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Cross-Functional Social Media Teams Improve Social Media ListeningMost companies aren’t organized to deliver the service that customers expect on social media. Marketing personnel often oversee social media. They create and post social media content; they also monitor social media for customer comments. Sometimes they answer customer comments; sometimes they forward the comments to the customer service staff. But marketers lack the training to answer customer complaints or other non-marketing issues.

That’s a serious dilemma in an environment where more customers prefer to use social media for customer service. Almost half (47 percent) of customers  prefer to complain to companies on social media while 42 percent send emails, and only 35 percent make phone calls, according to a Sprout Social survey. Some, of course, use multiple contact methods.

More experts urge companies to break down department silos and create cross-functional social media teams. That allows marketers to work with other departments to monitor social media, gain its full benefits and better serve customer needs.

Cross-functional social media teams can better match the right employees to customers at the right time, depending on their stage in the buying process, writes digital marketing expert Keith A. Quesenberry, assistant professor at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, PA, in Harvard Business Journal.

David Packard of Hewlett-Packard once said that marketing is too important to be left to marketers, Quesenberry says. Similarly, social media is too important to be left solely to social media marketers.

Social Media Monitoring Examples of Major Brands

Recognizing the importance of social media listening, many leading brands have restructured departments.

In a typical marketing-centered approach, the marketing department at Hertz Corporation, the car rental company, monitored social media and forwarded customer complaints to customer service. Customer service agents would then reply to marketers who posted answers on social media. Now, customer service agents can access social media listening tools directly and quickly respond to complaints.

Some organizations, such as gourmet burger chain Five Guys, emphasize a decentralized, local approach. Owners of local franchises have their own social media accounts so they can market local promotions and respond to customers directly.

McDonald’s intentionally blends staff from communications and customer service areas. Its communications staff can handle brand questions and conversations, but experienced customer service represents are better suited for service issues. The fast food chain, which sees about 2.5 million brand mentions a month, uses a triage system to prioritize responses. Like other brands, McDonald’s has learned that social media monitoring and measurement can aid product research. Social media listening was instrumental in its decisions to bring back its Szechuan sauce and to provide breakfast food all day.

Nissan says it follows an unconventional road to social media listening. to breach departmental silos and bring the benefits of social media to the entire organization. Rather than placing social media listening under the umbrella of the marketing, PR or customer service department, Nissan’s has a stand-alone social media command center with its own space at the company headquarters.

The Value of Sharing Social Media Data

Integrating social media data is one of the major hurdles to gaining the full benefits of social media monitoring and measurement. PR or marketing departments, which frequently oversee social media monitoring, often fail to share social media data with sales, customer service and product development departments that can also benefit from analysis of social media data. Other departments often uncover information or develop insights that the PR and marketing staff might miss.

Feeding media monitoring results across department silos ensures that all areas of the organizations can access the wealth of information. Centralized repositories of social media monitoring data to allow HR, finance, administration, sales, product management, security, and IT departments, as well as marketing and PR, to access the data

Sharing information is especially important for proper PR crisis management. Media monitoring provides essential information before, during and after a crisis.  “A social media crisis has information asymmetry. When the company does not know any more than the public about what’s going on … when your plane lands in the Hudson River, and you start seeing Twit Pics of it, that’s information asymmetry – the first sign of a social media crisis,” Jay Baer, president of Convince & Convert. That’s when social media listening must reach into the highest levels of the organization.

Bottom Line: Although social media marketing teams typically oversee social media listening, they’re not all that well-suited to handle the many issues that arise on social networks, especially customer complaints. Cross-functional social media teams can quickly resolve customers’ problems as well as help the entire organization reap the benefits of social media monitoring and measurement.