Last time in our Building a Social Media Team series, we discussed the community manager. A community manager is necessary, but it is not the only role that’s important in a social media team. This week we take a look at the social strategist.

Setting the Tone and Making a Plan

As social adoption grows within the enterprise, so does the need for social strategists. A quick search on almost any career site will confirm this assertion. More companies are realizing they need someone to set the tone and direction for their social media efforts.

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The role may have different names, but the purpose is same -- providing the “on the ground” leadership for social media efforts. They act as evangelists and enterprise level program managers. Altimeter describes the social strategist as,

the business decision maker for social media programs -- who provides leadership, roadmap definition and governance; and directly influences the spending on technology vendors and service agencies.”

The definition is valid, but most social strategists don’t focus myopically on social media. They are business strategists first and leverage the unique dynamics of the social construct to drive a business. Keep in mind, like the community manager, the social strategist is a role. Depending on the size and objectives of an organization it may be possible to combine multiple roles into a single staff position.

No matter what staffing model organizations use, it’s important that organizations don’t make the mistake of considering the social strategist as an entry-level position that they can entrust to the first person with a little extra bandwidth or the new intern that seems to be on Facebook all day. Ideally a social strategist:

  • Is capable of performing or leading a thorough assessment of social media use
  • Has the skills to develop, plan and monitor a holistic social media strategy/framework that includes measurable goals, objectives, resource needs and activities/programs/campaigns for individual departments and an entire organization
  • Can define and lead both tactical and strategic social efforts
  • Understands how to align social strategy with corporate strategy
  • Has strong written and verbal communication skills
  • Fully comprehends the impact of social media to organizational departments and the ability to engage the departments over time
  • Has a broad understanding of the current state of the social media market and channels
  • Grasps the importance of leveraging tools for monitoring, measuring and analyzing the impact of social efforts

Keep in mind that the role and characteristics of social strategists are continuing to evolve along with the larger social media ecosystem, so it’s especially important that social strategists have a strong tolerance for ambiguity and change. In addition, organizations should fill the role of the social strategist as soon as possible after deciding to participate in social media. Filling the role will ensure there is someone responsible for answering core questions like: Will social interactions and communications be managed centrally or across departments? Which social channels will the organization leverage? Is every employee empowered to act as a social representative for the brand?

The Future of the Social Strategist

As organizations evolve from experimenting with social media to making it a core component of how they interact internally and externally, the social strategist will grow in importance. Currently, most social strategists are in the marketing organization. Just as IT separated from operations into its unit decades ago, in the future we may see social separate from marketing into its own entity led by a chief social officer.

Social has become much more than a tool to promote the brand or attract new customers. Social is weaving itself into the very fabric of business -- customer service, interactions with partners, internal collaboration and more.

Next time, we will look at the social program manager role.