Social Media will Normalize –Why Dedicated Roles and Direction are Required

Normalization in corporations
Dan Schawbel eloquently writes his position on why he believes that in the future that there will not be any social media experts within corporations. He asserts that these easy to use communication tools will normalize and be adopted by everyone –without having a centralized resource. He uses the metaphor of email experts in the 60s and how they aren’t needed now. He’s not the only one to think this, this is a stance Edelman’s Steve Rubel also takes.

Trendwatch: Roles are appearing
I respectfully disagree, as I’m seeing something else happen: centralized groups of social media decision making, budgets, best practices, and training are emerging within corporations –some are centralizing. One thing is for certain: full time and part time roles are being created at enterprise class companies, and my list grows each week. (I started with 8 ).

[As real business goals, budgets and resources are put towards social media, corporations naturally react with dedicated roles]

Examining email usage as a model
The metaphor for we don’t have ’email experts’ in 2008 isn’t quite true, as there is a whole class of marketers that have appeared called Direct Marketers that focus on email marketing. While email certainly has become a ubiqutious tool, it takes a certain skillset to masterfully (and often not) derive effective email marketing campaigns. While everyone can fire off an email to customers, planning, care, and experience are required when sending emails to thousands and millions of prospects and customers –as they are representing the brand in an official context.

Why coordination will be more successful than not
While I agree every employee represents the brand, we’ve got to realize that in many cases, brands that adopt social media are using it for marketing efforts, campaigns, and programs –all in a coordinated way. As a result, they have to pitch to management, assemble budgets, get headcount, and measure the accountability of their actions. Without having a real plan and strategy, you risk creating a fragmented experience to your customers, having redundancies from different folks in your organization, and lack true organization.

In fact, I had breakfast with LaSandra Brill of Cisco who has one of these dedicated roles, and she already sees that “Social Media roles will likely centralize, and in some cases in MarCom”. I’d add that’s similar to what happened to email marketing, after years of normalization with all employees.

Take for example some companies that encourage blogging from many employees, brands like IBM, Sun, Microsoft, and HP. While each could be argued to have major success from this open discussion, while they may be everywhere and talking to everyone, it’s hard to hear a single consolidated voice from the many small waves. I could quantify this by adding up the sum of comments and trackbacks for the thousands of public blogs, then divide by the total number of blogs, to derive a conversation rate, which I’ll guess would be lower than many top tech blogs.

Summary: Expect dedicated roles to appear –but as a guide, not a force
So in summary, while it seems like these tools should quickly normalize, and spread to each individuals, companies that are organized will be more effective than companies that are not. In the future, most employees will uses these tools as gracefully as email, when it comes time for comprehensive swell –internal leadership to guide the many ships will be needed. An important caveat: for success, these roles are more of coordinators, educations, and internal resources –not forceful controllers.

Related Resources

  • Trends: Corporate Adoption of Social Media: Tire, Tower, and the Wheel
  • Growing list of Full Time Social Media Professionals at Enterprise Corporations
  • A Complete list of the Many Forms of Web Marketing for 2008
  • Understanding the difference between a Task, Project, and Program
  • Forrester Report: How to Staff for Social Computing