Reflections on Social Strategist Career Path

Many of you have, we hope, read Jeremiah Owyang’s great research piece on the Career Path for Social Strategists.  If you haven’t, you can download it for free.  Not only are there great insights for people in or aspiring to be in the world of social media, but it provides business leaders with insight into what their social strategist peers are struggling through in educating and motivating the organization to take on social strategies.

And by giving away this research for free, Altimeter – an innovative analyst firm – is using social to proactively disrupt their own industry.

There is a chart from the report that shows the career paths that a social strategist may take.  It is interesting because this career path is also an indicator of how successful or unsuccessfully social will be integrated into an organization – as a tool for strategic proactive leadership or reactive response to the market.

The reactive /proactive tipping point depends internal and external factors… and in our experience the trajectory path has a strong linkage to the business and communication competency of the individual.  In our work with community we’ve noticed some of the following factors that determine whether something moves to Escape Velocity or ‘Grounds Out’.

  1. Attention Senior Marketing Executives – senior marketers need to do more than put a role in their organization for social.  They need to embrace this and integrate social into the marketing plan.  Otherwise your social leader will fail.
  2. “Maintenance Mode” requires Momentum – Success or failure happens after the launch takes place and everyone has gone back to their “day jobs.”  Jeremiah’s research shows that job descriptions ask for individuals to “evangelize a new initiative,” but these people also have to be good at making the initiative work and maintaining momentum after launch.  Social strategists who are not strong at selling and upward communication will struggle to maintain momentum.
  3. Business Language is Key – social strategists need to be exceptional integrators of social into the business goals.  The difference between success and failure for social overall is going to be how well we communicate using the language of the business.  It is our job to integrate what we are doing to show the business value it will bring in business terms.
  4. Partner in Communicating ROI – I agree with Jeremiah’s point that ROI continues to challenge all of us and traditional ROI measures may not apply.  We’ve found that partnering with the business leader and the customer to define the ROI measures that matter most has worked well for social strategists.  It creates a shared ROI that is owned by more than just the social leader.

Thank you to Jeremiah and Altimeter for creating such an important report and discussion that will continue to advance this profession.

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