Joy Hays and JD Link on reconciling AT&T and DIRECTV’s social channel ecosystems into one

“Do or do not, there is no try when it comes to a merger,” says AT&T's Director of Digital and Social Media, Joy Hays.

With the merger between AT&T and DIRECTV, her team was tasked with reconciling the two social ecosystems into one. But, they weren't just looking to solve the problem for today. They were looking ahead to 2020.

In her presentation at our Brands-Only Summit, Joy, along with AT&T's Director of Communications and Media Analytics, JD Link, explains their approach to assessing their current social presence and optimizing it for the merger between AT&T and DIRECTV.


First, they took a look at AT&T's social presence from the inside and outside.

Looking internally, according to JD, 90 percent of their followers were following just 10 accounts, and 20 percent of their accounts hadn't been published to in over three months. In 2015, they had over 200 national channels and more than 3,000 local and regional channels across AT&T and DIRECTV.

From the outside, they assessed what consumers actually see and compared it to what other brands were doing. “Here's a secret,” says Joy, “there is no one way to be best in class. Everybody has different product mixes, and they're all set up differently.”

What they found was a pattern in how brands order their social media presences.

They discovered that most major social presences were either brand-only, brand-led, product-led, or scattered:

  • Brand-only: Brands like American Airlines with one prevailing social focus on the brand
  • Brand-led: Like Microsoft, these have a strong brand presence and product levels that ladder back up to the brand
  • Product-led: Brands like Nike and EA focus at the product level. “Football fans are not the same as running fans, so that's where they develop their community,” Joy explains.
  • Scattered: This is a decentralized model with overlapping, sometimes international, industries

ATT presentation

They discovered that AT&T and DIRECTV sat halfway between a brand-led and product-led model.

Next, they ranked and analyzed the social channels AT&T could and should be a part of.

They started by comparing their current social presence to the channels the U.S. population was participating in. And they discovered that their current state was more reflective of the social channels people were using three years ago.


They used that knowledge to assess each social channel and give it a score.

They based the score on how it aligned with their corporate priorities, if it had a defined purpose, the size of the channel, the quality of the channel, and its potential to grow both qualitatively and quantitatively. Then, they presented these scoring cards to their stakeholders.

“We all know social media is a mix of art and science,” Joy says, “but when you get to the executive level, it's hard to just say, ‘There's an art and science to this.' So in order to make it easier for them, that scoring card method gave them a number they understand and is intuitive for where they rank across factors we thought were important.”

For the first round, Joy and JD held 129 stakeholder meetings.

“I think, by and large, getting through to the stakeholders was the most difficult aspect,” says JD. “But,” Joy says, “It can be done, and it was done.”

She explains, “The first one to the deck wins.” You have to come in with a plan, know what you're asking of them, and have your research and your numbers ready to back you up when you come into the stakeholder interview.

“If you're in the midst of a merger, that dark period beforehand is the optimal time to start planning,” says Joy.

She says that she knows that can be difficult, considering as a social leader, you're also handling your day job while taking on the research and planning.

“But there's no better investment of time than that period when you're getting information from the other group to lay out how you want to move the company forward.”

“What's the key to success? Blood, sweat, and tears,” says Joy.

Watch the full presentation here to learn how Joy and JD leaned on governance to support the process and to hear a Q&A from other social media leaders in the room. Both JD and Joy have been members of with AT&T since 2014. Joy also joined the group as a part of Texas Instruments in 2011.