Last year we summarized the trajectory that the position of social media strategist has taken. We said that “the career path of the social strategist will continue to be limited as long as companies undermine the role of social media within the enterprise.” One year later, does this still hold true?

We took another look at the role of the social strategist this month and discovered that not only has the social strategist become a part of a company’s social media team, but they have begun to focus more on “leveraging the unique dynamics of the social construct to drive a business.”

What a Difference a Year Makes

What has happened in the past year to help substantiate the role of social strategist within the enterprise?Here are a few elements that may have influenced the validity of the role.

More Access to Best Practices

Best practices started to emerge from those within the social media industry, which helped businesses adapt and accept the benefits that a social strategist can bring to business outcomes.

Thanks to a presentation by Jeremiah Owyang, industry analyst for the Altimeter Group, that outlined the “The State and Future of Social Business” and events like the Social Business Strategy Summit, social strategy was seen as something necessary and attainable by even the most constrained companies.

Strategy First, Tools Second

Shifting the focus away from social media tools helped companies see social business as a strategy designed around collaborative workforces and knowledge sharing, rather than platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

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Images courtesy of Parta Dialogue

For too long the messages that companies have been hearing is "you have to be on Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Tumblr. Pinterest." As a result, it doesn't take too long for a company to completely shut down or become overwhelmed about having to incorporate a new tool every six months.

The alternative was to develop a strategy that outlines how a company works, the behaviors of its customers and the culture it wants to develop or maintain. Once a social strategy is in place, companies can simply say "we choose not to be on X because we found that our customers are on X instead." A strategy doesn't negate a social media presence, it just simply outlines a path of social evolution.

More Hands on Deck

As Josette Rigby's series on building a social media team illustrates, the more specialized roles that develop, the less likely it is that companies will begin to expect one person to do it all. Of course, there are smaller organizations who will have only one person handling social media, but within larger organizations there is a shift to build a team that consists of community managers, social media managers and social strategists.

The goal isn't to further silo these responsibilities, but to build a collaborative workforce where team members can focus their time on relevant tasks and work with others to share information in pursuit of improving customer conversations, engagement and experience.

Are Social Strategists Where They Want to Be?

Not necessarily. It would be naive of us to assume that in a year from now, the role of social media will be the same, but it may not change as drastically as it did during this past year. Yet, social strategists must be ready and willing to adapt to whatever social media technology comes next.

Obviously the goals remain the same -- to develop a social strategy for promoting customer engagement and conversations about a brand or service, but the behaviors and platforms will change and evolve. Just as we've seen new additions to the C-Suite, social strategists may one day end up as Chief Strategist or become an integral member of the Chief Marketing Officer's team, if they aren't one already.