Do You Know Any Directors Of The Telephone?

telephoneI spent the past couple of days in Las Vegas for CES, and even though consumer electronics is not my focus, it has an increasingly new media bend to it.  As such, it was great to see my old industry friends and meet new ones. I found myself having a series of conversations about where social media is heading. It’s been on my mind quite a bit lately, and my latest thoughts and conversations are what inspired this post.

As social media moves out of the experimental stage and into that of business plans and financial commitments, and as the industry matures, we need a better plan than just throwing some tweets into the “social river”. I think the idea of a social business will keep gaining a stronger and stronger foothold, as the novelty of social media wears off and reality starts to set in.  There’s an important distinction between social media and social business. Social media is a new set of channels communication paradigms; a social business is a business that knows how to take social and traditional tools and make them work together. A social business doesn’t single out social media; rather, it makes it part of everything it does.

In his excellent article, Brian Solis says:

“And like that, the importance of listening and monitoring intensified and rapidly demanded a new support infrastructure. We are now moving from the era of community management to fully fledged command centers… [Brian goes on to add]: Before we can collaborate externally, we have to collaborate within. This is also about efficiency and cooperation where it hasn’t really existed before. We are now creating feedback loops wherever touchpoints and intelligence are active and brewing.”

And I couldn’t agree more…

Social media will move away from a silo into a more integrated effort — this has already started. This is easier said than done, and calls for careful planning and increased collaboration between departments. Social will be interwoven into all parts of the organization: sales, marketing, service, PR, product. And thus, it will no longer be one person who does all the tweeting and Facebooking on behalf of the brand. A truly social organization knows how to integrate multiple voices of employees and partners. The role of a Social Media Manager / Director will thus evolve into an increasingly strategic role that unites everyone under a single vision, pioneers social across all job functions. This person empowers others to get involved and becomes a resource to aid execution and adherence to best practices and policy. This ensures that the beautiful patchwork of voices is goal-directed and is still in the best interests of the company.

This new strategist and practitioner understands that each and every person in the company is a possible touchpoint for the customer. Taking it a step further, this person extends the notion of the team beyond the company itself, and into the ecosystem of partners, resellers, suppliers, influencers, journalists, etc. This practitioner knows how to strike a balance between daily execution and strategic planning. A consummate networker, this person juggles and serves the interests of internal and external constituents, in the end ensuring external and internal collaboration, engagement, advocacy and commitment.

Given the multifaceted nature of social business, I also believe that the title of Social Media Manager (or Director) is going to become somewhat obsolete. Up until now, we have been so focused on social media as the process and the end goal, that we have gotten a bit too swept up in tools without always asking “Why? What am I really trying to do?” I see that changing already, and that’s a good sign. I think the job titles should, and will, over time, reflect this evolution towards the end goal. Instead of being Directors of Social Media, we are going to become Directors of Customer Experience, Community Engagement, Advocacy, etc.  If you hear of someone “doing social media”, you should run. You don’t “do” social media –- rather, you engage in social channels with your constituents so you can provide [insert end goal here — engagement, experience, innovation, etc.]. As such, I think saying that you are a Director of social media is akin to saying that you are a Director of the Phone or Email. I’m not discounting the importance of knowing the nuances of social media communication and very specific (stated and unstated) rules of engagement. Far from it… The engagement officer needs to be well versed in how the various channels are different, and how they can be leveraged for the immaculate end result.

I see social media as a crucially important piece of the marketing mix, service, customer experience, PR, sales, and product innovation – but not the only piece. Let’s not “throw out the baby with the bathwater” – you still need email marketing, you still need phone support. You should allow the customer to come to you via whatever channel she prefers, but make sure that the experience is uniform, and all persons servicing her have access to the same information. Anyone can start a Twitter account, but the real work comes form integrating social support with community support and traditional support, while enhancing collaboration between support and other departments.

On a personal note, because of the reasons stated above, I’m considering changing my own title. To start things right, I hired our newest team member Tricia to the title of Community Manager, not Social Media Manager. At the end of the day, though, a title is just words.. what you do with is is what matters.

What do you think? What are the social media titles in your organization? How is the community team structured? The comments are yours!

Photo source: tj scenes