Being a Social Media Strategist is really tough. Half your job is doing things that no one has ever done before and the other half is teaching people how to do what you did because it’s the only way to scale social media at your company without burning out your strategist. It requires you to take risks and make possibly career ending decisions on a daily basis. It’s not for everyone just those of us that are a little bit crazy.
Jeremiah Owyang and the Altimeter Group has been on a tear lately with the amount of research they have been putting out. Today Jeremiah released probably the most comprehensive piece of research when it comes to understanding the role of the Social Strategist. (Full disclosure: I was interviewed by Jeremiah for this particular research.)
Having worked on both the corporate and the agency side as a Social Media Strategist Jeremiah’s most recent piece of research really hit home for me.
If you work in social media, manage people in social media or plan on working in or hiring someone for social media you need to read this research. As with all research the Altimeter Group puts out they have published it as Open Research which means it’s free so go grab a copy.
There is so much in this report that it’s hard to pick any one thing to blog about but the two points that stuck out to me were the phases a Social Strategists career goes through and the challenges they face along the journey. These two points probably stuck out to me the most because these are the exact phases and challenges I went through when I worked at HP.
Early Career: Emergence of the Corporate Social Strategist
- The Awakening.
- Ascension of the Corporate Social Strategist.
- Storm of Cultural Conflict.
- Career Decision Point.
Basically the Social Strategist starts off and despite pockets of resistance is able to find success in launching some programs and proves the effectiveness of their efforts. It’s at this phase that the Social Strategist hits a new challenge, not just in despite of but, because of their success. It’s kind of counter intuitive. When I was at HP I called this “Death By Success.” Again from the report:
We uncovered six challenges:
- Resistance from internal culture,
- Measuring ROI,
- Lack of resources,
- An ever-changing technology space,
- Resentment and envy of the role, and
- A looming increase in business demands.
Depending on how these challenges were met, we discovered that the Social Strategist has two possible career paths.
This is critical for companies to understand because the career paths that Jeremiah lays out are to be relegated to the “social media help desk,” which is basically being stuck in a reactive world of putting out fires all day and never achieving anything long term or strategic, or they actually reach career escape velocity, where they take on a more strategic role in the company, one that can transcend any one business function and encompasses the entire company strategy.
This is of course assuming that the Social Strategist stays at the company. When I look around at my peers on the agency side doing social media the vast majority of us came from the client side. Most of us hit that career decision point and realised that we would have an easier time reaching escape velocity if we left. Agencies were hungry to snap up people with real, hands on social media experience and I can tell you that as companies start spending more they’re looking for more in-house help. I wouldn’t be surprised if you started to see people that jumped to the agency side jump back to the client side.
So if you’re on the client side and you’re looking for someone in-house to help drive your initiatives what should you be looking for? The report has that too. Based on Jeremiah’s report and my own experience a successful Social Strategist is multi-disciplinary (someone with multiple careers is probably a good thing), they most, likely came from Marketing or Communications. Most importantly they are risk takers and most effective working across organizational boundaries.