Andrew Collins
Oct 9, 2015

Three traits of terrible social media teams

Andrew Collins, CEO for the Mailman Group, shares the three worst things agencies can do when putting together a social-media team.

Andrew Collins
Andrew Collins

After spending nearly a decade in the industry, I’ve found that one thing has remained a constant in successfully marketing brands in China.


I've found that when it comes to hiring for social media, often, the key traits that determine success or failure lay outside the traditional mold.

  • Does this person care about the brand with the fire of a thousand suns?
  • Can this potential hire recite by heart the 23 flavors of Dr. Pepper (seriously, where did they come up with this number)?
  • Does this person know that having a BlackBerry is no longer ‘fetch’?

Social-media branding is a double-edged sword that must be wielded with the utmost precision. One false step all but ensures that you will live forever in the infamy of internet faux pas.  

With this mindset, here are what I have found to be the three biggest mistakes agencies make when building their social media teams.

Lack of expertise

The people who drive the brand must be brand experts. By this, I mean that they must know exactly what makes a great team or a great product and why their brand is superior to competitors. This knowledge oozes through into the content produced and ensures that the most impassioned fans don’t call out the brand for lack of knowledge, which would essentially be a social media ‘death sentence’.

A key example of this was seen back in 2008 when Campbell’s Soup called out Progresso for having MSG in their soups despite sporting over 95 soups themselves that included MSG.

This need for expertise is particularly important for more technical brands like cameras, sporting goods, destinations, and other brands with unique features and niche communities. It pays to have been there, to support them or to be a sophisticated user of the products.

Trading off on passion

Ignoring the importance of having team members that are authentically passionate about the brand is a big mistake. Everyone from the account manager to the social media content editors need to buy into the history of the brand. They need to be hyper-aware of the usual and unusual forces that induce followers and fans to passionately embracing a brand.

If this component doesn’t exist within the social-media team, how can anyone reasonably expect for content and campaign to resonate with a brand’s key fan base?

A key example of this can be seen with how we at Mailman hired the Shanghai Manchester United fan club manager to be the account manager for Manchester’s digital presence in China. He already lived and breathed the ‘Red Devil’ life and was more in tune with the Chinese Manchester United fan than anyone with 5+ years of industry experience could have been. The effect of this can be seen by how Manchester United are the most followed club in China, not to mention the leader garners the respect of the local fan communities.

Questionable objectivity

Getting social media wrong can create a ‘PR nightmare’, which can pull a true '180' on the social conversation.

Zhang Xizhe, the face of VfL Wolfsburg’s failed China experiment, was heavily promoted on their social channels when he arrived in Shanghai for the auto show with Volkswagen during mid-season. However, this backfired, and the fans turned on the club, sponsor and player for this appearance, calling the club a joke as Xizhe was missing valuable time that could have been spent training for the season.

Social-media teams must be able to make quick, responsive remarks while also being able to foresee possible negative scenarios.

Andrew Collins is CEO for Mailman Group


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