In my previous posts on, I pointed out some good and some bad on the social media job front. A few asked what I thought social media jobs should look like, so I’ll do my best. But I’m not going to write this like a typical job description, because I think the content is more important than the format.
Social media-exclusive jobs are okay for now, as foundation building for companies needing to learn the ins and outs, understand intent and strategy, and educate their internal folks. But eventually, these kinds of jobs will fall by the wayside (or at least evolve) when social media becomes part of each and every role in one way or another, perhaps with specialists that have particular experience in application of the tools within their roles. (Think of it this way: we don’t have email managers that do nothing but. The *use* of email and digital stuff touches every role, whether it’s inward or outward facing).
In my experience, the folks who grok social media best have a lot of attributes in common:
Curiosity: The desire to explore new ideas, in detail, and without specific direction to do so. Curiosity about the intersection of human interactions and technology is a specific aspect that’s helpful, and a passion for the potential of the work and the organization’s purpose is key to instilling that in others, both internally and externally.
Innovation: Ignore the buzzy nature of this word for a moment and concentrate on what it really means: the introduction of something new. Social media implementation requires new approaches to existing processes, both internally and externally, including communication, strategy, execution, measurement, reporting, and training. (This needs to be carefully balanced with realism and pragmatism, too, but I’d rather rein someone in than have to prod them forward.)
Motivation: Folks thriving in social media jobs are self-starters, often capable of creating clarity from a bit of chaos, and devising their own marching orders without constant direction or specific instructions. If you can instill and nurture this in others, too, so much the better.
Collaboration: “That’s not my job” and “get out of my sandbox” don’t play well in these kinds of roles. They’re far too new to be that rigid, and they definitely need cooperation and work with others across the organization.
Translation: In many companies right now, we need people that have the patience and clarity of explanation to teach others about the impact of the social web, and who work well across departments within a corporate culture. These roles, most critically, need to know how to work and educate across silos, in the terms that make sense to the relevant colleagues.
Humility: The goal here is to elevate the entire company and your colleagues as contributing, valuable members of the community and leaders in the industry. Not you and your “personal brand”.
Diplomacy: Social media roles are today’s change agents. If you expect instant sea change inside your company without a lot of legwork, communication, negotiation, discussion, education, and trial and error, this job is NOT for you. And the outside community will present challenges to you; you need to be able to handle them with patience and tact. It’s a balance of emotional intelligence here.
Connectivity and Awareness: This is a people job, inside and out (and I don’t just mean community roles). You need to be able to talk to people, work with them, socialize with them, connect with them in multiple places. Understand how the network and the people in it need you (and don’t), and how all of those interactions work together to encourage more, deeper, and better connections that ultimately elevate the quality of your work and company.
Business Process/Planning and Analysis: From the mid level on up, you want someone who understands financial frameworks for profit and loss, strategic and long range planning (including how to write goals and objectives), and how to map out execution at a tactical level. The key here is the ability to think at a global company level, not within a silo, and not in a linear fashion.
Social Media Anthropology & Participation: If you have someone spearheading social media, I feel pretty strongly that they need to be using it themselves in order to fully understand its implications and unique culture. Yes, that means familiarity with the most widely known tools and technologies, and some of the most consistent and popular applications (for better and for worse) of same, and interest and observation of what’s new on the scene (without the tendency to chase everything new because it is). Academic knowledge is good, applied is even better.
Hedgehog Management: Social media programs that are well thought out have lots of moving parts to manage and drive. People who excel at social media jobs can tackle projects that span multiple networks or areas, and keep all the pieces moving toward a bigger, crystal clear goal (or in Jim Collins’ terms, Hedgehog Concept).
Customer or Client Service: Whether it’s a formal title or not, you really want someone who has experience communicating with customers directly, and fostering those relationships in order to meet their business goals. The most powerful bit of social media is in mobilizing those relationships.
Written Communication Skills: Yep. Sorry, folks. I think this one is really imperative. So much communication and engagement online is in the form of written communication. If you can’t write coherently and professionally, you’re going to struggle. On this note, I also think a lot of social media positions will and should include elements of content marketing, which means that the ability to create and contribute solid content is key.
Social Media Roles And Responsibilities
Again, let me say that I’m writing this from the POV of a job that’s heavily or exclusively social media, and I don’t think these jobs will exist like this forever. And this is a broad, sweeping list that’s not meant to tie to any one job description (though I’m quite certain I have experience bias), but instead give you things to consider if you’re in need of a role like this in your company. A few things that might fall under this umbrella:
- Establish and use listening platforms to gauge the health of the brand online, and potential for participating in new communities
- Build outreach initiatives outside of sales or marketing goals to give our brand a personality and voice within the industry and the communities we care about
- Engage the community actively and responsively, both in relevant outpost communities and existing resident channels (like brand communities), and teach and empower team members to do the same, with consistency and clarity
- Build training programs to help other areas of the company learn and tap the potential of social media for their roles
- Collaborate on internal communication programs to inform and educate around social media initiatives and their broader implications
- Create and facilitate content in multiple media to further engagement goals, both internally and externally, and contribute resources and expertise to prospective and existing community members
- Consume, curate, and share relevant, interesting industry information and content with internal and external communities.
- Understand and observe the parallels and implications of other online activities, including web analytics, email, and search
- Communicate and collaborate on how social media activities impact other business operations, including customer support, human resources, product development, sales and business development, and translate online community and social learnings into business insights
- Establish relevant metrics (new or existing) to map the impact of social media activities in both a qualitative and quantitative fashion, and amend strategies based on learnings and patterns
Reporting wise, I’d put this position under whomever is charged with driving customer experience and a sustainable, positive company presence through online channels, and whatever business function is being most heavily supported by these initiatives. That might be someone in PR, marketing, customer service, client or donor relations, even product management. It needs, in whatever case, to report in to someone who gets the importance and potential of this, even if they don’t necessarily understand the “how”.
There’s no way my list can be exhaustive, nor can it possibly cover every subtlety and nuance of individual positions based on unique business needs. I’m painting with a broad brush, with the hope that it gets the gears turning for all of us to think critically about how these positions fit into business, from multiple perspectives.
So I need to hear from you! What’s missing? What would you included or have you included in your job descriptions? What have you seen that articulates the need for these jobs well? I can’t wait for you to weigh in. Comments are yours.