social media professionalsThere 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.

One thought on “3 reasons social media professionals need to step up or risk their jobs

  1. David Phillips

    It is a long time since we recognised that: “Internet PR is not a bolt-on, nice-to-have option: it is critical to survival” (Phillips 2001). Internet PR has come a long way in response to the 1990’s online revolution in the shape of social media.

    Now it is time to look at the next revolution. We are beginning to see the dramatic effects even at this low point in the development curve:

    “The British department store chain John Lewis enjoyed the most lucrative week in its 150-year-history thanks to “Black Friday” business which helped to drive sales nearly five percent higher in the five weeks to Dec. 27.” (Reuters Jan 2015)

    We have known about the drivers of this revolution for some time.

    Beyond the web and social media, universities have been working like mad to make sense of the potential of the next developments and now, now it is coming to life and is very important as the next big steps in the digital PR revolution.

    We all thought, misguidedly, it was about some technical application in the space programme. But now we find it is about and for ordinary people.

    It is about and for people who use social media: client, consumer, state and individual, the ignorant and genius.

    Beyond the web sites and social media is an evolution as big as MySpace, Facebook, Wikipedia, Google Plus ((Pssst… did you know that G+ is nearly as big as Facebook already!) and a host of other publicly available internet services driven by:

    ‘Cloud Computing for Everyone’
    ‘Super computers’
    ‘Artificial Intelligence’

    I guess many people think this is all about the future. Well, it isn’t.

    Lots of ordinary people use cloud computing. They ‘log into’ their work from home, use Google Drive to write reports, prepare presentations and the spreadsheet (and much more) at anytime using their work and private PC’s Laptops, Tablets and mobile ‘phones. Photos and videos are now kept online and… well you get the message … cloud computing has crept up on everyone including gran enjoying here Christmas videos of the grandchildren’s school play. Cloud computing is big for consumers as well as companies (how many Grandmothers are there?).

    Launched in 2014, the Edinburgh University’s new ARCHER supercomputer, largest in the UK, is one among many now at the brink of widespread use (Google, Twitter and Facebook are among the first users). Naturally, supercomputing news is offered in Facebook. If you are one of the 300 million people using G+, you use a supercomputer too! Super Computing is becoming pervasive. The United Kingdom is investing in the world’s fastest weather forecasting supercomputer. When it’s complete this year, the Met Office’s new supercomputer will clock in at 16 petaflops — one of the fastest supercomputers in the world. Supercomputing output to the in-car weather forecast is only weeks away! Supercomputing is for you and me!

    These big computers are being offered to very ordinary people. Big Computing is a ‘Billion Facebook Likes’ as much as mapping the planets. Today you will probably use a ‘Supercomputer’. Well done!.

    In effect very ordinary people with very tiny budgets can tap into huge computing capability with very low cost memory and processing.

    Then there is Artificial Intelligence. Its creeping up on us. It may be used in areas of expensive computing and commerce but the big users are you and me. Alan Turing wrote in 1950 “I propose to consider the question ‘can a machine think’? Today we live with ‘AI creep’. It is when computers takeover and we just accept that they do.

    The Kinect, which provides a 3D body–motion interface for the Xbox 360 and the Xbox One, uses algorithms that emerged from lengthy AI research as do intelligent personal assistants in smartphones. In 2015 researchers constructed a robot, which learned how to use tools by watching YouTube videos .

    Online services that recognise speech, photographs and images and are able to make very complex decisions are now commonplace. You can use your Google Chrome browser as a voice recognition app and type long documents, emails and essays without touching the keyboard. The app is integrated with Dropbox and Google Drive so you can easily export your transcribed text to your various online ‘Cloud Computing’ accounts. Or your can send the text to any email address.

    All this extension to our ability to communicate, interact, influence and change social as well commercial intent is now at our fingertips.

    Public Relations has to think about these developments; harness them and understand what is happening.

    We need an army of professionals that also understand not just data but the really big changes that are happening to our lives now.

    We need to recognise that last years digi-speak is todays everyman service.

    Social Media leaks into every customer, societal interaction, cultural development, economic opportunity, personal and organisational touch point, and we need to know how to maximise this opportunity for our companies.

    Social professionals need to widen their knowledge beyond marketing and recognise that we are in an era of life change and enhancement.

    To be really good we have to think about what has changed.

    John Lewis enjoyed the most lucrative week in its 150-year-history thanks to the internet, the web, social media,
    cloud computing, supercomputers and artificial intelligence.

    In PR, we need to both know this happened and the extent to which the components at play last December and will be in eleven month’s time.

    Phillips, D (2001) Online public relations. New York: Kogan Page

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