The most important person in social media doesn’t exist…yet

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Apologies up front if this has been said before (and let’s face it, in the world of social media it probably has…countless times), but I think it’s time for a bit of honesty.

No one has got it 100% right.

And, no one will reach this almost mythical destination for a long while yet.

Why?

I think it’s pretty simple. No one (yet) is willing, and more importantly equipped, to be the hero and / or goat.

Take the emotion, pride and ambition out of the equation, just for a second. Can anyone really lay claim to being that knowledgeable and experienced?

It seems a lot of people want to own social media or be responsible for a slice of it (if it means more budget), but just as many people are scared to death of it (if it means a reputation disaster lands on their desk that they otherwise wouldn’t have had to deal with).

And, I’m not talking about the thousands of bloggers who tell us how it should be done everyday, but the senior people inside each organisation trying to make sense of what is unfolding in front of them…and meet the daily targets set for them.

Lets’ go through the diagram below and then break it down in more detail.

Wanted: The person who doesn’t exist…yet

The person I am referring to is that oddly shaped multi-arrow character in the middle.

How many people do you know that:

a) have experience in all these areas
b) have managed aggressive agencies
c) can pull people together internally whilst massaging considerable egos
d) have the technical appreciation for what is involved
e) can handle a crisis competently
f) can be forward thinking enough to sell creative concepts across the business
g) have the time management skills to pull this all together

This list could go on and on and on.

The problem is that major organisations, ones that are operating in competitive environments, need that person NOW.

Someone has to say the buck entirely stops with them (and enjoy the spoils too).

Usually, it is the CMO who has been ‘gifted’ this potentially poisoned chalice but can he / she really be expected to get under the skin of such a complex area?

The classic CMO might be rich in experience which is vital, but possibly not a connected to the new and emerging formats of communicating.

There is no point waxing lyrical on this subject any longer than I already have (just type ‘who owns social media’ into Google and you’ll find pages of opinions), but perhaps a more measured way of thinking toward this subject is required.

We really don’t know the honest answer yet…or perhaps we think we do, but we don’t yet have the physical solution.

We will, in time, develop structures and roles to manage this tricky but powerful element of the communications mix.

Next steps

Until then, take lots of notes in meetings, keep your eyes peeled, keep your ears open and have a practical think about the type of person that might be suited to this job. And be kind to the people attempting to pull all of this together…they are still learning too.

It’s not just a PR person. It’s not just a digital person. And it’s not just a marketing person. It’s a hybrid of lots of things.

It is someone who doesn’t fully exist yet…but they will be INVALUABLE when they eventually show up.

Adam

NOTE: This post is a prelude to the live Twitter chat I’m hosting with Emily Cagle tonight (31 May) at 8pm UK time as part of the #CommsChat series.

We’re aiming to explore this topic with our community to dispel a few myths and enable a better working relationship between all disciplines.

If you’d like to join the discussion, simply follow @CommsChat for regular updates.

9 Comments

  • Reply May 31, 2010

    Lauren Fernandez

    PR people sometimes feel entitled to say they own the space – which is why I think we have seen it in rampant doses. Just because you work in the communication space does not always mean you’re equipped to do social. Social Media is an enhancement strategy of many different arenas.

    Now that that is out of the way….

    You’re spot on. This is the type of information that all should be paying attention to – especially the concise way it’s stated. Awesome high five for you. 🙂 Some agencies are rapidly progressing toward the model above (Mullen is a great example – @edwardboches, @stuartfoster and @sethsimonds are the smarties over there) by utilizing multiple departments, social strategists and having a combined, integrated effort.

    Social media in it’s form in the present is still a bit new, even if social media has been around for awhile. Here’s the thing: Social media presents a way for PR people to prove their worth to C-Suite. Here is a way that we can quantify results, rather than just present the qualitative of traditional. E-marketer came out with a survey that only 16 percent of marketers are actually measuring social media results. Until that number goes up (and the model changes for many) we can’t claim that.

    The thought leaders are headed toward that – time for the awesome fireworks.

  • Reply June 1, 2010

    Karl Sakas

    You have to be “multi-lingual” — fluent in marketing, PR, design, customer service, and more.

    One current challenge involves incentives — companies want to hire someone who does it all, yet pay them only US$40,000 a year.

    Thanks for hosting tonight’s chat. It’s a great first step to getting things to work together.

  • Reply June 1, 2010

    randy

    Adam,

    Thanks for articulating this.

    As I work in and among businesses I have been sensing a void where the mythical employee you describe would fit perfectly. I think that if an organization were to hire someone with many but not all of the experiences and traits you mention and would then let them grow into the others, this void would be nicely filled and the organization would be all the more cohesive for it.

    But I agree with Karl – the position and skills required for this are way undervalued at this point. A company may know they need a person like this but still can’t (or won’t) justify the cost – yet.

  • Reply June 2, 2010

    Jason Peck

    Great post, Adam! Another idea to consider- there are people out there that could potentially be this person, but aren’t currently, due to the way their companies, departments and roles are structured. Until some of that stuff changes, this person won’t get a chance to shine and show what he/she could really do. I’d be curious to hear what people think about this.

  • Reply June 2, 2010

    Adam Vincenzini

    JP – good shout – it is a process WE all need to go through – it is why at the end I said we should be patient and give people (and organisations) to make this happen. We’ll get there (I think) but it might take some time.

  • Reply June 2, 2010

    Jeff Esposito

    Adam – great post pal. One thing that scares many people is that they don’t want to be the person to step out on the ledge. For marketers it is being responsible and accountable to the customers directly. For PR it is a way to help maintain the online reputation, and as Lauren notes earlier, a way to show hard value.

    Which brings together another fear point – measurement. While I fall into the 16% of measuring what we are doing, it is an area that makes folks queasy because aside from post transaction surveys and turnkey discount links you are still looking at non-traditional measurements like NPS and Sentiment.

    At the end of the day the position will not be a jack of all trades, but know how to manage all the moving parts. The position will also vary organization to organization.

  • Reply June 2, 2010

    Rich Nadworny

    Adam you’ve described a hybrid, a rare bird in the marketing jungle. One of the challenges hybrids face is that the people around them can’t understand or appreciate the talent of multi-disciplinism. But they exist.

    There are other names for them as well, like the T-shaped person. One thing is clear though: Once you find a hybrid to do this, they need a really good team around them for success. Hybrids can drive the marketing, but they can’t do everything themselves.

  • Reply June 2, 2010

    Jenna Petroff

    Spot on post about needing a hub for the wheel, but I don’t think you necessarily need a jack of all trades and a master of none to fill this elusive position. The people (yes, plural) this position was hand-created for are probably already there. They’re on committees, in brainstorms, in the collective willingness of the experts in each field coming together to learn from one another and be inspired to do great things…collaboratively. In fact, I think I’ve met them. Yes, I remember. Cooper, Inspar and Delag Ation. I think they’re related.

    We need to stop thinking of social media a space where one practice needs to own or dominate and stop fanning the egomaniacal flames of the millions of already self-professed social media gurus who already envision themselves in this erroneously perceived pivotal role. There are no superheroes coming to the rescue and there is no magical fairy dust to make you fly here.

    Try a round table in the conference room. And turn the Muzac off so you can actually listen to each other…oh, ya…and your consumers.

  • Reply June 4, 2010

    Adam Vincenzini

    Guys, thanks for your thoughtful comments re: this topic / post.
    I really subscribe to the collaborative approach to social media, reflecting its very nature.
    The only issue I have with this approach is that within most organisations someone invariably has to be the person that can be summoned to the CEO’s office if it all goes t*ts up.
    Until organisations change (which may take a decade, who knows??) what is practical versus what is ideal in a theoretical situation are two very different things.
    Adam

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