Agile marketing is kind of a big deal.
It can help individual marketers have much, much better days while simultaneously delivering major business results to an organization.
It’s not, however, a one-size-fits-all kind of solution. Because agile methods got their start in software development, we marketers need to be open to making changes whenever we find things that don’t quite fit our needs.
Social media has historically been one of the pieces of the marketing puzzle that has been hard to fit into agile teams.
Software developers don’t have tasks that are analogous to managing social media accounts, so there isn’t much in agile’s origins about dealing with this kind of situation.
But that doesn’t mean that recurring marketing initiatives like social media need to be banished from the agile marketing team.
All it means is that we need to approach their integration thoughtfully so we can get the most of adding social media to the agile mix.
Improvements to Social Media Marketing Via Agile Principles
Before we start estimating task sizes and creating an agile social media team we need to determine whether or not social media marketing itself can actually be improved by applying agile principles.
The Agile Manifesto declares that agile teams “value individuals and interactions over processes and tools” and “responding to change over following a plan.”
These two statements alone seem to me to imply that the practice of brand-driven social media could be improved for both audiences and businesses by moving it onto an agile team.
But let’s check out the agile principles themselves to see if we could get even better potential improvements.
Principles of Agile Social Media
Of course, the original 12 Principles of Agile Software were written for software (obviously). But if we make some very slight changes to their language we can see their application to social media marketing pretty easily:
Principle 1: Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable content.
Principle 5: Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
Principle 6: Agile processes promote sustainable social media engagement. The sponsors, marketers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
Principle 9: Continuous attention to social media etiquette and good interaction design enhances agility.
Principle 10: Simplicity — the art of maximizing the amount of work not done — is essential.
Principle 12: At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.
We’ll take these six principles as the supporting foundation to help us understand why we should be taking out social media agile. Now let’s get into how we make that happen.
3 Steps to Integrating Social Media Into Your Agile Team
To give yourself the best chance of success, you’ll need to devote a couple of weeks to the integration process.
First and foremost you’ve got to have a detailed understanding of how much the team is currently spending on social media.
Then, as a group, you need to apply Principle 10 (Simplicity) and determine if there are ways that you could maximize the amount of work not done in relation to social media.
Essentially your goal is to spend only as much time as you need to on social media and no more. You don’t want your ROI to suffer, nor do you want to provide sub-standard experiences for your audience, but you don’t want to be overcommitting to social either.
Finally you’ll need to continually refine and improve on how your team manages social media. Nothing on an agile team should be “set it and forget it.”
Step 1: Detailed Measurement of Social Activities
Warning: this part is going to be a little tedious. Every person on your team who has any involvement in social media needs to track the time they spend on it down to the minute.
Whether it’s creating graphics, responding to direct messages, or engaging in discussions on LinkedIn groups, every single social media task needs to be tracked.
A week of tracking should be enough time to give you an average look at your team’s social media commitments. Then you add all the time up and take a good hard look at the numbers.
Step 2: Simplifying Social
There are two likely scenarios for teams who have never done anything like this before:
One person is spending a huge part of their week on social media and nobody else on the team is really sure what they’re doing
Multiple people are all working simultaneously on similar things because they aren’t communicating effectively.
In either case, it’s time to seriously apply Agile Principle 10:
Simplicity — the art of maximizing the amount of work not done — is essential.
This might mean cutting out entire social channels (*cough* Google+ *cough*), or it might mean changing the tools that you use to create your supporting imagery to minimize the time they take.
Step 3: Restructuring as Needed
Keep in mind that your goal is to create an approach to social media that serves your audience, your team, and your business objectives. This is kind of a tall order, and you may not get it right the first time.
But carefully consider Principle 5 as you discuss options with your team:
Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
If there are individuals on your team who are passionate about interacting with customers and willing to do so in a highly visible and collaborative atmosphere, let them drive the program.
Just don’t put things on autopilot and never revisit them.
Remember, we also need to adhere to Principle 12:
At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.
Social media should be part of all your team’s retrospective discussions: what’s working, what isn’t, and why.
A Word About Social Media Visibility
However you ultimately structure your team, make sure that you’ve got a lot of visibility in place.
This could mean having a card devoted solely to social media that indicates the time commitment for the team, major objectives for the coming days/weeks, metrics, etc.
Or it may be better for your team to have a “Maintenance” card that is a placeholder for all ongoing tasks that take up the team’s time.
Whatever system you choose, you need to ensure that social media has a place at stand up, kickoff, and review/retrospective meetings so it doesn’t return to a place of neglect.
If you have questions about how best to do this given your own team’s specific situation, I’d love to answer them in the comments!