Why Companies Don’t Need Social Media Directors


Jeannette Paladino, a communications consultant for whom I have a lot of respect, has written a blog post about what kind of profile a social media director should have in a corporation. This is a timely topic, since Twitter is crawling with people calling themselves social media experts, and companies (in the U.S., anyway) are now hiring some of them.

Jeannette feels the role of social media director in a company involves “big time responsibilities,” and she believes that companies will soon start elevating this role to the executive suite, with the social media director reporting to the CEO. Her reasoning is that social media encompasses many areas: customer relations, marketing, corporate PR (“reputation management”), marketing PR, employee relations, and maybe investor relations, also. Someone with expertise in most of these areas would have to be a senior person. In addition, she sees one of the key responsibilities of a social media director as leveraging the potential for cross-product/service social media programs.

 

Communications technology has always had a deep impact on people's lives. From left to right, top to bottom: the Gutenberg press, Pony Express, early typewriter, 1950s TV, UNIVAC, email, social media and texting.

Just think of the infighting and power struggles that would ensue in many companies with a social media director and his or her staff focusing just on the social media aspects of the other areas in the company, which are the domain of other senior executives.

If I were a corporate CEO, I would not hire a senior-level social media director.  I wouldn’t place social media as an independent stand-alone corporate department, either.  No matter how a company’s communications functions are organized, the communications staff in each area of the company must have expertise in social media. Social media has become an integral tool in all of these communications practices. I understand the valid point that it would be beneficial to develop cross-product/service social media programs. But this is also true of PR, advertising and other forms of communication.

It seems to me that having a high-level social media director in a company only adds more management expense (and if she has staff, another layer of employees).  I read recently that someone is currently doing research on whether social media is causing an increase, a decrease or no change in employment in corporations.  I’m really curious to hear the outcome of this study, but I have a strong hunch that it’s creating jobs, but I predict those new jobs will be eliminated 5-10 years from now.

 Social media is a means of communication created by technology, and, as history has shown, technologies rise and fall in importance. People who devote themselves to becoming experts in new communications technologies become the “go to” gurus for awhile until the technology becomes part and parcel of everyone’s daily life, and until the next new communications technology comes along. The invention of the telephone, for example, had a profound impact on society.  Pre-telephone, people communicated across distances via letters – i.e., slowly. The phone allowed real-time communication across long distances, which, among other things, drastically speeded up business transactions.  The invention of television brought news and newsmakers into people’s living rooms. This changed the way elections were run and won, the way wars were perceived and created new methods for selling products, among many other things. The advent of each new communications technology has shaped the way we work and live, going back to the first newspapers (which Wikipedia says hit the newsstand in 1605 in Strasbourg, Germany) and leading up to cell phones, the internet and email.

If we can learn anything from the history of communications technology and its effect on business and society, it should be that sooner rather than later everyone will become adept at using the technology and it will be incorporated into the fabric of life.  The process of experimenting with the new technology to tap its potential is an ongoing one.

If I were CEO of a large company, I’d much rather use corporate resources to improve the social media skills of all communications staff members than to hire a social media director to orchestrate the use of this technology. The more people are familiar with social media, the broader the exploration will be of benefits from this new technology.

If you disagree, I’d like to know your reasoning!

Lucy Siegel

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5 Responses to “Why Companies Don’t Need Social Media Directors”

  1. Paula DePasquale Says:

    An insightful post, Lucy. I agree, and this is why I counsel young people in the profession who are starting out in social media to broaden out rather than deepen their social media skills with their next career move.

  2. Bridge Global Strategies Says:

    Paula, I also think about college students studying communications and taking courses in social media when they’d be so much better served if they used those credits to study economics, or history, or biology! Those basics are the knowledge platform that people starting out in PR need. That’s why I also disapprove of PR (or journalism or any communications trade for that matter) as a college major. They’re trades, with tools and methods that will continually change to meet the times, and they can be learned on the job IF someone starts with a good liberal arts education.

  3. Keith Wiegold Says:

    Lucy: hope I’m not too late to agree with you (I’m guessing if you’re like me, it’s never too late!). I teach a class on Media Economics, Technologies, and Marketing and often show the students a handmade timeline of the technologies over time (including the printing press, the pony express, television, pc, etc. as you’ve done above) and their impact on media and marketing. It becomes obvious the plethora of technological advancement in the past decade or two, but looking at it over the course of a longer timeline shows more to come, oftentimes replacing what we now see as “hot” or “game-changing.” And so it goes with jobs corresponding with those ephemeral advancements. Marketing, journalism, and the economics behind them are the true lasting media disciplines.

    Thanks for supporting this viewpoint!

  4. Bridge Global Strategies Says:

    Keith, I looked at your website. I love the name of your company and the story behind it! I can identify with the ultra-competitive nature of your family Scrabble games, since my own family history is steeped in holy Scrabble wars.

    Perhaps we both share the same viewpoint because we also have certain background experiences in common. I spent the first six years of my career as a newspaper reporter and then a magazine editor. I’ve also worked in a mega-communications company environment (Publicis, as a matter of fact, like you!). That helped me better understand the positioning of advertising, direct marketing and other communications disciplines in an integrated communications mix. I’ve also been around long enough to have seen what are at first thought to be great technological breakthroughs die later on when the next big thing came along. (Remember Wang word processors?)

  5. Kieth Abbasi Says:

    One thing that can always knock you for a loop is losing a big account. This, for sure, is a matter for immediate, concentrated attention. But before you make this call, think. You may get only one chance to turn things around. You must be sure you 1) understand the customer’s complaint and reason for canceling and 2) be prepared to address these points in deft detail. You must be as clear as you can be with why this key customer is quitting. What has she said before that’ll give you a clue? People usually don’t cancel without warning; there are omens. What were they? And what have you done and can you do to answer these concerns and make things better? Remember, the goal is keeping this person happy and the account where it belongs: with you. And this is going to take thought and constructive action.,

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