So… would you hire a social media strategist? (Part 1)

Are you on LinkedIn?

Out of a whim, I posted a question via LinkedIn’s Q&A area. Within minutes, I’ve gotten heartfelt responses, which I’m hoping to get permission to share excerpts of. For those of you who aren’t on LinkedIn (and why not? Find me), here’s the question which I believe is currently looming over our head…

Most of you know me as an avidly curious blogger, so I’d like to ask you something I’ve been pondering about for a while: “If you managed a company, would you hire a social media strategist?”

In this open-ended question, I’d like to get a sense of whether there is a need for someone culturally strong in the social media space (e.g. blogs, forums, social networks) to help companies communicate with their relevant public. This is in contrast to hiring a traditionally trained marketing person.

1. Do you see a need for a social media strategist today? (Yes / No + Why)
2. If yes, what kind of qualifications do you expect? (List some)
3. Also, if yes, what kind of bottomline (returns) would you expect?
4. Any further thoughts?

Your collective response will help me understand if we should expect a “dot-com bubble” for the social media industry. I’ll share the results once I get enough replies.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Kevin Lim

As you can see, the question is about a potential “bubble“, otherwise referring to what happens when we overvalue our prospects (the chance of bursting).

Indeed, there are many reasons to be critical about the hype, myths and evils of Web 2.0, even on how it negatively affects the media industry itself. As precarious as the dot-com era, there is still a sense of exuberance to this world of social media, celebrated by the fact that we’ve got hyper-trafficked sites such as TechCrunch, Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, and so on.

By way of this little survey, I’d be able to determine the sentiment and commitment of those in the industry towards social media, and more significantly, the kind of rewards they get from “friending” and “conversing” online. Perhaps there’s no need to measure returns with precision, that this mutual service could be a widely understood norm. That’s something I’d like to find out.

Of course, do feel free to drop your response to my question in the comments here as well. I’ll share excerpts of any remarkable trend I find.

UPDATE 1: Via LinkedIn and emails responses, I’ve received around 20 25 conversant responses about this matter so far. Most of which acknowledge we do realize the need for someone in this areas, but to varying degrees. I’m following up these emails to determine how committed they would be to hiring someone in this area, what they’d look for and what their plans might be. A blogged report will come as Part 2. Respondents come from a diverse range of industries, some of who I’m conducting video interviews with for an in-depth look via Part 3.

UPDATE 2: Marketing practitioners Damien Tan and Gerald Ang blogged their impressions. I’m setting up short video interviews with a few of the more conversant folks to go deeper on this.

UPDATE 3: Tantiana, a senior communication student from the University of Tampa, has her own research question relevant to ours: “… if companies will fully embrace social media as their marketing tool, then what will be left to us, average users, to connect and communicate with each other?” Fairly obvious answer? Take a look at what respondents have to say.

20 thoughts on “So… would you hire a social media strategist? (Part 1)

  1. Clicked on Linkedin and it came back with, “This question is no longer available.” Thank god it didns’t say its no longer relevant, hehe.

    But on to your question, would I hire a social media strategist? Yes I would if my company’s success is highly predicated on online crowdsourcing. Just because its “bubblish” doesn’t mean there’s no money to be made. In this I take the low road. In fact I think everything is a bubble – either overvalued or will some day peak and decline in value so I don’t see bubbles as necessarily bad. The real issue is how to take advantage of transient bubbles and make a profitable exit. If there’s a lesson to learn from the dot com bust, its the heightened respect for exit plans. The social media strategist will be the sentinel who sounds the alarm when the tide recedes.

    Qualifications? A campaign strategist with demonstrable experience in social media. I treat all commercial ventures (including product marketing) as a collection of campaigns with measurable results. As for traditional media, I’ll outsource.

    On returns I’ll take the simple path: campaign revenue per headcount.

    You’ve posed an excellent question. I’d be interested to read the findings to your Linkedin’s post if you would share them.

  2. @Damien: Thanks for sharing specific expectations. There’s been a lot of YES responses I’ve received, but it’s the “NO”s that are particularly interesting. I’ll cite them soon.

    @Daryl: As always, feel free to circulate results. I know you’re blogging about this particular areas, so it’ll serve as a good reality check when the results are in. Also, do try to give your response as well, as best as you can. ­čÖé

  3. How is a SMS different from a “PR person.” In my view, a “PR person” has to keep up with the different media/times to bridge that company/consumer gap all the time.

  4. @nuMentally: That’s a point of inflection I’m trying to determine. You’re playing psychic with me; we’re on the same track. In a way, my question can be appropriated to how significantly different social media is from traditional media. Does it warrant having a dedicated “social media strategist” in your company?

    @Straydog: I’d guess that you’re on the pragmatic, traditionalist side. It’s pretty even at this point, some say the bottomline is all that matters, while others believe that there are no proper measures for the kind of returns “social media” based efforts brings. This is particularly what makes it murky. Still, if we take time to look back, even traditional media measurements are fundamentally estimations. Measures such as circulations and viewership, are likened to page views and traffic, but is that a good measure? After all, there are measures of hits, attention, reputation and purchases, some harder to determine than others, but all pretty significant in value.

  5. I agree with nuMentally. It would seem to make a lot more sense looking to hook up with a PR firm and specializing in social/viral media then to approach the average company directly.

  6. @Shady: It is an open question, but I should lay more parameters to get objective results. I’m looking for commitment towards social media, how significant it is to companies.

    In this case, rather than to hire someone dedicated to social media in house, you’d rather outsource it.

    Also, instead of a traditional PR firm, you’re looking at one that specializes in social media. To talk about viral marketing, that’s a more creative endeavor, one that is not a sustained operation, but on a campaign by campaign basis.

    For that you need a specialized person or firm, but more on an on-off basis rather than for the long-term.

    Looks like we’ve stumbled on another dimension for looking at this:

    Long-run tasks: reputation management – user feedback, media monitoring, etc.
    Short-run tasks: viral marketing – co-creating (crowdsourcing), ARGs, etc

    Some of the tasks can go in-between either long or short runs. I’ll need to elaborate on this later.

  7. no. i would hire a pr firm that is strong in social media. in that way, it would be more feasible and a cheaper alternative i.e. a one stop centre.

    p/s- i had krispy kreme a few days back and it reminded me of you! when are you coming back? we gotta do our donuts thing!

  8. Hello Nadnut, thanks for your input. ­čÖé

    Haha, I’m game for donuts anytime, especially since there are new establishments in Singapore now. I’ll probably be in Singapore early next year. Hope everything goes as planned.

  9. From running to my own small business to now working for a very large traditional financial institution, there is definitely room for an SMS – or at the very least someone who is understands the value of utilizing social media.

    When I was operating the Bubble Tea Cafe, it was not hidden that some of my most loyal customers were those I interacted with on a now long gone auto enthusiast social forum. This help to grow my business exponentially. The success we had was attributable in part to pursuing non traditional advertising channels.

    Now that I work for Wells Fargo Bank, there is a huge emphasis on “innovation”. This philosophy has resulted in creation of internal wikis, forums, and electronic bulletin boards for team members to gather and share their thoughts and ideas. Each posting is discussed by management in an effort to determine feasibility and/or worthiness of implementation. Though far from using the specific skillset that you have, certainly the techniques and methodology you’ve acquired would make you a tremendous asset in a company looking to connect more socially with not only external customers, but internal as well.

    But bottomline is, if you’re looking for a full time gig, it really comes down to knowing the right people, while being in the right place, and at the right time.

  10. Dennis, thanks for sharing your personal account. I remember the Bubble Tea days and the tuned-up rides that pulled upfront the store. You’re right, a lot of social media applications can be applied internally as well. Wikis are a good example of collaboration for internal documentation. I believe that’s what Jeremiah Owyang (a well-recognized consultant) did for Seagate long ago ­čÖé

  11. I think that I would hire one only if he or she comes with other more traditional skills in the areas of marketing or Public Relations. And the person should also have an existing network of relevant contacts in the social media space, or be somebody who is actively blogging/facebooking/twittering and understands the reactions of his or her community. This is quite similar to hiring a PR professional with his or her own rolodex of active media contacts, as opposed to somebody who knows read all the books and knows all the strategies, but doesn’t have the faintest idea how to create and sustain a relationship.

    Walter’s last blog post..Maiden Flight on the Singapore Flyer

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