I’ve always taken a certain level of pride in always being an enigma at any place I worked. I don’t like to be categorized or pigeon holed. Because of that, this last year presented a bit of a problem for me. I have worked very hard to establish myself as an expert in the emerging field of social media. And I’ve benefited greatly from that positioning. But every time I hear someone introduce me as a “Social Media Expert” a little piece of my soul dies. (Okay, that only really happens when they call me a Social Media Guru.) I know I’m not alone in this sentiment. Anyone who really enjoys being labeled a social media expert, probably really isn’t one.
The Expert Problem
The problem with being the social media expert in your organizations is that it implies social media is one person’s job. “Social media? Yeah, we’ve got a person that does that.” I firmly believe that social media is everyone’s job and will eventually be incorporated into every job in one way or another.
Jeremiah Owyang (@jowyang) and Altimeter came out with a report earlier this year about the two career paths of the social media strategist. In it Jeremiah points out that the “social media expert” aka the Social Media Strategist, will either be relegated to the social media help desk or will reach escape velocity and lead scalable social business programs. Being a social media strategist is a tough job and it’s not something that one group or even one team should own in isolation. Additionally I believe that you either need to specialize, much like SEOs or direct marketing specialists do or you need to take it up a level and integrate social media at a strategic business level.
But even within these specific applications I believe that the role of the social media strategist will go away. Depending on your organization you will either be co-opted into a team that does owned or earned marketing or you’ll need to become a business or marketing strategist. Either way, you won’t be a social media strategist.
The Social Media Expert Isn’t Dead…Yet
The role of the social media expert will be around for a while. But I’m not waiting around for its last breath. I’ve already started to up level my role. My current job title to VP of Digital Strategies, but my job is as much internal business strategy as it is digital marketing strategy. I now work with clients on developing business strategy and they sometimes have nothing to with digital, let alone social media.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t still use social media or leverage the strengths of social networks and the various tools you’ve been using, but you need to change the vocabulary and the point of the conversations.
It’s no longer about launching Twitter accounts or Facebook pages, it’s about communicating with specific audiences to drive measurable business value. That audience is most likely on Twitter or Facebook but using those are the tactics not the objective.
You’re no longer talking about social media strategies but instead you need to talk about marketing strategies. Each channel may still have it’s own strategy, like social media, advertising, media outreach and events, but they all work together not in isolation.
And we need to stop talking about conversations and engaging and start talking about new business strategies that are built on an open culture with a focus on collaboration.
We need to just stop talking about social media and just starting building it into everything we do. Social media is now as pervasive as the Internet itself. Let’s quit acting like we’re so surprised to be here and get on with it.