3 reasons social media professionals need to step up or risk their jobs

There are almost 10,000 vacancies for social media manager on Indeed right now and the numbers keep on growing. In fact there are even more jobs in social media, especially when you search for social analyst, content manager, editor and the many burgeoning job titles.

There are university courses and training programmes galore, all designed to help fill those vacancies. But I don’t think this is enough. In fact, I think if the social media profession doesn’t step up in 2015, there is a danger these roles won’t exist in the future.

Why am I being so dramatic? Because, this year, there is a window of opportunity to establish the social media discipline as a business essential. A discipline where social media is seen as a professional career. One that doesn’t shy away from delivering business value (not just engagement and follows). We need to change perception that we are a ‘nice to have’ department that spends all day tweeting and making up hashtags. Social is essential to business, and we need to prove it.

And as a starting point there are three crucial areas that need fixing:

Social adds value. It is not a fad

So many social media managers are seen as an addendum to another department. Sitting in siloes within marketing, customer service or PR departments. A tick in the check box of senior management. Often with no voice in decision making and objectives that don’t add value to companies, but instead chase followers numbers and only reach.

If we want progress, then gaining buy-in from senior management is essential. Social media needs to get very good at presenting a solid business case. We need to educate; demonstrate value; and, put our necks on the line, and commit to delivering results.

Social professionals must invest time to develop plans and prove value. We must learn to speak to the needs of business.

With the C-suite on board, social media activity doesn’t need to struggle on a shoestring budget either. Buy-in for social means greater investment to bring on board listening tools, maximise social advertising and create original social content.

Stop evading the ROI question

In talking social to the C-suite, we also need to be gutsy and talk ROI. Plans need to be made that focus on performance. Strategies need to go beyond engagement and chatter. There is no alternative if we want to be taken seriously by companies. We need to talk results that impact the bottom line.

We can be clever and pinch from other disciplines. Social impacts other channels to market. And other channels often have metrics that we too can use. Let’s look harder at attribution models, step away from last click (as affiliate marketers have), and look at optimisation and correlation graphs – bringing in other data points and KPIs to measure against the social activity.

For instance, does social activity improve ecommerce conversion rates? Does social drive leads? Or does social impact customer perception and ultimately repeat sales? Let’s prove social adds business value with some hard numbers.

Get smart, social is more than marketing

Over the last 10 years in social media I have come to the conclusion that just being a digital native is not enough to give you the skills for social media.

We need an army of professionals that also understand data (insights), ecommerce, marketing, demand generation, social search, customer service, PR, behavioural economics, sales and so much more. Social leaks into every customer touch point, and we need to know how to maximise this opportunity for our companies.

Social professionals need to widen their knowledge beyond marketing. Keep on learning, ask questions, and sit in different departments. Understand how social might impact across the business and look for opportunities to add value. Whether its conversation data that informs product development or social customer service that improves an NPS – find out how other disciplines prove business value; how they measure their results; and best practices social can adopt too.

This is going to be a pivotal year in social media. Social media professionals who step up will embed in businesses. And surely that is a great goal for 2015 and beyond.

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