Help! I’m trapped in a social media position.

A sign outside of Príosún Chluain Meala

It’s tough being an internal social media champion.  Let’s count the ways.

  • Counterparts decrying how your focus is filled with fluff
  • Industry experts questioning the value of social media roles
  • Media quick to lash out and magnify questionable results as bankrupting failures

When I speak to people responsible for social media efforts, they believe their efforts will have an impact…eventually.  For now, I’m inclined to believe that these pioneers might as well be sending covert messages out as part of their social media activity.  As someone asked me a few years ago, “isn’t everything you do online basically a live job interview?”

Have hope, internal champions.  Why?
  • Your counterparts are getting themselves up to speed with social, just in case this turns into something
  • The most vocal industry experts are usually consultants who are asking to be hired
  • Media needs your input to save their own business model and to provide valuable content along the way 

I’m not sure companies need a chief social media officer, although that’s what these people are, in essence.  I do believe companies need a social business redesign.  But keep in mind that this shift will take years, maybe decades.

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  1. The consulting angle is definitely key for internal/external collaboration. Want another person on your team? Hire an outside consultant who knows their stuff :).

  2. I agree we don’t need chief social media officers… or chief SEO officers… or chief website officers… I would like to see more Chief Digital Officers to optimize the digital and social media opportunities. Even if they report to the CMO — one person responsible for leading the charge on building an optimized digital ecosystem to meet the needs of customers makes sense to me.

  3. My hope is that, in time, social media becomes a team effort that everyone is expected to understand at the very least, and actively use at the very best. Just as basic computer skills are now considered necessary, I think in a few years we’ll all look back on this and say, “Geez, how did we get by before?”

  4. I’m really starting to see the convergence of social and digital as well from a marketing standpoint, Paul. I agree with it to an extent, but I guess I see social as being so much more then that. Especially in the workplace. For example, I can’t help but think that if the LinkedIn platform, not actually itself but the platform and the functionality, became our company’s intranet that we would become extremely efficient.

    If it takes years to decades to implement, Peter, I guess I have a level of job security that some people would kill for, eh?


  5. It’s nice to see that a lot of companies are starting to understand that socializing their internal and outbound efforts is a true investment in their success. While I agree that it’s probably not necessary for a “Chief So-and-So” to lead this charge, it is incumbent upon everyone within an organization to develop a proficiency for this type of communication, whether through one or several channels. Further, consultants should educate companies on how to think across media, as opposed to cultivating yet another discipline (this being social media) that is likely to be siloed along with everything else.

  6. Peter, I like your specifics. It makes a lot of sense. And I don’t think companies need a Social media Officer – they need an evangelist who can show the value of the idea.

    What I talk about when it comes to Social Media is that it’s NOT magic, it’s not FLUFFY stuff, and it’s not a resource drain unless you apply bad ideas, lack of objectives, inadequate or nonexistent support, and poor planning and follow-through to your initiative. Just as any other marketing project, understanding your audiences (and there are always a few for any project), what they need to be motivated AND to solve their problem, and where/how they are most likely to respond will make or break the effort. Social Media is merely part of the mix, albeit with vast potential to reach and engage at the fringe. The companies that understand this the best, come into their campaigns with their eyes open and with reasonable resources to support them, are the ones who are today’s best champions because they CAN show the value.

    Personally, I am one of those people who understands the essence of social media – what it’s for, what’s necessary to make it work, and an interest in helping others’ campaigns be successful. But it’s still a long way off before companies are ready and willing to make an investment in social media catalysts like ourselves.

    But it’s getting better!

  7. I like the way that WholeFoods has approached social media. They created an ‘Integrated Media Division’ which embraces all marketing, web and online, internal training efforts. Looks to me that they’re doing it right both internally as well as externally as far as creating content across many channels and engaging in customer service…
    Although they don’t call the role, “CIMO,” (which sounds cool), the head of the division is a senior position.

  8. Peter –

    Yes, no doubt its incredibly tough to be the person on the hook for pioneering technology, processes and job roles that are being defined on the fly. Agree with Paul that instead of creating a new senior role for every new channel/tactic that comes around – let’s integrate all under one senior hat responsible for making digital WORK across the business (such as Erik’s cite of the Whole Foods case). Otherwise, you’re going to have a lot of “chiefs”, but very few indians 😉

    One other item I would add to your “crap I have to deal with list” for corporate social leaders – Management expects you to meet with every agency and independent guru they know who is talking about social media, regardless if they really understand your business and the CRM strategy you are trying to support.

    Today’s social media environment is achingly familiar of the Web 1.0 heydays of the late 90s…hopefully, we’ve learned something from the past.

    Great points by you and the participants as always.

    Michelle Batten

  9. Social Media will be a skill that broad spectrum of employees will need to learn in order to do their job – the way it needs to be done in the future

    Just as we needed to learn how to use spreadsheets & wordprocessors, a large majority of people in any company will need to learn social media skills and also get comfortable with its cultural mentality. Lacking that new skill will soon become a handicap to any career advancement.

  10. “I’m not sure companies need a chief social media officer, although that’s what these people are, in essence. I do believe companies need a social business redesign. ”

    My thoughts, too. On one hand, I do think it’s a good sign that positions like this are coming up. It’s a recognition of the growing impact of social / interactive media. However, the moment we start defining, we start excluding other meanings. That’s why a social business redesign is the way to go as it provides the broader view. It’s not simply adding a component to the componany structure / proces, but also requires adjustments from existing ones. What ultimately makes sense to change and how everything should complement each other depends on what the business goals are and its vision. I do think it goes beyong integration – thought it’s a crucial part – and demands a rethinking of the business model.

    sidenote: in the search for ‘social media experts’, i hope we always keep an eye out for the unusual and unexpected, the uniqie combinations that can make someone have this role in an organisation. not just the usual marketing and digital experience, or number of followers.

    thanks for the insight!

    — Timi

  11. Boy, did I need to read this after the week I had! I’ve found that as a community manager, my struggles aren’t even the same as my peers. We are all dealing with different dynamics, demographics and communities and there are no one-size-fits-all answers to any situation. Doing what I do is going to make me one of the most marketable folks on the planet, or simply kill me. I’m hoping for the former.
    Thanks for the motivation!
    Angela Connor | @communitygirl

  12. I do believe companies need a social business redesign. — I do too. If they’re more open to this, it shouldn’t take years to get it. I think they still have to figure out how this goes and why they need this.

  13. You know, I was going to throw in my $.02, but instead I think I’ll just say THANK YOU for the clarifying words of encouragement. Because it does get discouraging when “outsiders” constantly question the value of your focus and “insiders” constantly question the value of what you specifically are typically empowered/allowed to do.

    But you’re absolutely right–for the most part, the naysayers on both sides need us as much if not more than we need them.

    Keep on keeping on, dude. 😉

  14. Reading quickly, I read the headline first as “trapped in a social media prison.” Thank god that’s not what you actually, you know, said.

    I’m not sure companies need a chief social media officer, either, and I like the whole Dachis concept of “social business redesign.” But decades? I dunno. Granted, huge shifts evolve an inch at a time. But at the same time, lately, things are moving pretty fast….

  15. Great post. I’d love to be “trapped in a social media position” cuz I wouldn’t find it a trap, but instead a launching pad for tying together many areas of a business that up until recently have been treated as disparate separate entities. The advent of the Internet becoming a marketing, sales and customer service platform wasn’t enough to get most old school companies to re-examine their business practices and the lack of integration in their systems and processes. The social web, however, has pointed out both the drawbacks in the old way in doing things and the opportunities inherent in evolving and knocking down barriers. What an exciting time we are living in.

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