This story features tips and advice from Aaron Miller, General Mills’ Social Media and Marketing Strategist. You can see his presentation from SocialMedia.org’s Member Meeting in Los Angeles here.

“Social is important, not just for marketing, and not just for pushing messages. It’s just as important, or even more important, for actually learning from your consumers,” says General Mills Social Media and Marketing Strategist Aaron Miller at SocialMedia.org’s Member Meeting in Los Angeles.

That’s why he says General Mills had a problem. With over 110 social channels that were almost all run by agencies, their social programs were becoming inconsistent at best, and disconnected at worst. Adding to the chaos, each brand was “doing it’s own thing.”

“We saw from our competitors that if you’re going to be a successful marketer and a successful brand, you need to be using social media and digital tech well. But with the current structure, we were really isolated and fragmented.”

With that in mind, Aaron set out to take back ownership of their brands’ social media channels from the agencies running them.

The goal: Build social community managers who would act as the voice of the brand.

The new plan would use agencies as an extension of their strategy, not their whole team.

Aaron says that by letting agencies run their social channels, General Mills was essentially paying agencies to develop their skills in community management instead of developing their own internally. With in-house community managers, General Mills could learn directly from their consumers while providing more connected and personal customer service.

“We’re building our own institutional knowledge, which I think is important. We, as a company, firmly believe that is not going away. The ability to be successful in social media is imperative for building strong, successful brands.”

To start building this team, Aaron had to make the case for community managers to General Mills.

He started by showing them how much more cost effective community managers are compared to paying for agencies — as he puts it, the “dollars” part of his “dollars and sense” argument.

“That’s an easy story to make, but one that is obviously important for an organization who is very conscious about costs. The harder part was talking about why this made sense for General Mills. We had to explain that when you have community managers who are actually General Mills employees — they sit with the Yoplait team, they sit with the Cheerios team — they feel a bigger connection to that brand.”

Community managers are not there to sell more Cheerios.

Aaron explains, “They’re there to build brand equity, to create preference for the brand, and to raise awareness of the brand. They’re not there to push marketing — they’re there to learn.”

Aaron explains that community manager responsibilities can be relatively diverse. Some of them include:

  • Learning the best way to use each social channel
  • Creating content
  • Building story arcs
  • Protecting the brand reputation
  • Translating what they’ve learned into actionable ideas

Aaron’s job is to keep them all connected.

“If we bring in community managers, my goal was to not lose them to their divisions where you never see them again.”

Instead, he has meetings with them every week. According to Aaron, it’s important to let the community managers create a strong connection with the individual brand while staying a part of General Mills as a whole.

But as Aaron admits, there weren’t a lot of people with community manager experience on their resume out there.

They weren’t looking for people with social media on their resume.

Instead, they looked for people who could be strategically creative: They needed to be able to write, to manage issues, and to work well with other people.

“Do they have a website where I can go look at their work? Because I want to see how they use social media for themselves. It often came down to their qualities — their creativity, their writing ability — more than their actual job experience.”

That’s why Aaron hired community managers with diverse backgrounds: poets, a psychologist, agency talent, and a non-profit worker. They were hiring community managers for their qualities, not their experience.

Going forward, they’ll be working on cultivating a team culture.

Aaron says they’re trying out new tools, working on more agile content development, and looking into (what some social media executives call the Wild West) international cohesion.

You can stop by Aaron’s Twitter to say hi or learn more about his community management team from his Member Meeting presentation below.

General Mills: Building a Team of Connected Community Managers — presented by Aaron Miller from SocialMedia.org on Vimeo.

What do you think?

  • Share
  • Newsletter Signup
  • The Family Album
  • Member Login
  • Meet Our Members

    A + E Networks, Abbott Laboratories, AbbVie, Ace Hardware, Adidas, Advance Auto Parts, Aetna, Agilent Technologies, Ahold USA, AIG, Allianz SE, Allstate, AMD, American Eagle Outfitters, American Family Insurance, American Honda Motor Company, Ameriprise Financial, Amgen, Amica Mutual Insurance, Amtrak, Amway, Analog Devices, Andersen, Aon, ARIA Resort and Casino, Ariba, Arizona Public Service, Arrow Electronics, Assurant, Asurion, AT&T, Autodesk, Avery Products Corporation, Avon, AXA, Barclaycard US, Barilla, BD, Best Buy, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of IL, TX, OK, NM, MT, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, BMC Software, BMW, Boeing, Bosch, Bose, Boston Children’s Hospital, Bridgestone, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Brother International, Brown Shoe Company, Buckle, Burger King, CA Technologies, Cabela’s, Cambia Health Solutions, Canadian National Railway, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Canon USA, Capital Group, Capital One, Career Education, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, Cargill, Catamaran, Catholic Health Initiatives, CDK Global, CEMEX, CenterPoint Energy, Central Garden & Pet, CertainTeed, Chesapeake Energy, Chevron, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Children’s Medical Center of Dallas, Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, Ciena, Cisco Systems, Citi, Citrix, CME Group, The Coca-Cola Company, Coldwell Banker Real Estate, ComEd, Comerica Bank, ConAgra Foods, ConocoPhillips, Corning, Cost Plus World Market, Costco Wholesale, Cox Enterprises, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, CVS/pharmacy, Darden, Dassault Systèmes, Delaware North, DeVry University, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Direct Auto and Life Insurance, Discover Financial Services, Discovery Communications, Dole, Dorel Industries, Dow, Duke Energy, Dunkin’ Brands, eBay, Electronic Arts, Eli Lilly and Company, EMC Corporation, Enterprise Holdings, Ericsson, Erie Insurance, Express Employment Professionals, Express Scripts, Exxon Mobil, Fairmont Raffles Hotels International, Fairview Health Services, Family Dollar Stores, Fannie Mae, Farmers Insurance, FedEx, Ferguson Enterprises, Fidelity Investments, First American, First Republic Bank, Fiserv, Flight Centre Travel Group, Florida Power & Light, FMC Technologies, Fortune Brands Home & Security, Freescale Semiconductor, Garmin International, Geisinger Health System, General Dynamics, General Electric, General Mills, Genworth Financial, Georgia-Pacific, GNC, GoDaddy, Goldman Sachs, Gordon Food Service, Grainger, Hallmark, Harley-Davidson Motor Company, Harman International, The Hartford, Hawaiian Electric Industries, Helen of Troy, Hershey Company, Hewlett-Packard, hhgregg, Hilton Worldwide, Hobby Lobby, The Home Depot, Honeywell, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, Hospira, HSNi, Humana, Hyatt Corporation, ICON Health & Fitness, Ingram Micro, InterContinental Hotels Group, Invesco, Iron Mountain, The J.M. Smucker Company, JCPenney, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Johnson & Johnson, Johnson Controls, Johnsonville Sausage, Jostens, JPMorgan Chase, Kaiser Permanente, KB Home, Kellogg Company, Keurig Green Mountain, Kia Motors, Kindred Healthcare, Kingston Technology, The Kroger Company, Land O’Lakes, Laureate Education, Lettuce Entertain You, Level 3 Communications, LexisNexis, Lincoln Financial Group, Lindt & Sprungli, Live Nation Entertainment, Lockheed Martin, Logitech, Lowe’s Home Improvement, lululemon, Mack Trucks, Manulife / John Hancock, Marriott International, Mattress Firm, McAfee, McDonald’s, McGraw Hill Financial, Medtronic, Meijer, Michelin, Microsoft, MillerCoors, Molson Coors Canada, MoneyGram, Monsanto, Monster Worldwide, Motorola Mobility, Navy Federal Credit Union, NCR, Neiman Marcus, Nestle Purina PetCare, New Balance Athletic Shoe, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, Nintendo, Nissan, Northwestern Mutual, Novartis, NRG Energy, NVIDIA, Old Dominion Freight Line, Old Navy, Orange, Owens-Illinois, P.F. Chang’s, Pacific Life, Patterson Companies, Paychex, Pearson Education, Penguin Random House, PepsiCo, PerkinElmer, Perrigo, Philips, Phillips 66, Pitney Bowes, Potbelly Sandwich Shop, Praxair, Premier Farnell, Principal Financial Group, Procter & Gamble, Public Service Enterprise Group, Publix Super Markets, Quintiles, RaceTrac Petroleum, Rackspace Hosting, RadioShack, Raley’s, Raytheon, RBS Citizens Financial Group, Red Robin, Reebok, Regions, REI, Rite Aid, Roche, Rockwell Automation, Rogers Communications, Rollins, Royal Bank of Canada, Rust-Oleum, Sabre, Safelite AutoGlass, Sage Group, samsung, SanDisk, Sanofi US, Scottrade, Scripps Networks, Sealed Air, Select Comfort, Shell Oil, Shaw Industries, Shire Pharmaceuticals, Solo Cup Company, Sonic Drive-In, Southern California Edison, Southern Company, Southwest Airlines, Spectra Energy, Spectrum Health Systems, Sports Authority, Sprouts Farmers Market, St. Jude Medical, Stanley BLACK + DECKER, Staples, State Farm Insurance, State Street, Steelcase, Subaru, Suncor Energy, Symantec, T-Mobile, T. Rowe Price, TaylorMade-adidas Golf, TD Ameritrade, TD Bank Group, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Texas Instruments, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Thrivent Financial, Tim Hortons, The TJX Companies, Toll Brothers, The Toro Company, Toyota, TransUnion, Travelers, Trend Micro, Tyson Foods, U.S. Bank, U.S. Cellular, UCB Pharma, ULTA Beauty, Union Bank, United, The United States Postal Service, United Technologies, UnitedHealth Group, Universal Parks, Unum, UPMC, UPS, USAA, USG, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Vanguard, Verizon, Visa, Vista Outdoor, Voya Financial, W.L. Gore and Associates, Walgreens, WD, WebMD, Weight Watchers, WellPoint, Inc., Wells Fargo, Wendy’s, Western Union, Whirlpool, Whole Foods Market, Wiley, Wyndham Worldwide, Xerox, Yamaha Motor Corporation, YMCA, Zurich of North America, 3M

Get our free weekly newsletter

A short email packed with updates on what big brands are doing in social media.

Never display this again