Mario Sundar

LinkedIn's 2nd PR hire. These are my thoughts on products, public relations, and startups.

What’s the future of the social media strategist role?

This is yet another reason I love Quora. It’s the perfect writers-block-breaker! Just answered another question on the topic of tomorrow’s social media strategist role.

Check out my answer (reproduced below), which is currently ranked first on that thread based on votes from a few of my peers. Thanks, guys! And, please vote up my answer on the Quora thread if you dig it.

As a social media strategist myself (for over 3 years) at LinkedIn, here’s where I see this headed. I find the role evolving in two simultaneous directions as companies move away from the Wild West days of social media:

1. Seamless integration within existing functional areas: Social media expertise is getting integrated under the broader functional areas that it’s helping make more efficient. For e.g. I have always been a part of our corporate communications team as I’ve helped define and run our blogging, microblogging, and outreach efforts. I find a lot of what I do now seamlessly integrated within our PR and Marketing infrastructure, over the years.

The same evolution holds true for other areas that social media has transformed irrevocably – Customer Service (ask Lionel Menchaca Jr. or Frank Eliason), Journalism (ask Huffington Post), Global Marketing (ask Thomas Hoehn), etc.

In addition to my primary role in Public Relations and Web Marketing, I also interface with many of our other teams like customer service, internal culture (HR), business development, etc. when they have questions regarding social media best practices. Now, that element may disappear in the future as social media becomes more ubiquitous. I believe that’s what Jack Benoff and Marcy Mcclelland-Massura are referring to in the above thread.

2. The emergence of an executive level social media strategist role: Kind of like what my good friends Frank Eliason (formerly at Comcast and currently SVP of Social for Citigroup) and Scott Monty (Head of social media at Ford) do at their respective large organizations. Their cross-functional role helps define social media across the organization as it’s integrated more closely with all functional areas, projects, etc.

And, this will become the career trajectory for social media expertise in much the same way a Marketing manager evolves into a VP of Marketing for e.g.

The challenge is that the “social media strategist” term has become a catch-all for so many diverse (in many cases ill-defined) roles that confuses the layman. Plus, companies themselves are slowly but surely learning how to integrate such expertise into their organization.

To recap, I see social media being integrated more closely into organizations (large and small) as they realize its undeniable benefits. And, in large organizations the need for an executive level social media strategist who defines the role across different functional areas will become the norm.

Once again, thanks to my good friend Jeremiah Owyang for shining the spotllight on an evolving corporate paradigm.

 

Filed under: Best-of, HOW-TO Use Social Media

2 Responses

  1. Ben Wise says:

    Great post and important to start thinking about these issues.
    I think the idea of a VP of Social Media still has its risks. That implies that social media is an entity to itself. Instead, I think social media could be made more valuable to companies by integrating it into the wider organization (ie outside of marketing, customer service and product development, which have so far been the main benefits of it).
    There could still be a VP of social media with that view, but that role would be far different from today’s strategist.

    Like

    • Mario Sundar says:

      It’ll be interesting to see how it pans out.

      For now, that role does seem viable and I guess its future depends on how well social media integrates into the fabric of corporations.

      Like

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