Social is not a job for specialists anymore

by Jeff Hilimire on April 1, 2011

I saw this sign on Swanny’s door (Steve leads client services at Engauge) while in our Columbus office this week and I had to grab a picture of it.  Also I should point out that Swanny is the only person I know that doesn’t have a desk you can sit at in his office.  It’s a standing desk.  It’s fantastic.  Although I will never have an office again, if I did, I’d try a standing desk so that I’d never find myself just sitting in my office all day.

But this sign got me thinking.  And this statement is probably six months too early, but here it is: SOCIAL IS NOT A JOB FOR SPECIALISTS ANYMORE.

Social, or social media, social marketing, whatever you want to call it, does not belong in a box.  It does not belong in one department, under only one leader, only in one person’s head at your company.  Social should be a part of every conversation, and not just the marketing conversations.

Social represents the ability to connect with people via a digital means, to have a dialogue with them and to engage with them directly.  It means a lot of things and I’ve debated the true meaning of social many times, with many people.

Your HR department should embrace social and use it to attract and retain your staff.  Your marketing department should use it to form deeper, more loyal relationships with your customers.  Your PR department should use it to spread communications and build advocacy.  Your customer service department should use it to answer customer questions on a mass scale.  Your CEO should use it to spread the mission of the company to your most engaged fans.  Your finance department…ok, maybe not your finance department ;)  But most groups within your company should understand the power that social provides.

If you stick social in a group and don’t expose it to the rest of your organization, you’re only going to get the surface level benefits that it provides.  You’ll basically be chasing likes and follows.  At Engauge we have the Digital Innovation Group (DIG) that eats, sleeps and breaths social and emerging tech.  This is helpful because it allows for an expertise to be built and a deeper level of understanding in these mediums, much more so than could be achieved by random individuals across a company.

However, DIG is constantly working with the rest of the agency, providing guidance and education, hosting lunch & learns, running webcasts, producing podcasts, all in an effort to ensure that the power of social isn’t confined to just within that group.  And the result is that social is part of every client, campaign, or project, at least from a “how can social help fuel this idea” standpoint.

Make social something that isn’t just a job for specialists at your company much the same way that digital should permeate your entire organization.  Only then will you start to realize the full benefit of social media marketing awesomeness.

  • Josh Martin

    I disagree with your statement slightly. In fact, I may suggest to change or tweak that statement.

    The reason why is that your statement makes me think that anyone can do social and that the Social Media Specialists of the world aren’t important. I agree that social doesn’t belong in a box and that it needs to be in all conversations, but I think Social Specialists are important to the process because they know the correct way to implement social media and can be there to support those conversations.

    Maybe change the statement to something like: DON’T BE AFRAID TO THINK SOCIAL

  • Amber Rose

    Josh, I agree with your suggestion of changing or tweaking somehow… or just adding a little more to the story. For instance, just because someone has a degree in PR or Social Media doesn’t mean they are the right person for the job. Experience plays a huge role in our field, and, without it, you are simply working by whatever the books in front of you tell you to do. And, it doesn’t necessarily need to be a Social Media Specialist who nudges a company into the “social world,” but any worker who sees/knows the importance of Social Media should be compelled to bring the subject up to management/higher authority.

  • @KathleneHestir

    We had this same debate the other day. Someone asked me in a meeting what department social media made the most in – mainly marketing vs eCommerce. I used your same argument – because I absolutely think social should be an extension of everyone’s role.

    However, I still think it’s verrrry important to have a specialist setup company guidelines and train people how to properly use the latest and greatest tools. Examples like Aflac and Chrysler show us that it’s not always obvious to people what they should and shouldn’t say:) The amplified effect of social to spread your message can turn into complete chaos with one tweet. That being said, I completely agree with you, there is a lot to gain by integrating social into every department.

  • Dennis Dube

    Agreed it now goes beyond one person or department. For me, I still think back to a quote I heard at SMX last year from Yahoo’s David Roth….
    “Who should own social Media in your organization? Who owns the paper in your organization?”

  • Jeff Hilimire

    Yup, that’s a nice way to put it: “Who should own social Media in your organization? Who owns the paper in your organization?”

    Unfortunately it will need an owner for a while, but to me its the same as who owns digital. Used to be one group/department/person did. Now can you imagine if only one group knew how to use the internet for business? Yikes.

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