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. 🙂