How To: Prioritize the Social Media Pile

Handling Comms During COVID-19? We've compiled our best resources.

A constant for social media leaders at every company is a heavy workload.  Lately, managing this workload has become a popular topic of conversation in the industry. The reason for the increasing volume of projects is twofold. First, as social is adopted by more departments in an organization, the number of projects naturally increases. Second, after people get a taste of social, they want more.

There are two major challenges with the social media workload: cross-functional accountability and the never-ending onslaught of work. Working cross-functionally is a key success factor and an issue for everyone when it comes to prioritization. Most social teams officially reside within marketing or customer support, but work with 5-10 other business units – which “highest priority” gets addressed first? Regarding the never-ending onslaught, well professionals outside of social face the same seemingly insurmountable force but the speed and volatility of social media add additional burdens.

OK, enough about everyone’s problems, here’s how to prioritize the pile of social media stuff (tasks).  This is an excellent way to evaluate/validate your agency’s activity plus show evidence of industry internally.  These four steps are straight from the K.I.S.S. principle, focus on “doing easy,” and employ some common sense (that’s still allowed right?). Now, you likely have a project management technology to help you organize and track your activity – BasecampAtTaskAsanaSharepoint – and, although they do help, they can’t make the decisions for you.


Social Scratch - prioritizing the social media pileSocial Scratch – prioritizing the social media pile

Step 1: Activity hierarchy. Categorize to-do’s into one of three buckets: Programs, Campaigns, Projects.  This identifies relationships and codependencies among tasks and provides insights to help with Step 2.

  • Programs are initiatives that continue indefinitely. Campaigns and Projects make up Programs. Examples include reporting, writing blog posts (the blog isn’t going away), sourcing content for Facebook posts, responding to customers on Twitter, etc.
  • Campaigns are initiatives that have a defined end date, may be part of a program or standalone and are comprised of projects. Remember they can last as long as a day or several months. Examples include tactics to support a monthly sale or product launch, advertising campaigns, contests, etc.
  • Projects are the most basic elements of activity, the foundation of Campaigns and Programs. Projects are the steps it takes to get things done. They can be simple or complex and last minutes, weeks or longer.

Step 2: Force Rank everything on your plate. That is, assign a specific value to every task beginning with the most important. NEWS FLASH: high-med-low is not the best method of prioritizing the order of what gets done. To determine the almighty “#1” ask the question: what is absolutely the most critical to business operations/continuity? Note, it’s essential to perform this exercise collaboratively with supervisors and senior management in order to incorporate a robust perspective and keep colleagues on the same page.  What may seem mission-critical to a director may not be top of the list for a VP.

Step 3: Parallel Path for success – this is paramount. One has to manage many programs, campaigns and projects from many departments. To set the enterprise ship in the right direction quickly, satisfy cross-functional responsibilities and generate continued buy-in, one must run several activities concurrently. Be advised that this really doesn’t come natural for some people and they are uncomfortable with this type of work environment. Social certainly isn’t for the person who works on project B only after A is finished. Successful parallel pathing requires self and team discipline, clear roles and responsibilities, defined tasks and a reliance on teammates.

Step 4: Go after key wins early and often. “Everybody loves a winner” couldn’t be more true especially when it comes to the hottest topic on the corporate block aka social media. Key wins vary from biz to biz but can be as mission critical as a report for the CEO or run-of-the-mill like a viral Facebook post or rapid response to a customer care case on Twitter.  Key wins demonstrate value to the organization and validate executives’ decisions to staff and fund the unit.  The magic is first in executing the win and second in publicizing it appropriately throughout the organization.


*Social Scratch is a series of sketches that conveys concepts quickly and clearly. I’m not a graphic designer. Napkins are played out.

Author Bio: Joe Nolan‘s fresh perspective on everything social lives at and can also be found on Twitter @Josephjnolan. He is a thought leader on social business and technologies, as well as reputation management.

Recent Posts

Cision Blogs

  • Communications Best Practices

    Get the latest updates on PR, communications and marketing best practices.

  • Cision Product News

    Keep up with everything Cision. Check here for the most current product news.

  • Executive Insights

    Thought leadership and communications strategy for the C-suite written by the C-suite.

  • Media Blog

    A blog for and about the media featuring trends, tips, tools, media moves and more.