do indeed feel the love:

  • Do some research about social media and your organization. Go beyond just what you see on the status reports and performance reviews and find out exactly what impacts this person has had.  Reading “starting the organization’s Yammer network” doesn’t sound all that impressive until you actually join the network and see thousands of people from across the organization collaborating with each other in ways that were impossible using existing technology.
  • Talk to other people. What’s been the real impact of this person’s work? This impact doesn’t have to be measured in dollars and cents. Have they empowered others to become more innovative? Has their work resulted in changed policies and practices that have opened doors for other initiatives? Find out exactly how their peers look at this individual and why.
  • Realize that your traditional business models and performance reviews may need to be adjusted. You can’t tell someone they’re a high performer and you value what they bring to the organization, but fail to promote them or give them a raise because they may not fit nicely into your existing models. Work with them to identify ways to keep them moving up the corporate ladder without destroying their creativity and ambition.
  • Consider using non-traditional rewards. The social media evangelist loves getting promotions and raises (who doesn’t?), but they also highly value rewards that make their work easier and allows them to be more effective. Instead of the traditional “Great job!” certificate or Starbucks gift card, consider giving them an intern that can help them with their day-to-day work or a small yearly budget that they can use to purchase specialized software (Photoshop, etc.) or hardware (Flip cameras, additional RAM, etc.).
  • Support their initiatives. Check in regularly and ask if there’s anything you can help with – that may be something simple like sending an email to the team to show that you support what they’re proposing or setting up a meeting for them with a member of the organization’s leadership to discuss his/her plans and dreams.

Most importantly (and this is the easiest and most effective tactic), make sure that you actually care about the work that they’re doing. This may sound like common sense, but every time you giggle when this highly valued employee says the word “tweet,” know that a small part of him/her is dying. They take their jobs very seriously and have spent many many hours trying to help others understand the work that they do – the last thing they need is to have to explain what a wiki is to the person who’s supposed to be their biggest champion. Remember that while these people may present additional managerial challenges, they’re also some of your most entrepreneurial, ambitious, innovative, and passionate employees. Make sure that they’re feeling the love from you, because if they’re not, there are many other organizations searching high and low for people just this who are more than ready to show them the love.

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About sradick

I'm an SVP, Senior Director at BCW in Pittsburgh. Find out more about me here (

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19 Responses to “Make Sure Your Social Media Evangelists Feel the Love”

  1. maggielmcg Says:

    No comments? Ok, I’ll be the first. It’s hard because those of us who feel this way–and it is comforting yet sad to know there are others in addition to myself–can’t really talk about it because a) you don’t want to come off as whiny–I mean, you are getting paid to do Twitter and Facebook all day, how hard can it be, right? (joke…but I’ve had this comment many times!) b) the job market is still worse than iffy and with employers doing their social media due diligence you never know who’s reading what so you have to be careful about what you say about your employer these days. That said, social media/community management is a fun, exhausting, overwhelming, frustrating, rewarding job…just depends on the day. But one thing is for sure: it is definitely a job with very high burnout potential, especially when as you say, it mostly involves daily uphill battles, uncomfortable turf issues, and the constant pressure/fear that the higher ups will decide enough is enough and pull the plug on the whole thing.

    A few things I would add to the nontraditional rewards and compensation suggestions you make:
    1) Social media management is not a 9-5 job. Give people in this position some flexibility in their schedules to accommodate the reality that their workday doesn’t stop at 5 pm or their work-week on Friday. Consider allowing additional telecommuting or comp time for all the extra time people in these jobs must spend working outside of traditional work hours.
    2) Social media is always changing and there’s always something to learn. Allow and encourage employees in this role to attend networking functions and other professional development activities and don’t ride them about being away from the office. And if your budget doesn’t allow for you to pay for professional development, at a bare minimum, don’t make them take annual leave to attend events they’re paying for out of their own pockets that apply directly to their jobs.
    3) Simple, frequent “thank you for all your hard work” will go a long way toward making these people feel valued and help them resist the temptation of other offers–which, as you say, are plentiful and will only become more frequent as more and more companies begin to hire for this role.

    • Anonymous Says:

      GREAT comments Maggie! Thanks!

  2. CynicFan Says:

    Whaaaa Whaaaa. Steve, you of all people should realize that the fundamental way to get recognized in an organization is to improve the bottom line. If you want recognition, talk the language of business–MONEY. Show them how you’ve improved the bottom line, increased productivity, increased revenue and then the money will flow. Think of all the underappreciated engineers, scientists, and other creative types who labor for years before their research/work yields the new product, the new discovery that makes the company MONEY.

    Quitcher bichin and demonstrate real value, then watch the money flow. Don’t talk about traditional business models not fitting social media, non-traditional rewards etc. This is a competitive world and if you want rewards then hard work isn’t nearly enough. You must demonstrate your impact on the bottom line. If you can’t then get the heck out of that social media world. You are wasting time twittering and facebooking all day and trying to justify it as a job.


    • Anonymous Says:

      Tim – my point here is to say that this is a two-way street. There are plenty of “how to get leadership buy-in” or “how to get top cover” social media posts out there. I wanted to make the point that managers must play a role in this too. Not everything ties directly to money either – sometimes it’s as simple as improving morale, capturing and sharing intellectual capital, etc. I would argue that this applies to those underappreciated engineers, etc. too. An engineer in the R&D department can still be a highly valued employee even if he’s not the one who came up with the iPod. He contributes in other ways day after day after day. It’s the managers job (and the employee’s job as well) to recognize and reward this value too.

      • CynicFan Says:

        You miss the point Steve. Morale is directly related to effectivity and productivity=Money. Intellectual Capital is the fundamental value=Money.

        Leadership buy-in follows the demonstration of money (i.e. value to the corporation) no matter how it is expressed as long as it is measurable. Leaders don’t last long if they forget that their actions must positively affect the bottom line.

      • Anonymous Says:

        @CynicFan – your username has never been more true than it is now. This is a sad and really cynical view of how things work. Morale is NOT directly related to effectiveness and productivity, nor it is solely related to money. Your premise that “leaders don’t last long if they forget that their actions must positively affect the bottom line” might be accurate if you replaced “leaders” with “managers.” But true leaders lead for what’s right – oftentimes that means making money, but it can also mean losing money, but doing what’s right as well (e.g., voluntary recalls of defective products lose a TON of money, but the leader who makes that decision knows that it’s the right thing to do).

  3. John Hanlon Says:

    This article looks like it was written just for me. This is exactly how I feel.

  4. JasonPeck Says:

    You’ve touched on an important issue here. I think if you really want to keep smart people around, you have to empower them to make their own decisions. From my personal perspective, other than more money, that’s what the people that are really leading change through social media and new platforms/technologies in their organizations are looking for. I don’t mean just give a new hire the freedom to do anything/everything, but if they’re demonstrating results and show a solid understanding of strategy/processes, let them run with things.

    At some point, we do get tired of explaining things like Twitter and always having to work more than others to get our initiatives implemented. If you empower these people to make decisions and not have to get approval for every little thing, it will make their lives easier, things will move faster, and results will improve. Don’t just give them an intern–tell them to hire their own interns and train them. If they’re good and help generate more results, let them hire their interns full-time.

    I also agree with Maggie that learning and being able to attend industry events is a must.

    I’m lucky to be in a place where people appreciate what I’m doing and I have a lot of freedom to make decisions without having to justify every little thing. But I definitely have heard from many others who don’t feel appreciated and who have to fight for everything.

    • Anonymous Says:

      Thanks Jason – this goes right in line with something that I’ve told my clients many times. For your org’s social media initiatives to be successful, you have to approve the person, not the content. You can’t tell someone they’re in charge of the agency’s Twitter account, only to force them to get each tweet approved. Identify the right person, arm them with the right information and resources, give them a process for when things go south, and then tell them to go and do.

  5. SRA_One (SRA International OP) Says:

    Twitter Comment

    RT @sradick: What are you doing to make sure that you retain your social media champions? ([link to post])

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  6. sradick (Steve Radick) Says:

    Twitter Comment

    Are you a social media evangelist who feels underappreciated? Are your managers showing you the love? ([link to post])

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  7. sradick (Steve Radick) Says:

    Twitter Comment

    Managers, make sure your social media evangelists are feeling the love! ([link to post]) #gov20 #prchat

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  8. ems122 (Elizabeth) Says:

    Twitter Comment

    RT @sradick: Managers, make sure your social media evangelists are feeling the love! ([link to post]) #gov20 #prchat #socialmedia

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  9. TedNguyen (Ted Nguyen) Says:

    Twitter Comment

    So true! RT @sradick: Managers, make sure your social media evangelists feel the love! [link to post] #gov20 #prchat #pr

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  10. ScottHorvath (Scott Horvath) Says:

    Twitter Comment

    RT @sradick: Managers, make sure your social media evangelists are feeling the love! ([link to post]) #gov20 #prchat

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  11. sradick (Steve Radick) Says:

    Twitter Comment

    What are you doing to make sure that you retain your social media champions? ([link to post])

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