Social Media: Career Track or Job Duty?

Social media has become an indispensable marketing tool for most organizations. But, the need to create and maintain a social media presence brings up a practical matter that must be faced: Who will manage it? Is social media a specialization like public relations or sales that requires hiring dedicated staff? Or, should social media marketing efforts be viewed simply as a new task that is to be performed as part of a marketer's daily duties? Results from a survey conducted by Ragan and NASDAQ OMX Corporate Solutions indicates the latter is the current practice today.

From an organization chart standpoint, social media has not arrived as a dedicated sub-function within the marketing area. Nearly two-thirds of respondents (65%) said that social media was an add-on job task; only 27% of respondents indicated that their organization had a dedicated team to manage social media efforts. The term "team" is used loosely as 82% of respondents said their dedicated social media teams consisted of 1-3 people.

Survey findings debunked a myth about social media marketing: Let interns handle social media given their familiarity and experience with Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks frequented by young people. Only 25% of respondents said interns helped with social media communications. Among firms that utilize interns in social media marketing, 78% of them involve interns with Facebook and 69% have interns involved with their Twitter account. The large percentage of organizations not involving interns with social media is surprising, and not because college students should be used because of their social media experience. Rather, how will social media marketing talent be developed if aspiring marketers are not afforded learning opportunities?

A final takeaway from the survey to consider is the desired education and skills for employees involved with social media. Communications and public relations were the majors deemed most desirable when respondents were asked about education background. Writing skills was cited by 18% of respondents as the most important factor in hiring social media employees. Higher education institutions should take note. Social media marketing classes and programs are popping up with increasing frequency. It is challenging to develop curriculum around a field that is changing so rapidly on one hand, but on the other hand there are fundamentals like effective writing and presentation that should be the foundation of social media education.

Will social media become a specialized field within the marketing profession, or will it be treated as just another way businesses communicate with their target markets? Of course, factors like firm size and available resources will influence whether dedicated social media teams become more commonplace or whether those teams will actually be a committee of employees tasked with taking care of social media communications. There are advantages to each approach, and an organization can successfully manage social media using either a dedicated team or through its existing marketing and communications personnel. The key is for communications to remain true to your brand regardless of the approach used.

Center for Media Research - "Social Media Just an 'Add-On' Job Description"