So You Want to be a Social Strategist. Now What?

Update: I embedded the report below.

Thanks to a heads up from Jeremiah Owyang, I was able to review Altimeter Group's new report, "Career Path of the Corporate Social Media Strategist," with enough time to share a few thoughts now that it's released.

Who should read it:

Anyone who is a social media strategist (especially at a large corporation), reports to one, has one reporting to them, aspires to be one, or plans on hiring one will get something out of this report. 

What you'll get out of it:

This depends on your vantage point, of course. The best served here are hiring leads or those who have social strategists reporting to them. The "10 standards for hiring and managing your social strategist" offers the most actionable material for any organization.

Social strategists, again – namely those at larger corporations, will be most intrigued to benchmark themselves against the criteria in the report. 

Who's underserved: 

There's a lot of talk in here about corporations with plus or minus 10,000 employees. People who have social marketing roles at small to medium sized businesses may not be able to relate quite as well, especially if social is a large but not entirely encompassing part of their job. Also, as a social strategist at an agency, I couldn't relate to too much of the report in practice, but it does strike a chord with what I deal with at clients. Granted, agency social strategists may one day work on the client side, so it's still an important read in that regard.

Biggest relief:

100% of social strategists have Twitter accounts. Whew. Median number of followers is 745.5, so you don't have to be some social celeb to succeed here. 

What's missing:

I was hoping that there were action items for the social strategist akin to the top 10 takeaways for hiring leads and managers. There aren't. Tough noogies, social strategists.

What stat should NOT be taken out of context:

The executive summary stated that 41% of social strategists were located in the marketing department. I was REALLY confused. That's it? I know social media's bigger than marketing, but come on. Then the report noted later that another 30% fell under corporate communications, which should be noted up front, as the two are too interrelated. If you cited the summary and said that only 41% of social strategists worked in the marketing department, you'd be accurate with the quote, but it's misleading. Looking at more of the data, other disciplines where the role can full include "web/digital," and "social media/social strategy," both of which often fall under marketing. 

A false dichotomy?

The report spends a good amount of time looking at the career decision point where social strategists can take a proactive role to create scalable social business programs, or a reactive role where they become a "social media help desk." Clearly route A is very good and route B is very bad, but I'm not convinced the paths diverge that neatly. I'd be hard-pressed to imagine any social strategist who is so proactive that he or she anticipates every need before it arrives and allows every business unit to be entirely self-sufficient. There will always be new business units looking to do more than they are, even if the architecture for social strategy is well established, and there will always be new people joining these organizations. Being only reactive can clearly be detrimental, but being only proactive doesn't exist. 

Parting thoughts:

There isn't enough written about the field, and this is a great resource. Altimeter interviewed some of the best people in the field. There's just a lot more to say about the subject, and a smaller subset of the audience that would be interested in the report will be especially well served by it leaving others more marginalized. Kudos to Altimeter for putting this out there and advancing the conversation about social strategists' roles.

 

5 thoughts on “So You Want to be a Social Strategist. Now What?

  1. That's a good question. I've seen certain programs out there but can't recall who does this off-hand for the most part. I know Rutgers University in New Jersey offers some social media programs, and there are definitely others.

  2. As someone I respect a lot, I’m so glad to read your review.
    When I and john were sitting for do planning of our business then we have discussed about social Strategy. To my view Social Strategy is more beneficial for our business and our social life. It is important point for business. You have great opinion here. Thank you

  3. Really great feedback – thanks, Jeremiah. 
    Two thoughts: 
    1) As I noted on Twitter, perhaps it would help to have some more clarity on how much was coming from the respondents vs what was your analysis. I know it's a fine line and I don't have easy answers there, but I think some of my own frustration in reading this was more about where marketers are, not what you were concluding. So in other words, I'd love to blame the client (something I wish I could do more in my day job too).
    2) I get where you're coming from with the stat. I spent enough years at eMarketer to know that someone will read the exec summary and say, "SHOCKER: 59% of social strategists aren't in marketing." You could only cover so many shades of gray in what was already a thorough report on the social strategist – especially given no one else is reporting on that – but it's to the credit of any report authors when it leaves me wanting more (rather than leaving me wanting to find the delete key, which is more common). 
    Once again, well done to you and the team.

  4. As someone I respect a lot David, I’m so glad to read your review. I’m sitting in a room with Christine in research reading it and we’re giggling about the tough noogies part.
    Yes we did group Corp Comm separate from Marketing as some of the larger corporations actually have them in different business unit. (we’re experiencing this now). Regarding the dichotomy, while there may be some programs that are blended, we wanted to point out the real risks, and help those who read this report to get on the accelerant track and get altitude. (Altimeter brand tie in here, I am reading, after all the Marketer’s Studio)
    We polled the strategists and asked them “are you proactive or reactive” to really get a since for that dichotomy, and they answered very clearly. 41% are reactive at this stage in the game.
    Thanks David.

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