The Social Media Manager is Dead. Long Live Social Media.

By Ryan Holmes | 1 year ago | No Comments

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HootSuite CEO Ryan Holmes

Last year, New England College in Henniker, N.H., welcomed the first students into its dedicated MBA in Digital and Social Media. Among the first of its kind, the two-year program — with classes on everything from the psychology of social media to digital marketing — set out to train the next generation of social media managers and professionals for a brave new marketplace.

Whether their positions will still exist by the time they graduate in 2014 is anyone’s guess.

Once touted as the next big thing, the social media job market has undergone a marked slowdown, according to newly released stats from career site Indeed.com. Growth in positions with the title “social media manager” slowed to 50% in the past year, a dramatic decline from recent years, when triple (and even quadruple) digit growth was commonplace.

Some of social media’s staunchest advocates are waving a white flag. “Social media managers, it could be time to find a new title,” cautions reporter Vickie Elmer on Quartz. “Social media jobs, once much vaunted, are now frequently regarded with skepticism, even contempt,” writes Buzzfeed’s Rob Fishman.

But don’t delete those social media skills from your resume just yet.

Behind the decline in social media managers is a sea change in the way that social media itself is used within organizations, according to industry analysts and former managers themselves. Once the exclusive domain of digital gurus, Twitter, Facebook (FB), and other tools are gradually becoming everyone’s responsibility. “We are seeing an increased demand for social savvy candidates across the business — from human resources to product to customer service,” Amy Crow, Indeed’s communication director told Quartz.

The numbers back Crow up. Compared to a year ago, there are 13 times as many jobs on Indeed that involve the use of social media in some way. “[We’re] seeing this demand span many levels, from executive assistants to senior vice presidents,” Crow explains. Buzzfeed contributing editor Fishman, once a social media manager for The Huffington Post, concurs: “In speaking with higher-ups at outlets old and new, I heard from all of them that social was no longer peripheral, but core to their strategy,” he writes. “Concentrating authority in a single personage no longer made sense …”

While these comments are in the context of news outlets, the same transformations are registering across a broad range of industries. “As a business solution, social has evolved, moving well beyond the marketing department, to address business objectives across the organization,” concludes a July 2013 report from MIT’s Sloan Management Review, which surveyed more than 2,500 businesses in 99 countries. Another recent report from McKinsey pegs the collective value of extending social media company-wide at $1.3 trillion in improved productivity and customer awareness.

Image by Don LaVange via flickr
No Social Media Managers are buried here. Don’t worry, we checked. Image by Don LaVange via flickr

Customer service teams at many companies have already embraced social media, often out of necessity. More than half of consumers now use social tools like Twitter and Facebook to reach out to companies with questions and complaints, according to Nielsen’s 2012 Social Media Report. Meanwhile, sales teams are also turning to Twitter, LinkedIn, and other tools for what is being called “social selling“: sales intelligence, lead generation, and network building. Last year, IBM (IBM) saw a 400% surge in sales after implementing a social selling program, and 61% of U.S. marketers now use social media to generate new business.

Meanwhile, departments as diverse as R&D and logistics are tapping into social tools to expedite tasks ranging from developing new products to streamlining the supply chain. “[The] notion of a single person who spends their entire day on Twitter creating hashtags” is dead, writes GigaOM reporter Matthew Ingram. Being social is “part of everyone’s job, or soon will be.”

Whether everyone is adequately trained for that job, however, is another question. Just as it took years to fully onboard email, integrating social media into the workplace is frustrated by a skills gap. “The problem is that gap hasn’t been fully closed yet,” writes Anthony De Rosa, former social media editor for Reuters. “Every organization is different.” Case in point: Among 2,100 companies surveyed recently by Harvard Business Review, just 12% of those using social media feel they actually use it effectively.

For an older generation of employees, social media often remains misunderstood and underutilized. Even digital natives — younger workers brought up on a steady diet of Facebook and Twitter — need to be trained to use the tools in a business context. [Full disclosure: One part of my company provides this type of training.] “Business requires people with the skills and understanding on how to use … social media professionally in an integrated and strategic way,” says William Ward, who teaches a series of popular social media courses to undergraduates at Syracuse University. “[Using] it to connect with friends and family” is not the same thing.

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14 comments
keetasimoneb
keetasimoneb

Did you just really eliminate the one job that is the driving once behind Hootsuite? Whether or not everyone company wide is posting there still needs to be a campaign strategy..who do you think created something like this? Smh speechless. It's funny I've been comparing products like hootsuite, thinkup, Sendible, everypost etc

This article single handedly has made my selection that much easier ;)

MikeKincaid
MikeKincaid

Being active on social media requires a time commitment and companies who think people from various departments are really going to put in a lot of effort when they have their own jobs to do are going to be surprised when it doesn’t work for them. Having someone in place full-time to manage social media campaigns, track their success, and be the voice for the company is paramount for any business trying to get involved with social media. A hodgepodge all-hands approach may work in the short term, but for long term success, there needs to be a dedicated person in place to manage the endeavor and be the voice of the company.

Nathan Corliss
Nathan Corliss

Hahaha Hootsuite, 

It seems you may have accomplished what all social media managers set out to do; start a conversation. I'm seeing valid points on all fronts, and I truly hope this isn't a front for you to sell more content licences. 

In any case, I'm proud to participate in this discussion. 

First, my company needs more employee engagement, and its very difficult to get social engagement worked into our internal culture. I would laud employees posting to our channels from personal accounts, but would never wrest admin control en masse. 

I'm evaluating insights/analytics everyday, and to @shawnallain's point, there is no way everyone should be posting unless they're in on the over arching strategy; read optimized posting times and content, read not everyone is qualified or prepared to speak our company's voice. 

Next up, since ya'll are so smart, lets here a discussion on Yelp!/Online reviews. I would love to get your insights. 

Thanks @hootsuite @invoker @Denovati @jordanbehan! Way to stoke the fire of discourse!

Ben
Ben

"I am like an air-traffic controller on a team of skilled fighter pilots."

Whoah! This is twitter & facebook we're talking about, not Top Gun.

iTs_rahulpatel
iTs_rahulpatel

I don't think just creating Twitter hashtags or Facebook posts has been the only work profile for SMM. Yes, it has been an essential and important part of the jobs for sure but SMM job is never limited to it. It is a really diversified role and does not fits in the small box survey/your article has presented. 

Handling social media professionally requires a lot more effort than simply handling a personal profile. Customer experience, product road map and marketing, everything is taking the road made with social media now a days. Not only number of users is increasing but also time spent on social media is increasing which makes it more critical for companies to handle properly. 

I really did not understood one point in the article. You have said that giving authority of social media interaction to only one person is wrong which tells us that everyone in the organization should be allowed to use social media as he/she likes. This only lead to chaos as you can not project a single image of your organization when it comes from 20 different minds. There'll be a need for person who can take the ideas from everyone and modify those to suit the image of organization in social world. 

I'd like to hear your opinion about my points. 

RichardStacy
RichardStacy

I think this is a very significant post, which is drawing attention to the shift away from defining social media in terms of channel and message, command and control, reach and frequency - towards seeing social media as a business process - which is all about behaviour identification and response.

See http://richardstacy.com/2013/10/04/hoot-suite-on-the-future-of-social-media/

Clearly, there are people who still adhere to old-fashioned, centralized command and control approaches - and I think that it is this thinking, rather than social media managers, which is entering its death throes - and of course there will always be people who will resist this @ShawnAlain being a case in point.

ShawnAlain
ShawnAlain

I've lost a lot of respect for Mr. Holmes on this article especially since Hootsuite sells licenses per user.  It is a good point that yes it is great to have all your employees contribute in content creation, but what you're proposing is that everyone can post anything whenever they want on the company platforms...do you not see anything wrong with this problem?

1. This gives no overall strategy for each platform, just loosey goosey shooting from the hip.

2. Is anyone going to respond to your followers or are you just pumping out your message and hoping people are listening?

3.  Is your entire staff aware of the brand image you are projecting on social media?

4. Who is managing your social media advertising campaign?

5. Ever heard of optimal posting times?  You can throw those out the window with no Social Media Manager.

6. Does the entire staff have any public relations skills? A Social Media Manager should.

7.  Who will analyze all the social media data and analytics?

I'm sure there will be bosses out there questioning the need for a Social Media Manager because of Mr. Holmes article so it's unfortunate that Ryan is attacking his biggest fans in this carelessly written and misinformed article.


Edit:

I see this article says pending at the top.  Hopefully you allow a discussion on your blog about this subject and not delete this.  But I'll take a screenshot just in case it does.

Denovati
Denovati

It''s unfortunate you chose a sensationalistic title, as there are some good points and links to interesting studies and other resources in the post. Some counterpoints/questions:

1. The fact that growth in Social Media Manager positions has slowed to 50% may be more of a sign of maturity than death. They're hardly in decline... Also, did the study look at other related tiles? For example, I have an Associate Digital Network Manager, a title that does not include social media even though the job does. There are also Community Managers and Digital Engagement Managers...

2. We're a long way from social media becoming "part of everyone's job." I would further argue that that's not a very good strategy over the longer term. The pendulum may swing in that direction, but it will come back to the middle, in which we recognize that there needs to be centralized engagement and management. Too many voices run the very large risk of diluting messages and turning people off rather than drawing them in. We already have a signal/noise problem; let's not make it worse.

After having just spent at week participating in Social Media Week Chicago, one of my biggest take-aways was a reinforcement of the idea that we are still at the beginning of our collective social media journey. Given that, proclaiming the death of anything is probably premature - or at least those little deaths should be put in the greater context of ongoing growth rather than decline.

Courtney Shelton Hunt - Founder, The Denovati Group

ShawnAlain
ShawnAlain

@iTs_rahulpatel My point exactly. It's great to have collaboration with all your staff but then have it funneled through your Social Media Manager.  And if your employees want to comment, share and join in with their personal profiles then that should be encouraged.  I think for many people, what a Social Media Manager actually does is largely unknown until you actually are in that position and realize it's a 40-60 hour/week job.

jordanbehan
jordanbehan moderator

@ShawnAlain We appreciate the critique, and we're not shying away from it. 

I too am a social media manager of sorts, in that I manage a team of social content creators here at HootSuite (though I am called Lead Storyteller). Perhaps you'd agree that my viewpoint is relevant to the discussion but either way, here it is. 

While the article does not offer complete strategy for a social business, we have published many examples of empowering employees throughout a company to use social, and Ryan leads the charge on this. 

At HootSuite, we are a great example. Our internal social media teams prepare the bulk of our social messaging, but all employees are empowered to join the discussion, share content and engage on social channels. We do this because it makes everyone better at their jobs (sales, HR, support, etc) and because of the huge reach it gives our messaging. We have a company-wide social media policy in place (This policy has many words, but if I could boil it down to just two words, they'd be: Share responsibly) that we trust employees to follow. 

Ryan is not suggesting that management of social media is not a job worth paying for, but rather that the social media manager should no longer be the only one with access and a voice. No one agrees with this more than I; I am like an air-traffic controller on a team of skilled fighter pilots, and we are just one of the many departments using social media to drive business. 

So yes, our entire staff is entrusted with social messaging. We obviously pay attention to optimal posting times, but no such rules apply to the magic that happens when an entire workforce is allowed to share content (from their own social profiles) in support of the company's directives. 

Note well that Ryan doesn't suggest that companies stop paying social media practitioners, only that the new job roles tend to look more like they do here at HootSuite: Paid Social Specialist, Content Manager, Product Marketer, HR Rep, Customer Advocate and any of the other titles that use social media everyday at their job. Like always, it is these stakeholders who monitor the performance metrics you mention, and social media is a part of all of those roles.

Perhaps the confusion here has to do with scale; At a certain size of business, a single dedicated social media marketer is enough, but for medium to large size enterprises, it is time to look at social media being wired into a company's entire DNA, with all department-heads owning social media channels and goals. 

It's a catchy headline and a provocative theme, but rest assured; the social media manager is not dead, but nor are they alone any longer. 

ShawnAlain
ShawnAlain

@Denovati Good point.  

1. Many proactive companies all seeked out a Social Media Manager last year and now that most of them have them the demand drops.  makes sense.

2. Agreed. A Social Media Manager would bring order to chaos.  

ShawnAlain
ShawnAlain

@jordanbehan @ShawnAlain OK wait, one thing that is not clear in your response; 

1. "magic that happens when an entire workforce is allowed to share content (from their own social profiles) in support of the company's directives. " So you mean that your workforce can join the discussion with their own personal accounts...ya makes sense and should be encouraged as they're also your biggest fans.  But that doesn't mean you should kill your Social Media Manager.

2. "Paid Social Specialist, Content Manager, Product Marketer, HR Rep, Customer Advocate" So essentially you do have a Social Media Manager(s), just a different title.  In fact I see a new title emerging as Digital Marketing Manager and in the same article Mr. Holmes referenced for stats "social media expert" (yes that’s really a title) which Indeed says experienced a 1,600% growth in the last year.

Yes it is a rather sensational headline for the article, the problem I see is that Mr. Holmes is an influential person and when a President or CEO reads this he'll think he should fire his Social Media Manager and just open it up to everyone in the company.  Coincidentally that Social Media Manager, such as myself, is/was also some of Hootsuite's biggest fans and advocates...maybe not so much after we lose our jobs.