Jeremiah Owyang of the Altimeter Group released a report today called, “Career Path of the Corporate Social Media Strategist.” It’s the result of months of research and interviews with enterprise-level (companies of 1,000 or more employees) social media strategists and those that counsel them. The report is, to my knowledge, the first deep look into the emerging role of the social media decision-makers at companies around the world.
While at first it is natural to second-guess the exclusion of small- and medium-sized businesses, one must realize what Altimeter and Owyang do. The role of their research is to analyze and predict trends in our industry. Enterprise corporations are the only ones really devoting resources to social media at levels that can be somewhat predictive of what’s to come for those of us in the space.
What the report shows are some quantitative and qualitative data to support assumptions we all make, as well as suggestions for companies wishing to leverage social media marketing moving forward. Anecdotally, I’m certain if you asked anyone working as a social media anything, they’d enumerate the six major challenges Owyang points out for the role. Everyone who “does” social media within organizations has dealt with resistance, envy or ridicule from inside, has been pressured to prove ROI despite a vast lack of resources and juggled both the demands of ever-changing technology and business demands.
We can all recount the emergence timeline Owyang explains, though we probably couldn’t have identified it in order and as succinctly as he has.
In short, there’s a lot of “duh” in this report, but it’s the first time someone has taken the time and care to put Captain Obvious on paper and quantify it. Hat’s off to Altimeter and Owyang for doing so.
Still, it’s worth the read if just to wrap your head around the real statistics that the average social media strategist has seven years of experience in digital marketing and 13 years total work experience; almost all have a master’s degree; and the majority have degrees in communications or marketing, not business or technology.
But here’s why you should pay attention to this report: Regardless of company size, Owyang’s recommendations, statistics and analysis of the social media strategist as a job description provides the necessary data to advocate for enhanced attention and resources for social media in your organization. When an industry analyst opines, CEOs yawn. When they offer data, case studies and proof points to back up those assertions, decision-makers pay attention.
Jeremiah Owyang has paved the way for you with this report. Use it wisely and with the right people and you’ll soon find better understanding from your superiors and perhaps even more buy-in for your ideas.
If I had a criticism of the paper, it would be of the Altimiter Group’s continued Silicon Valley-centric assertion that social media is technology. The Eureka! moment in the document is Owyang’s definition that you have two choices: to be proactive in driving social media strategy or be relegated to a social media help desk worker.
In that introduction, he writes:
“Social strategists will encounter more demands from customers and internal business units as social media continues to become a mainstream technology.”
Maybe it’s just me (and the fact that I didn’t grow up in the shadow of Google or Facebook, nor do I hang out with coders all day), but social media is not technology. It’s not about technology. Owyang’s own demographics show this. Why can’t he see it?
Social media is about communications. The technology is merely the conduit.
Sure, Altimeter has a tech-centric view of the world because they live and breathe tech all day. Many of their clients are technology companies. It behooves them to play nice with the geeks.
But remove the platform and the communication exists. Remove the communication and the platform serves no purpose.
And yeah, perhaps it’s a semantic argument. But it bugs me and Jeremiah would be disappointed if I didn’t push back on him a bit here.
That nit-pickiness aside, this report is a method to champion the cause of social media marketing, strategy and participation in your organization. Share it with the right people in your office. Leverage the facts behind the industry, not just your etherial notions of Kumbaya hand-holding for your company. You’ve got a weapon now. Use it wisely.
Thanks, Jeremiah. The industry needed this.