Social media? Let Mikey do it? I don’t think so

Many voices in the blogosphere are saying that 2010 will be the year that social media will move from “nice to have” to “must have” for brands.  Maybe it’s true.  But a conversation I heard this week on episode 85 of The BeanCast makes me think that CEO’s still don’t get what is happening here.

The topic of the conversation was the newly emerged position of community manager, who many companies are now putting in place to “manage” their online relationships with consumers, bloggers, etc.  (There must be a better term than manager.  Managing sounds pretty close to commanding and controlling, which is precisely what social media is not about, but that’s a whole different blog post.) It seems that in many cases these jobs are being assigned to junior people, just out of school, for salaries in the $20K range.  What that says to me is that the CEO is thinking, “Okay — there’s this Facebook, Twitter, blogger thing happening on the internet, I don’t really get what it’s about, but hey, it’s another way to get our message to consumers so let’s put the new kid on it who knows how to use this stuff.”

Mikey, our new online community manager

You’ve got to be kidding me.  The new kid?  The one with this least experience and the least understanding of what the company and the brand is all about?

Social media isn’t some hip new communications channel.  It is a different animal — an amazing, completely new and ever changing way for brands to interact and collaborate with their consumers and stake holders and address their needs.  What happens in social media is exposed to the entire online world and all it takes is one well connected blogger, enraged or enthused, for a company’s words and actions to be seen, discussed, praised or picked apart by everyone.

This person needs to know how to deal with a disgruntled customer, build a constructive relationship with an influential blogger, understand the complexities of how to be transparent without revealing confidential company or client information, work within the organization with all departments to guide them in understanding their role in social media and its benefit to the company.  He or she needs to understand strategy, and think creatively about how to integrate social media strategically with marketing, communications, customer service, internal communications, R&D and sales to achieve business objectives.

Scott Monty of Ford and Richard Binhammer of Dell, two social media evangelists within major corporations whose efforts have become case studies for innovative and effective social media engagement, aren’t kids.  They are seasoned business people who have been around the block a few times.

If you’re a CEO who thinks this social media thing is simply another communications channel, best handled by one of the kids in the organization just because he’s had a Facebook page since high school, you really need to think again.  Put somebody in place who not only gets the space, but has a few years under his or her belt in communications, marketing, branding building, customer relations or sales.  And who has gained some wisdom and experience in dealing with people and building relationships.

By the way, I’m available.  But not for $20,000.


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4 responses to “Social media? Let Mikey do it? I don’t think so

  1. Stephen,

    You’re exactly right. While the tools & technologies may seem like they’re the realm of the digital natives, there’s a level of business acumen that’s required to be truly effective.

    And for anyone who assumes that social media is about the tools, the reality is that it’s more about culture change and perhaps even a transformation of the way corporations do business – from customer service to product development and everything in between. And that’s much deeper than what a “twintern” is able to understand.

    Thanks for the mention and for noticing what Ford is up to.

    Scott Monty
    Global Digital Communications
    Ford Motor Company

  2. Stephen Rothman

    Thanks for taking the time to read and to comment, Scott, and for all your pioneering work. I feel humbled, as Jaffe might say. 🙂

  3. Just caught this post as a related posts link and I’m so glad I did.

    I have been in marketing (offline mostly) for years and with over 20 years of various business, networking and marketing experience under my belt, was offered a postition recently as a Social Media Manager… and the slaray was significantly less than $20,000! They also estimated it would take me approximately 2 hours a week to completely create and manage their online campaign.

    I stated many of the facts in this article, but was unable to convince them of the importance of not doing this as some “thing on the side” and had to turn down the position with a statement that went something like, “I’m a professional and since you are not able to give me the opportunity to present myself as such in this role with your company, then I will not compromise my integrity by working for you in this capacity.”

    I wish more companies saw the future and importance of social media the way Ford does… kudos to them for keeping up with the pulse of society and kudos to you for a brilliant post!

  4. Stephen Rothman

    Hi Becky, thanks for your kind words. Unfortunate that your real-life experience reflects the content here, confirming the reality of this situation. One hopes this will change over time, as more cases emerge — like Ford — on the benefits that good community management can bring, as well as on the negative effects to brand reputation when companies face an online crisis of confidence that spreads unchecked due to lack of community management resource and expertise.

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