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Yes, You Need a Social Media ‘Galvanizer’

May 27, 2009

503096057_a86219faae_mThere’s no doubt that social media has had a major impact on how organizations conduct business.   I’ve spoken to a few different organizations lately who have recognized the need to “do something” about social media, but haven’t quite figured out organizationally how to tackle it.   The big question they grapple with (besides how should they approach it) is does it make sense to have  someone as the company’s social media “point person”?

My answer is yes– you should have someone in the company whose job is to think strategically about social media, but realistically, social media should be part of everyone’s job, not that of one person and the need for a “point person” on social media should viewed as a temporary one– one focused on galvanizing the rest of the organization– from hiring people with a ‘social mindset’ to understanding how to write with SEO in mind, to utilizing social technologies effectively.   

Incorporating social media part of how the organization does business should not be the sole responsibility of one person in the organization or that of one department (typically marketing), but rather all of the individual’s who work for or with that organization.   As stated by the folks at Hubspot (see “NY Times Misfires By Hiring Social Media Editor“) and Chris Brogan (“Getting Back to Your Desk“), social media is a set of tools and tactics that should be used as part of everyone’s job.  At the same time, however, I do think it’s important that someone serve as the social media ‘galvanizer’ or strategist for the organization  because many organizations are trying to figure out how to make sense of the ever changing landscape and need someone to help them navigate.  At the same time, however,  the role of the social media galvanizer should be viewed as a temporary one; one in which will disappear over time.  As social media technology matures and enterprises integrate it into ever aspect of the business, the need for the social media galvanizer will dissipate and simultaneously become incorporated into how everyone conducts their job.

A few key things to keep in mind in identifying the social media galvanizer or strategist:

  • Define the role appropriately and find the right skill set– The social media galvanizer for the company should be someone who can think strategically, interact with senior-level staff, present confidently, understands social technology and the market, understands the needs of your customers and your business, and makes social software part of his/her professional and personal life.  There is a difference between the social media galvanizer or strategist and a community manager– this is something I see many organizations confusing.  The community manager is the person who manages the community at a tactical level– from content programming, to responding to questions, and other responsibilities.  This is a fundamentally different role than the social media strategist.  You shouldn’t hire a community manager to do the social media strategist’s role or vice versa.  Jeremiah Owyang does a great job breaking down the difference between the two roles and the skill sets required for each in his blog post How to Staff for Social Computing.
  • Empower the person for success–  Ensure that the social media strategist is at a high level in the organization and empowered to galvanize the whole company around social media.  This includes incoporating it as part of the company’s corporate strategy & culture, and defining strategy, tactics and best practices for social media (use of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and other pervasive social media technologies) and community (customer, partner or employee persistent communities either on the external website for marketing or internal use for collaboration).   Separating social media and community strategy can be done, but would be very challenging and increase the risk of a disjointed approach to the company’s overall social strategy.
  • Don’t outsource the role–  Social media is too strategic and critical to a business’ success to outsource to a consultant or agency.  Don’t get me wrong– I think hiring a consultant or agency is fantastic, especially to help you figure out how to define your strategy, assess how you are doing periodically, and deliver certain components of your strategy over time (such as moderation).  However, it should not be the long-term strategy.  You want the expertise of how to effectively define, execute and measure business goals with social media which is at the heart of how you conduct conversations with your customers, to be a core competency of your organization, and not one owned by an outside party.   More importantly, you want to make sure it becomes a part of everyone’s job and how your organization does business, as discussed above.

There are a lot of great resources on this topic, a few of which I’ve highlighted above.  Here are a couple more:

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