If you want to tick off a bunch of bloggers, call yourself a “social media expert.”

If you want to give Hugh McLeod fodder for some hilarious cartoons, call yourself a “social media specialist.”

In fact, it seems like a lot of people don’t much like the term “social media,” either.

If you believe Steve Rubel, social media expertise as a career specialty, soon won’t even exist.   (Darn, that was brief!  Guess I better brush up those radio announcer skills from my wasted youth…)

Then again, OnlineMarketerBlog is convinced that there are at least 5 social media careers that will spring up in the next 5 years.

Along similar lines, I really liked what Kristina Halvorsen had to say about “content,” and who should be managing it, on the Brain Traffic blog.

With the economy still stressing everyone out about their future career prospects, rather than get hung up on job titles, what are some skill sets that are going to continue to be valuable to businesses, and relate to collaborative, community-inclusive, content-centric websites (also known as “social media”)?

Or, if you’d prefer to stir the pot, and join Jason in taking a stab at prognostication, what are some job titles/specialties that you think are going to either:

(A) Die a horrible, ignominious death of obscurity;

(B) Suddenly appear on the scene as a viable career path;

(C) Experience explosive growth/Take over the world, Pinky.

On a related rambling, I recently mentioned a book I read on parenting on my own blog.  Within a week, I got a comment and an email from a “Director of Content” who thanked me for the mention, and offered a couple of copies for a giveaway.

I’d never heard of a “Director of Content,” per se, before, but I see the value in having someone who takes responsibility for all brand-related web content, including developing content for brand-owned properties as well as finding, rewarding and promoting positive user-generated content.   That’s a different mindset than OnlineMarketingBlog’s proposed “Conversation Manager,” to my mind.

IMO, the difference in mindsets run along the lines of the Serenity Prayer:

“Give me the serenity to accept what I can’t change, the courage to change what I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

A Director of Content is focused on making sure great content that is brand-consistent, honest and authentic keeps streaming onto all the brand-controlled channels.  Additionally, a Content Specialist would work to encourage, promote, reward and recognize positive user-generated brand references.  A lot of work, and most of it focusing on the realm of “what I can directly change/control.”

A Conversation Manager mindset would seem to me to be more about customer and media relations.  In short, it’s less about the words than the opinions of the people behind them.  I would think that the Conversation Manager would live firmly in the land of “what I can’t directly change/control” (but can influence) most of the time.  I could see a Conversation Manager jumping into an online conversation about a product quality problem.   I might be wrong, but I don’t see a Director of Content doing that.

What do you think? I would imagine that a lot more organizations are culturally prepared to have a Director of Content role than a Conversation Manager role.

Oh, and I can’t wrap this post up without a hat-tip to Avinash Kaushik, whose Web Analytics Career Advice post, in addition to some of the posts linked above, prompted me to write this.  Business insights are another important part of this vocational skillset burgoo, and even if analytics isn’t your primary specialty, you need a passing familiarity with it to do well in any kind of online marketing.

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About Kat French

Kat French

Kat French is the Digital Operations Manager at CafePress. An exceptional writer both on the web and in other genres, Kat combines creativity with an agile, get-it-done attitude across a broad range of experience in community management, SEO/PPC, social media strategy and program management. She has worked with national brands like Maker's Mark, Daytona Beach Tourism, Optima Batteries and more.

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Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • lmacvittie

    Kat,

    Nice post. I think for organizations that social media will eventually be rolled into other roles. The problem now is folks aren't sure how to leverage social media, and it seems like it's so very different from other forms of communication/branding/marketing that it requires its very own role/title/position.

    I don't think that's necessarily true, and as we unravel the web of social media we'll find it's not that much different from traditional roles and it will become just another outlet/channel within the organization.

    You'll still have a job, it just won't have a fresh new title like “Social Media Queen”. Though admittedly I do like that one ;-)

    Lori

    • KatFrench

      You know, I also tend to think that “social media specialist” (which we're rapidly learning, is actually a generalist in terms of the scope of everything that falls into the social media bucket) is probably a transitional role.

      But I honestly don't think the transition is going to be complete in the next year or so. Maybe not for the next decade.

      • lmacvittie

        The irony is great, isn't it?

        I agree. It's going to be a while before the environment is better understood and its possible to transition. Once the bubble bursts, as it were, we'll be able to better gauge where the role fits in the organization and how to integrate it back into core positions.

  • lmacvittie

    Kat,

    Nice post. I think for organizations that social media will eventually be rolled into other roles. The problem now is folks aren't sure how to leverage social media, and it seems like it's so very different from other forms of communication/branding/marketing that it requires its very own role/title/position.

    I don't think that's necessarily true, and as we unravel the web of social media we'll find it's not that much different from traditional roles and it will become just another outlet/channel within the organization.

    You'll still have a job, it just won't have a fresh new title like “Social Media Queen”. Though admittedly I do like that one ;-)

    Lori

  • KatFrench

    You know, I also tend to think that “social media specialist” (which we're rapidly learning, is actually a generalist in terms of the scope of everything that falls into the social media bucket) is probably a transitional role.

    But I honestly don't think the transition is going to be complete in the next year or so. Maybe not for the next decade.

  • lmacvittie

    The irony is great, isn't it?

    I agree. It's going to be a while before the environment is better understood and its possible to transition. Once the bubble bursts, as it were, we'll be able to better gauge where the role fits in the organization and how to integrate it back into core positions.

  • http://mediaemerging.com Scott Hepburn

    I hate to say it, Kat, but I think Steve might be right. And Jason, too.

    The phrase “social media” is used only by those of us who are practitioners in the communication fields. Ask any college kid with 500+ Facebook friends what social media is…you'll get a shrug.

    Social media fluency is innate to those entering the workforce today. Eventually, social media fluency will be as common as speaking or writing the English language. Some people will always do it better than others, but most everybody will be able to do it.

    And then what?

    Yes, social media jobs will exist, but not in the abundance some of us hope. Big organizations might have 1 or 2 specialists in the medium. In most companies, though, regular folks performing age-old jobs like HR, customer service and tech support will be expected to add social media tools to their toolboxes.

    As for Content Manager vs. Conversation Manager…they're both important roles, but I suspect they'll fall under the aegis of Corporate Communications. Sure, the VP of CC might get one additional staffer to handle BOTH of these tasks, but more likely, the veep will be told to make sure both of these functions are performed using existing resources.

    • http://www.ribeezie.com Ricardo Bueno

      Re: “Ask any college kid with 500+ Facebook friends what social media is…you'll get a shrug.” It wouldn't have thought it 3 months ago but it's true.

      I approached a few Graduate Student Associations about revamping their web presence…using blogs and social media to brand their student groups so that they can develop recruitment opportunities, sponsorship opportunities and cultivate/strengthen their membership. For almost 5 weeks I got blank stares. “Blog” carried a *very* negative connotation! It wasn't until I delivered a sample product (a full on blog showcasing some content from previous events) that they started to get it; and still with much resistance to the idea.

      Anyway, your comment got me thinking on that whole experience…

    • KatFrench

      You may be right. (“I may be crazy.” Oh, wait. I don't really even like Billy Joel.)

      Still… I think that just monitoring/responding, or just staying on top of content (brand and UGC) is an awful lot of work to just be absorbed by existing roles and staff.

      But I totally agree that if it does still exist, it probably won't be called “social media FILLTHEBLANK,” and that other jobs will be expected to add social media tools to their toolboxes.

  • http://mediaemerging.com Scott Hepburn

    I hate to say it, Kat, but I think Steve might be right. And Jason, too.

    The phrase “social media” is used only by those of us who are practitioners in the communication fields. Ask any college kid with 500+ Facebook friends what social media is…you'll get a shrug.

    Social media fluency is innate to those entering the workforce today. Eventually, social media fluency will be as common as speaking or writing the English language. Some people will always do it better than others, but most everybody will be able to do it.

    And then what?

    Yes, social media jobs will exist, but not in the abundance some of us hope. Big organizations might have 1 or 2 specialists in the medium. In most companies, though, regular folks performing age-old jobs like HR, customer service and tech support will be expected to add social media tools to their toolboxes.

    As for Content Manager vs. Conversation Manager…they're both important roles, but I suspect they'll fall under the aegis of Corporate Communications. Sure, the VP of CC might get one additional staffer to handle BOTH of these tasks, but more likely, the veep will be told to make sure both of these functions are performed using existing resources.

  • Marshka

    Hi and thanks again for a thought-provoking post.
    Director of Content… not convinced, as I was recently thinking I could delegate the content industry to some cheap hard-working young postgraduate ^^, and keep the influence of these contents on the web for me ^^
    Conversation Manager sounds cool… but would any big firm say “oh, yeah, I'll pay you 30-45K to have a chit-chat with people on the web, aow, there are some on World of Warcraft, too, well, euh, yeah ?”. The problem is, do big firm know what to do about these conversation (“hey, it's been 4 months you're chit-chatting on WoW, where's my money-back you geeky thing ?”)
    I was recently thinking about it as I'm looking to do something else than ghost-blogging (erh…), what about a “Mr. web 2.0″ ? okay, it doesn't sound as pro, but it would recover manufacturing specific content for specific web 2.0 appli (twits, multimedia, videos, charts, etc) AND interacting with people who talk about the firm. I just sent a litteraly “let me be your Mr. Web 2.0″ cover letter at a big firm here in Paris, if I'm taken wow, I'd claim paternity of the position title ^^

    • KatFrench

      If you get to be “the original Mr. Web 2.0″ then I get to be the Content Queen.

      And that kind of specific, targeted monitoring and response is something I honestly think is a full-time job for larger companies, whether it's an in-house person or a vendor.

      • Marshka

        Sure. I'm on part-time on ghost-blogging and semi-ghost-blogging and this clearly is not enough time.

  • Marshka

    Hi and thanks again for a thought-provoking post.
    Director of Content… not convinced, as I was recently thinking I could delegate the content industry to some cheap hard-working young postgraduate ^^, and keep the influence of these contents on the web for me ^^
    Conversation Manager sounds cool… but would any big firm say “oh, yeah, I'll pay you 30-45K to have a chit-chat with people on the web, aow, there are some on World of Warcraft, too, well, euh, yeah ?”. The problem is, do big firm know what to do about these conversation (“hey, it's been 4 months you're chit-chatting on WoW, where's my money-back you geeky thing ?”)
    I was recently thinking about it as I'm looking to do something else than ghost-blogging (erh…), what about a “Mr. web 2.0″ ? okay, it doesn't sound as pro, but it would recover manufacturing specific content for specific web 2.0 appli (twits, multimedia, videos, charts, etc) AND interacting with people who talk about the firm. I just sent a litteraly “let me be your Mr. Web 2.0″ cover letter at a big firm here in Paris, if I'm taken wow, I'd claim paternity of the position title ^^

  • http://katie.heyvan.com Katie Van Domelen

    I totally agree. I think the terms “social media expert” and “social media specialist” grate on people's nerves because they could mean anything and are, as everyone else has pointed out, going to be obsolete as social media eventually permeates through all the other divisions and becomes a part of everyone's lives. But I disagree that the career path will dissapear all together. There will always need to be someone who's role it is to organize, collect, react, and create strategy. In the same way that technology itself was once specialized, and now we all know how to use it, we still need an IT/IS team to own responsibility for the technology and making it work. Is that an appropriate analogy? Maybe I just want to believe the role will continue to exist because I happen to be a content manager at my agency :) But I think this was a very insightful look at the future of the industry, thanks!

    • KatFrench

      I think the “IT/IS” analogy is excellent.

      And we have to be at least a generation away from there not being a need to coach all the people who aren't digital natives on the best ways to use the technology. There are still email productivity coaches, and supposedly we've all already mastered email. (Except some genuinely talented people still stink at using it well.)

  • http://katie.heyvan.com Katie Van Domelen

    I totally agree. I think the terms “social media expert” and “social media specialist” grate on people's nerves because they could mean anything and are, as everyone else has pointed out, going to be obsolete as social media eventually permeates through all the other divisions and becomes a part of everyone's lives. But I disagree that the career path will dissapear all together. There will always need to be someone who's role it is to organize, collect, react, and create strategy. In the same way that technology itself was once specialized, and now we all know how to use it, we still need an IT/IS team to own responsibility for the technology and making it work. Is that an appropriate analogy? Maybe I just want to believe the role will continue to exist because I happen to be a content manager at my agency :) But I think this was a very insightful look at the future of the industry, thanks!

  • http://www.ribeezie.com Ricardo Bueno

    Re: “Ask any college kid with 500+ Facebook friends what social media is…you'll get a shrug.” It wouldn't have thought it 3 months ago but it's true.

    I approached a few Graduate Student Associations about revamping their web presence…using blogs and social media to brand their student groups so that they can develop recruitment opportunities, sponsorship opportunities and cultivate/strengthen their membership. For almost 5 weeks I got blank stares. “Blog” carried a *very* negative connotation! It wasn't until I delivered a sample product (a full on blog showcasing some content from previous events) that they started to get it; and still with much resistance to the idea.

    Anyway, your comment got me thinking on that whole experience…

  • KatFrench

    You may be right. (“I may be crazy.” Oh, wait. I don't really even like Billy Joel.)

    Still… I think that just monitoring/responding, or just staying on top of content (brand and UGC) is an awful lot of work to just be absorbed by existing roles and staff.

    But I totally agree that if it does still exist, it probably won't be called “social media FILLTHEBLANK,” and that other jobs will be expected to add social media tools to their toolboxes.

  • KatFrench

    If you get to be “the original Mr. Web 2.0″ then I get to be the Content Queen.

    And that kind of specific, targeted monitoring and response is something I honestly think is a full-time job for larger companies, whether it's an in-house person or a vendor.

  • KatFrench

    I think the “IT/IS” analogy is excellent.

    And we have to be at least a generation away from there not being a need to coach all the people who aren't digital natives on the best ways to use the technology. There are still email productivity coaches, and supposedly we've all already mastered email. (Except some genuinely talented people still stink at using it well.)

  • http://broadcasting-brain.com Mark Dykeman

    Maybe social media experts should be marketing specialists, brand leaders, comms specialists…

    • KatFrench

      Maybe we already are

  • http://broadcasting-brain.com Mark Dykeman

    Maybe social media experts should be marketing specialists, brand leaders, comms specialists…

  • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/convince-convert-digital-marketing-blog jasonbaer

    Good stuff Kat. Thanks for the link, too.

    As I've said, I think “social media” is a poor description, but it's what we have for now.

    Certainly, there will be other new titles emerging. After all, it wasn't that long ago that these titles didn't exist:

    Web strategist
    Web developer
    Search engine optimizer
    Email marketing specialists
    search content specialist
    Online media buyer
    Web analytics expert
    etc etc etc

    If I had to pick one that I'll bet will become real, it will be “online video specialist” Too much power in YouTube and its brethren to not become a big, big deal in most companies.

    I'd also like to see Joseph Jaffe's “Chief Conversation Officer” get wide adoption, as I believe it hits on the right themes.

    Good stuff as always,
    j

    • KatFrench

      Of all the sessions I attended at Pubcon last month, Video Search Engine Optimization was one of the most eye-opening.

      There's much more to it than most people realize–and when you add the skillset involved in developing and producing quality video before you get to the optimization stage–yeah, I can see that being a full-time job in some firms.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/convince-convert-digital-marketing-blog jasonbaer

    Good stuff Kat. Thanks for the link, too.

    As I've said, I think “social media” is a poor description, but it's what we have for now.

    Certainly, there will be other new titles emerging. After all, it wasn't that long ago that these titles didn't exist:

    Web strategist
    Web developer
    Search engine optimizer
    Email marketing specialists
    search content specialist
    Online media buyer
    Web analytics expert
    etc etc etc

    If I had to pick one that I'll bet will become real, it will be “online video specialist” Too much power in YouTube and its brethren to not become a big, big deal in most companies.

    I'd also like to see Joseph Jaffe's “Chief Conversation Officer” get wide adoption, as I believe it hits on the right themes.

    Good stuff as always,
    j

  • KatFrench

    Maybe we already are

  • KatFrench

    Of all the sessions I attended at Pubcon last month, Video Search Engine Optimization was one of the most eye-opening.

    There's much more to it than most people realize–and when you add the skillset involved in developing and producing quality video before you get to the optimization stage–yeah, I can see that being a full-time job in some firms.

    Thanks for the comment!

  • http://www.seo-writer.ca David Leonhardt

    Sorry, but isn't the correct title “website promotion specialist”? Do we need a new term or a new career every time a new technological innovation comes along?

    • KatFrench

      I think that's an interesting comment, considering I haven't heard the title “website promotion specialist” used widely. “Website promotion specialist” is certainly specific, clear, and descriptive–but I'm not sure it would apply to the work some “social media specialists” do.

    • mrhames

      When's the last time you heard someone say: “I'm gonna check the YouTube website.” Or, I have to update my profile on the LinkedIn website.” These places aren't websites, and just because we're talking about the interwebs, it doesn't have to mean the world wide web and websites.

      I try to talk clients out of having websites. i talk them into having a digital presence. Which is totally different.

  • http://www.seo-writer.ca David Leonhardt

    Sorry, but isn't the correct title “website promotion specialist”? Do we need a new term or a new career every time a new technological innovation comes along?

  • http://thefuturebuzz.com AdamSinger

    People waste so much time giving things tags and titles…I don't see the value in it. Seems to me like everyone is arguing for the sake of arguing.

    • KatFrench

      I understand the desire to create a vernacular for all of this, and for it to be a clear, concise “linguistic shorthand.” And I don't think that current terminology accomplishes that.

      Also, I hardly think this is the only topic in the blogosphere (or life, for that matter) where people engage in a little arguing for the sake of arguing. :)

      • http://thefuturebuzz.com AdamSinger

        You've got a point there Kat ;)

  • http://thefuturebuzz.com AdamSinger

    People waste so much time giving things tags and titles…I don't see the value in it. Seems to me like everyone is arguing for the sake of arguing.

  • KatFrench

    I think that's an interesting comment, considering I haven't heard the title “website promotion specialist” used widely. “Website promotion specialist” is certainly specific, clear, and descriptive–but I'm not sure it would apply to the work some “social media specialists” do.

  • KatFrench

    I understand the desire to create a vernacular for all of this, and for it to be a clear, concise “linguistic shorthand.” And I don't think that current terminology accomplishes that.

    Also, I hardly think this is the only topic in the blogosphere (or life, for that matter) where people engage in a little arguing for the sake of arguing. :)

  • Ron

    You can be my queen Kat. Hehehe.

    Im interested of having a social media career sooner.

    • KatFrench

      LOL — Now accepting applications for “Loyal Subjects” ;-)

      Better sooner than later.

  • Ron

    You can be my queen Kat. Hehehe.

    Im interested of having a social media career sooner.

  • Marshka

    Sure. I'm on part-time on ghost-blogging and semi-ghost-blogging and this clearly is not enough time.

  • KatFrench

    LOL — Now accepting applications for “Loyal Subjects” ;-)

    Better sooner than later.

  • mrhames

    A friend of mine in the Toronto market was talking to a headhunter recently. The headhunter told my friend that the only positions moving had social media blank in the title. I met someone with the title social media sage, and think that part of what we do. We talk about, and explain it a little more. Then we offer content.

    Which is what copywriters do as well. The big difference is that the theory behind why someone looks at a billboard isn't open for debate.

    Great post, btw.

    • KatFrench

      Your comment about “social media sage,” aside from making me hungry for turkey and dressing, reminds me of something I read about the four archetypes: warrior, king, sage and a fourth one I can't remember.

      But it speaks to the coaching / mentoring element, which is the bulk of the work that needs to be performed to get to the point where everyone in the workforce understands this stuff. Thus ensuring our own obsolescence.

      Wow. There went my work ethic for the day. Bummer.

      But thanks for the comment!

  • mrhames

    A friend of mine in the Toronto market was talking to a headhunter recently. The headhunter told my friend that the only positions moving had social media blank in the title. I met someone with the title social media sage, and think that part of what we do. We talk about, and explain it a little more. Then we offer content.

    Which is what copywriters do as well. The big difference is that the theory behind why someone looks at a billboard isn't open for debate.

    Great post, btw.

  • mrhames

    When's the last time you heard someone say: “I'm gonna check the YouTube website.” Or, I have to update my profile on the LinkedIn website.” These places aren't websites, and just because we're talking about the interwebs, it doesn't have to mean the world wide web and websites.

    I try to talk clients out of having websites. i talk them into having a digital presence. Which is totally different.

  • KatFrench

    Your comment about “social media sage,” aside from making me hungry for turkey and dressing, reminds me of something I read about the four archetypes: warrior, king, sage and a fourth one I can't remember.

    But it speaks to the coaching / mentoring element, which is the bulk of the work that needs to be performed to get to the point where everyone in the workforce understands this stuff. Thus ensuring our own obsolescence.

    Wow. There went my work ethic for the day. Bummer.

    But thanks for the comment!

  • http://thefuturebuzz.com AdamSinger

    You've got a point there Kat ;)

  • mrhames

    A friend of mine in the Toronto market was talking to a headhunter recently. The headhunter told my friend that the only positions moving had social media blank in the title. I met someone with the title social media sage, and think that part of what we do. We talk about, and explain it a little more. Then we offer content.

    Which is what copywriters do as well. The big difference is that the theory behind why someone looks at a billboard isn't open for debate.

    Great post, btw.

  • mrhames

    When's the last time you heard someone say: “I'm gonna check the YouTube website.” Or, I have to update my profile on the LinkedIn website.” These places aren't websites, and just because we're talking about the interwebs, it doesn't have to mean the world wide web and websites.

    I try to talk clients out of having websites. i talk them into having a digital presence. Which is totally different.

  • http://www.internet-bard.com KatFrench

    Your comment about “social media sage,” aside from making me hungry for turkey and dressing, reminds me of something I read about the four archetypes: warrior, king, sage and a fourth one I can't remember.

    But it speaks to the coaching / mentoring element, which is the bulk of the work that needs to be performed to get to the point where everyone in the workforce understands this stuff. Thus ensuring our own obsolescence.

    Wow. There went my work ethic for the day. Bummer.

    But thanks for the comment!

  • http://thefuturebuzz.com AdamSinger

    You've got a point there Kat ;)

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