Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, but ever since I was hired in my new role at PEAK6 Online, I have rallied against having social media in my title.
I believe the title I was officially hired to fulfill was social media specialist. It probably still is as far as HR is concerned for the time being, however my role has shifted a bit to include traditional PR communications and media relations as well as social media strategy. This means my title has shifted – at least informally and throughout a lot of the internal and external communications to be noted simply as communications manager.
Social Media Is NOT a Vocation
I tend to agree with Chris Brogan’s assessment, that social media is better defined as a set of tools and tactics people use to accomplish larger business goals rather than as a vocation. And, as a bona fide social media manager, Kat French feels differently and I believe there is an important distinction between her role and mine – she works for an agency and I have an internal company position.
Even though I don’t believe Kat’s vocation is limited to social media, I think agencies are often contracted to help companies understand how to implement social media into their PR and marketing communications mix. In short, outside agencies and consultants are hired for their expertise. So are employees, but the workplace dynamics are undeniably different…
I Do More Than Tweet!
I’ve sworn up and down I should get this emblazoned on a t-shirt, (Pssst, my birthday’s in November) but this title doesn’t suggest that I do much more to someone who doesn’t understand the role of social media in business and, in the grand scheme of things, few people still do.
This presents a serious problem, since anyone with this title in a large organization will always have to insert him/herself into processes and explain how social media applies. This also means others might have difficulty readily respecting or even understanding what you have to offer. On the other hand, if all you want to do is tweet, good luck finding employment once the fascination with Twitter wears off.
I’m a huge proponent of Twitter, but again, it’s a means of communicating. Sometimes it works well for one-on-one communication and sometimes it works well for one-to-many communication. I’m not here to tell you how to use it, but there are sure-fire ways to annoy people on Twitter. Don’t be annoying.
“I’m on Facebook… why am I not a social media specialist?”
When you do social media for a business, it’s quite different than just hanging out on Facebook all day or spamming your friends to become fans of your page. Or, at least it should be more than this.
To me, it’s more about informing other departments about how to make their content more conducive to sharing on Facebook and other social networks, and giving people a means of opting in to receive our content and updates via a social network rather than email. Sometimes it might also mean building a useful application or having a contest, but everything you see posted on a social network is usually a result of a lot of effort behind the scenes. The visible presence on any social network is merely the tip of the iceberg — this goes for Twitter, too.
Fear, loathing and general bitterness
There’s a divisive quality around social media with other communications professionals. Many still dismiss the value of social media communication and others are threatened by it for fear of its potential to make them obsolete in their careers. This means that other, more seasoned PR pros can sometimes be dismissive. Many have been told to take their social media vitamin one too many times and they’ve turned bitter because they don’t see themselves joining in, even though they probably participate in several forms of social media and don’t think of it as such… hence more confusion for everyone.
No clear path to the C-Level
I’m all about blazing trails, but with social media specialization, there are no clear paths to the C-suite in any organization and I don’t think it should ever be necessary to have a CSMO. Shouldn’t anyone with the capability or skills necessary to implement or create social media strategy be somewhere under a CMO? Wouldn’t it be great if all CMOs understood social media and how to manage it from this level? The same could also be said about PR in general, but I digress.
The point is there are a much wider range of skills necessary to moving to that place in their career. That includes a deep understanding of how the business operates, and how more traditional marketing and communications strategies fit into the mix. Bottom line: Don’t fence me in!
I know there are a lot of people out there who would love to have social media be a part of what they do for a living. I remember those days and believe me, I’m extremely grateful be able to be in my current position.
I just wish we could come down to earth and start seeing social media simply as a means of communicating with others. To me, this means thinking first about goals we want to accomplish as a business and exceeding the needs of our customers and other stakeholders who matter most to our success.
Does social media belong in one’s title? Are we still at the stage where it serves us to have some differentiation despite some of the inherent difficulties? Would you love to have “community” or “social media” an official part of your current vocation? Let me know?
Photo by Roo Reynolds
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