I recently hosted an all-day boot camp on the fundamentals of digital marketing at Online Marketing Summit in San Diego. During the social media marketing section, I explained to a somewhat confused audience that they should all consider firing their Social Media Marketing Managers. The reason is simple: the job description is inherently flawed. Based on my experience, what companies truly need to hire, in order to maintain relevance in the new Millennium, is a Social Media Evangelist.
I’ve worked with a variety of “forward-looking” companies over the years, many of which have had the “foresight” to hire a recent college graduate “native” to social media, and put them in the powerful position of representing the corporate brand externally. There are a variety of challenges inherent to hiring inexperienced, unproven talent for such a critical role: inadequate communication skills, inability to self-direct, lack of business or marketing knowledge or understanding of company history and culture. Younger talent also lacks experience in working with management (assuming they are given access in the first place) as well as navigating corporate policies and politics. The cost of developing younger talent, regardless of potential and level of enthusiasm, can be significant in terms of time and money.
On the other hand, hiring a “seasoned” social media professional will cost dearly up front (possibly a six figure salary) and may bring other issues to the table, including predisposed thoughts regarding overall social media philosophy and process. Assuming you do get lucky and find an affordable, intelligent socially-savvy individual to fill the position, the role is typically so time-consuming that they are unable to take the time to stay on top of the latest social media tools, trends and tactics. More importantly, they may not have the bandwidth to identify & respond to issues and opportunities in a timely manner. Last but not least, the uniquely powerful role may foster a desire to build a build a fiefdom, resulting in a siloed and fragmented approach to social media.
There is hope, if not a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, however. Many of the challenges inherent to hiring a Social Media Marketing Manager are avoidable. Consider turning the role upside-down, focusing on integrating social media throughout your organization, driven by a Social Media Evangelist. In the Evangelist model, the role is that of Chief Brand Officer/CMO/Editor-in-Chief/HR Director all wrapped into one. Instead of being the single voice for the company, the Evangelist manages the overall voice of the company, as created by employees at all levels.
Let’s make a quick comparison between the two roles of Social Media Marketing Manager and Social Media Evangelist. For starters, notice the “Marketing” is dropped, since the responsibilities expand well beyond marketing into R&D, customer service and sales. The other significant difference is the shift of responsibility of outreach from an individual to all employees. Essentially, the Evangelist is a director and less of a tactician. Here’s another way to look at it:
Social Media Marketing Manager Job Description:
- Develops and implements overall social media strategy
- Creates, optimizes, promotes and manages social media profiles
- Creates majority of content
- Primary voice of company
- Monitors social media platforms
- Provides reporting to management
- Responsible for keeping up-to-date on evolving tools, trends and tactics
Social Media Evangelist Job Description:
- Develops and manages overall social media strategy
- Ensures all corporate social profiles are properly claimed, optimized, promoted and managed
- Manages voice of company
- Manages content creation
- Trains employees to monitor & engage in social media
- Manages and analyzes reporting across company
- Responsible for keeping employees updates on evolving technology, trends and tools
As you can see, there are subtle yet important differences between the roles. One is an implementer and the other is more of a facilitator. There are a variety of benefits to this approach. For starters, the Evangelist can be promoted and developed from within the company, which is historically more affordable and efficient. The position relies less on intimate knowledge of platforms and audiences and more on common talents like management and organizational skills.
With an ability to hire mid-level talent to fill the role, the Evangelist position also allows for invaluable intimate industry or company-specific knowledge. The seasoned individual would be more likely to gain exposure to and support from executive management, as well as other key employees. With a distributed approach to content creation, this person would also have more bandwidth to identify and respond to critical issues and opportunities in a timely manner as well as stay on top of the latest social media tools, trends and tactics.
Start rethinking your current Social Media Marketing Manager job description. If you’re lucky (or smart) you may only need to redeploy your existing person with minimal disruption. More than likely, the existing employee would be more than happy with an opportunity to elevate their role within the company as Chief (Social Media) Evangelist.