The Social Media Strategists – Do we need them?

Last week, I replied to a list of questions that Kevin posted on the topic of “would you hire a social media strategist?” . It’s an interesting question, – one that many of us in marketing, communications, PR, new media field are questioning.

I’ve given my replies to Kevin and looking forward to his next post on the compilation of thoughts from different people on the topic. (part 2 of his post was updated here) Meantime, I am gearing this post to a different direction. I am more interested to understand what the “social media strategists” themselves (and here, I mean, those who do it for living and not bloggers who blogs for fun or passion and charging people for attending event, calling themselves experts) think of their value to companies and the audiences.

Are they merely the connector between the clients/ companies they represent and the audiences? Will the role be a “stand-alone” or an integrated one , meaning this person will at the same time, manage other forms of communications ie: marketing/ traditional PR?

Are social media strategists in our midst explaining their roles clearly to us (the employers or even the mass audience). They are another layer of (for the lack of better word) “barrier” between companies and the audiences now, and if so, what does this layer do?

Steve Rubel presented an interesting post on his views about “3 internet careers that soon won’t exist” and one of them is a social media manager/ strategist.

Jeremiah Owyang, responded in his post “The need for the social media manager” . However, he also agreed that “social media skills will eventually become a normal bullet point in nearly every marketing resume…”

As far as I know, most of the social/ new media experts are sitting in the same offices and integrated into public relations agenciess that runs a digital department.

So, back to Kevin’s question, what qualification does a social media strategist need? I believe, to answer that, we need to ask, “what is the exact role of a social media strategist?” and from there, we can see the skill sets required.

To me, right now, this person should be a voice for the people/ audiences and at the same time, an evangelist for the companies/ agencies they represent. This person, shouldn’t be just an expert in technology or the “new” media. How do you actually know what’s NEW when you have no experience in the “old”?  For a start, i have a strong urge to say, a bullet point in the social media strategist resume should be “communciations skill” and being a strategist will also require him/ her to have some business sense. Otherwise, why would a company hire you if it’s not making a difference to the business?

Heh, i can see my social media strategist friends sending me hate mails soon. :)

 

 

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8 Comments

  1. Avinio

     /  April 26, 2008

    Mmmm from my point of view, and as someone who’s into social media, and helping companies, i think people still need social media strategics :) why? first, to teach companies how to act, second, checking for the,m what’s hot and what’s not, and if i could write an article instead of comment, it was even better ;)

    Reply
  2. There’s been a lot of talk about this. Will it normalize, or will we need dedicated roles.

    Rather than focus on technologies (that come and go) let’s focus on customers.

    If we’re meeting customers online, helping them and talking with them, we’ll need dedicated roles to handle this relationship –just as we would in person.

    So the need for online communications will certainly occur, and key roles will be needed.

    BTW the link to Kevin should be social media STRATEGIST, not socialist.

    BTW: I miss singapore

    Reply
  3. I’m going to maybe speak out of turn here because I’m not actually working in the field, but I think we do need social media strategists.

    As a consumer, I look around at the many brands/products/services I encounter, and wish so many of them had a way for me to actually interact with them.

    I think especially for companies dealing with the younger age groups, they need to move to social media. And not in the way that many are approaching it with right now, ie trying to swoop in and expect an immediate reaction. I think the building of relationships and community takes a much longer time, something with companies may not have the patience for.

    One of the big questions I have is whether corporations would bother paying someone to fulfill this role.

    Reply
  4. Hey you’re blogging again! :D

    I agree with the point that the social media strategy role is a very specialised one. While it’s a tad too early to say whether such specialist roles will cease to exist, I believe that just like the evolving nature of the internet, such roles will also evolve over time whether in an integrative fashion to cover the other aspects of communications; or into something else altogether.

    Reply
  5. I think that there has been far too much emphasis on the “Strategist” part and not enough on the “Social” part of the equation. Relationships do matter – a lot – in the serendipitous world of social media, and this is especially so in Singapore (as I believe in the rest of Asia). Like it or not, the concept of giving face still matters, and certain cultural traits do get conveyed in the blogosphere.

    While dyed-in-the-wool advocates of social media may disagree with me, I believe that one still needs to integrate “old” marketing and PR strategies with the new and dizzying world of social media. You cannot expect to sell something in any space – real or virtual – without first securing the trust of your customer, and making him or her go through the psychological process involved in the buying decision. Similarly, one needs to be clear about the benefits offered by one’s product, its price point, the services and “value added” that comes with it, as well as the channels that are used to distribute it.

    Finally, I think that there has been an over-emphasis on theory and strategy and an under-emphasis on implementation and results in the new media arena. You may be surprised that the best guys to get the word out there in the social media networks – at least in Singapore – may be the most amateurish, most nonsensical and least intellectual bloggers in the business. However, they have tonnes of raving fans. And that’s what counts ultimately isn’t it?

    Reply
  6. Ed

     /  May 7, 2008

    I feel that we need (Online) Community Managers more than Social Media Strategist. Take for instance my recent experience with Docstoc.

    I signed up just a while ago to retrieve some interesting documents I found there. Kat was quick to drop me a mail, welcoming my usage and slight sharing of the changes to come for them. Best of all, it wasn’t one of those template mail I have received. Not surprisingly, it gave me that feeling of “oh, I’m being noticed and brought into the family the very minute I stepped in…”

    A strategist can often propose a lot of ideas for adoption, due to their indepth studies and observations. It will come down to the point whether the recommendations are executed. Afterall, Social Media isn’t about putting something online and that’s it.

    Reply
  7. oldskoolmark

     /  May 8, 2008

    Heys Priscilla!

    I agree we do need a social media strategist for now although in time it should be in the DNA of every PR or communication specialists. However, i just did a post on “Crisis Management: is social media the way to go?” and i think a social media strategist would be really useful in a such a case.

    Reply
  8. This is very up-to-date information. I’ll share it on Delicious.

    Reply

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