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Social Media Strategists will be Gone in 2 Years

Social Media Strategists will be Gone in 2 Years

Britain.  1965.   We’ve had the telephone for nearly 100 years.

The operators in first known (UK) call center proudly call themselves telephone strategists.  Actually, they didn’t, but bear with me for the sake of illustration.

telephone is a tool for conversation. It’s like talking in real life, only callers don’t see each other and they may be many miles apart.  The term strategist would be a stretch.

When I think of a modern call center, I think of  a support line.  These centers are staffed by customer service specialists or support specialists.  Often they are tiered by experience.  Callers are first routed to lower level specialists; if these first line responders cannot triage, diagnose or remediate a problem, they escalate the problem to the next level.

These people are focused on a well-defined function in business:  service. The tools might change — CRM, instant message, Web chat or Twitter — but the core discipline remains.

This is what hangs me up about titles like “social media strategist.”  I think it’s narrow-minded.  I think those that pin their personal mantra on social are selling themselves short.  Further, and I see this more and more, there are young folks, that all they’ve ever done is post to Twitter and Facebook and call themselves social media strategists. Social media is not a strategy!  It’s a tactic!

Companies don’t need a social media strategy.  They need a business strategy.  They need a marketing strategy.  All the tactics, whether it’s a telephone call or a tweet, are nested to carry out these strategies.

Companies don't need a social media strategy. They need a business strategy. They need a marketing strategy.Click To Tweet

Social media is one tool among many.  With apologies to the handyman, with only a hammer in a belt, every problem begins to look like a nail.

We need to approach social media with a 30,000-foot view — an awareness of what the rest of marketing is doing.  Integrated marketing begins with an awareness 30,000-foot it, social media is yet another silo.

Don’t pin your career to simply social media.  Within two years, I predict, people will be dumping that term from their social profiles. Imagine what that might mean in 5, or 10 or 100 years from now.

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Photo credit: Flickr, Wystan, Telphone operator… (CC BY 2.0)

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40 Responses

  1. JenKaneCo

    I totally agree with you…and yet I do (and will continue to) call myself a social strategist. Why? Because that is what companies want to hire. When I get in there, I explain to them that their marketing strategy IS their social strategy (and, in many cases, they don’t have a marketing strategy either so I help them develop that too.) But, “social strategy” is how I get in the door.

    1.  @JenKaneCo Yeah, that’s an interesting point Jen.  But I’d argue you’re simply being adaptable and not betting the future.  Thanks for the comment!

      1.  @JenKaneCo In fact, in thinking about this, and if I could go back and post that comment again, I’d just say it’s an interesting point and wouldn’t argue anything.  

  2. “The operators in first known (UK) call center proudly call themselves telephone strategists.” LOL!! I totally agree with this, as well! I believe we’ll all use social, just like we use the phone and email, in our every day jobs and to communicate in our personal lives. Sure, there used to be a bank of telephone operators and typists, but now we all do both of those things. It’s the natural evolution.

    1.  @ginidietrich We do all that?  Gosh, we deserve a bonus!  :-)  Lovely event yesterday Gini, was fun and to meet some folks I’ve know online for a while IRL.  You really are a connector!  And nice post today on Paul. Good dude!

  3. This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. Most (if not all) of my professional experience deals with social media, so that’s what is reflected in my resume. I agree that the position of Social Media Strategist (or similar titles) will fade away at some point (not sure it will be in just two years, but that’s a small detail.) I don’t think I will remove the title from my resume, since that’s what I did. I just hope that my title at that point will be something that reflects the current demands of the market – thus showing my adaptability. I think that’s the strongest way a Social Media Strategist can position themselves down the road when this role goes the way of “Telephone Strategist” ;)

    1.  @AdamBritten Definitely a challenge Adam and see @JenKaneCo ‘s comment below.  If I were to offer advice, it would be the things I strive to do:  get involved with the SEO person at your Livefyre, ask to sit in on meetings related to traffic, conversions and offers.  I’m not sure how Livefyre makes money — something I need to research — but just by being part of those things, I find it makes my own efforts more tightly integrated.  Sure it’s not fun listening to ecommerce talk with promotions, especially when I’ve got so many competing deadlines, but it’s worth it in the end.  You’re in a great spot and will have options!  Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Thank you, Frank!  In a presentation I’ve done a few times on the myths of social media, one of the myths I cover is “social media is a great PR strategy”–explaining just what you said, it’s not a strategy but just one tool in your PR arsenal. :) 

      1.  @Frank_Strong It is now! However, keep in mind that there was a lot of commentary, examples and discussion that is not represented in the slides ;).  You can find it at https://www.slideshare.net/tressalynne/debunking-social-media-myths. 

        1.  @tressalynne Fancy with you’re QR code!  Interesting preso  I struggle with #1, but I’ve got a lot of data by virtue of my job to go with it.  Think it goes both ways. #4, really?  Yes and no.  There’s plenty of case law to support hyperlinks online.  News clips, like your firm and mine provide, it’s a bit different, as someone else in the space found out recently with Dow Jones. Overall, I like it though Tressa.  You guys do a good job with content and I don’t mind you sharing a relevant link. Thanks!

  5. What I think about is how companies will use social media and what sort of resources will they dedicate towards it. I would expect that in a few years it will still merit person(s) to handle that aspect of communications but I don’t know if they will be considered part of marketing or PR.

    1.  @TheJackB Oh, boy, that’s another whole topic!  But a good one.  I’m biased for PR.  I think we “get” the “markets are conversations” manifesto because of roots in working with editorial contacts. However, I also believe marketing is begging to look more like PR. 

  6. Got me thinking on this one Frank. I think I hear the deafening sound of a vacuum. You mean we won’t have to care about the next shiny new thing? No more Farcebook, Titter, Painterest, Bumblr or flogging? Just strategy, research, ROI, media pitching, making a personal phone call, meeting face to face, and results. It will be awfully quiet though I don’t know if my millennial colleagues will buy it. Yours in good humor!

    1.  @ThePRCoach Thanks, Jeff, always a pleasure.  One clarification:  I’m not suggesting social media will go away — clearly it’s proven viable.  I’m merely proposing we bring it up a level and think about it in the context of an overall strategy.  But I think you and I are generally on the same page.  And certainly, face to face is generally preferable!  Thanks for dropping by.

      1.  @Frank_Strong Having some fun with you Frank. Totally agree social needs to be integrated. Besides there will always be something newer and better just round the corner ;-)

  7. avilambert

    Interesting article. Can’t say that I agree that social media strategists will disappear like dust in the wind in two years though. What defines an authentic social media strategy is having the expertise to implement and maintain a strong social media policy – that aligns with the key goals and projected progress indicators set out in a strategic communications plan. The person doing this could be in marketing, communications of public relations. At any rate listening, authentically responding and considering legal compliance and disclosure is where social media strategists are really supposed to perform.

    1.  @avilambert I think you only reinforce my point when you say, “could be in marketing, communications of public relations”  — it’s a higher level. Many companies have telephone policies too. Appreciate the comment thought and welcome the debate. 

      1. avilambert

         @Frank_Strong  @avilambert 
        Kudos for an interesting discussion.
        Not clear if you are saying that telephone policies overlap social media policies. Are you? 

        1.  @avilambert Not at all, I’m saying having a policy doesn’t make something strategic. Social media is just a channel like email, a Web site or the telephone. Those are channels  by which to execute a strategy, not a strategy unto themselves. 

  8. markwschaefer

    I kind of agree but mostly disagree. The reason we don’t have telephone specialists is because the technology has not changed significantly. My guess is that is you knew how to use a telephone 50 years ago, you could figure out how to use one today.
    In the social space, it’s not just the technology that is changing constantly, it is nearlyevery rule of engagement.  It’s as if you have finally equipped your tank in time to discover that you’re fighting a battle in the ocean tomorrow.
    And to me, that is a very, very big difference compared to any technological integration that has challenged a marketing department before.  There will be relatively few companies who will want to fund their own team of social media experts to stay on top of the daily tsunami of change and provide consistent, meaningful counsel. Over the long term, it will be more economical for companies to hire consultants who are paid to study this stuff day and night and then tell them what to do next.
    Simply stated, ”social media strategy” will indeed emerge as a stand-alone career discipline because it will be the most economical and effective way for companies to compete in a world of hyper-change.  It may take some time for companies to realize this, but in the long-term, that’s my forecast of how it will shake out. That is unconventional thinking but this is an unconventional technological disruption!
    Thanks for the thought-provoking article Frank! 

    1.  @markwschaefer Thanks Mark, always appreciate your view.  
      No surprise that I’ve got a different take:  I don’t think companies need specialists — they need generalists that are plugged-in to social.  The changes in technology, the power or 2.0, is in it’s ease of use.  We don’t have to be coding experts to figure out how to use this stuff anymore, but it still needs to be driven by an overarching strategy that stems from a fundamental understanding of business. 

      1. markwschaefer

         @Frank_Strong i agree that social media will be incorporated into the jobs of many generalists. However your headline states that strategists will go away. I just think the rate of change will continue to be so rapid and vast that we will need people who specialize in digital. But time will tell : ) Thanks for the conversation.

    1.  @miqcie Complimentary for sure — I think it’s a good read on taking a marketing tactic that is often very technical and bringing it up to a higher level.  It fits within an overall marketing strategy. 

  9. Maybe we spend too much time worrying with titles – and staking our territory. Silos, niche, departments, groups, rounds (cc @ginidietrich ), committees. It’s all in service of the pecking order, the food chain – and everyone wants their job to be highest on the totem pole. So much, SO much goes into a business’s profitability well beyond mere sales. Cost of goods sold anyone? Making products and services cost less to produce, running a leaner business; I’m of the view that communication is the best weapon – or weakest asset – a business has to achieve efficiencies, productivities that help it grow and thrive well beyond high sales figures.
    I think @markwschaefer made an excellent point about the need for strategy, strategists – and specialists. It’s why businesses outscource a lot of functions: they turn it over to the pros who know, so they can focus on what they’re best at. But b/c of my PR bias, like you I think there will be more integration across the board w/ businesses focusing less on a ‘SM’ strategy, instead opting for communications strategy that serve overall business goals. What those jobs are called, anyone’s guess. FWIW.

    1.  @3HatsComm  Even if I don’t agree with him completely, Mark, as usual, makes an interesting point for sure; think Jack Welsh called it something like “focus on your living room” — that is focus on the things you are good at and outsource the rest.  @ginidietrich  @markwschaefer 

  10. Hmm – I’m not sure what I think about this.  Simply because we *use* social tools to the level of near ubiquity, certainly doesn’t mean that the role of the strategist is going the way of the dodo. Those of us who work in and through the social web on a daily basis get myopic when we talk about social. Our level of familiarity and savviness is above that of most – probably at minimum two years ahead.  
    Now, I don’t do social strategy for clients, though I am often part of the conversation about how to better use social tools as it connects to content creation (my bread and butter!) in part of a larger communications and business strategy.

    1.  @jasonkonopinski Thanks for stopping by Jason.  It’s not the use of social tools that’s the problem — it’s bringing that use to a business level.  Marketing has a strategy — how we position,and differentiate —  social is used to execute that strategy. 
      As for social savvy, yes, I think you are right.  Every week, perhaps every day, I meet people still thinking about getting started.  That is both a challenge and an opportunity. 

  11. Susiea

    “Social media is not strategy!  It’s a tactic!”
    No kidding. The same could be said about business. Social media is a TACTIC that you build a STRATEGY around. Anyone who doesn’t know this certainly should not be calling themselves a social media strategist.
    In order to be a social media strategist, you need to know the digital space like the back of your hand, to always be learning, to be an excellent writer… among many other skills. If you only know how to tweet and post to FB, sure, you’ll be screwed in a couple years. But if you are continuously learning and have all the skills needed to be an SM strategist, your job will evolve with you.
    This article is really poorly argued and is trying to sound way more sophisticated than it actually is…

    1.  @Susiea 
      The back of your hand doesn’t change as quickly as the digital space and it is probably far more useful on a regular basis than most of the places we find online.
      If you are going to call someone out shouldn’t you provide a little bit more substance in your comment.

    2. Unfortunately, your comment reflects the very observations the drove me to write this post and confuses the differences and connections between strategies and tactics. 
      Consider insurgents in Iraq.  Their tactic?  IEDs and roadside bombs.  This is because they simply do not have the fire power, discipline or training to engage coalition forces. Their strategy?  Trade space for time.  Cause enough bloodshed, the public will tire of war, and the coalition will leave.  
      A business example?  Just today I spoke with a marketer that had invested a whole lot of money in MySpace promotions — a tactic — a few years ago.  A day or two after they signed the deal, MySpace tanked and laid off a sizable portion of its staff.  

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