Professionalization of the Social Media Industry

It’s interesting to look back over the last few years as it relates to social media in the enterprise.  Just consider the corporate process of buy in around social.  Initially, employees, detractors or zealots were jumping into social on behalf of the company.  Kicking and screaming, companies started to dip their own toe in the water by testing and piloting blogs, forums, communities, etc.  Recently, I have noticed companies beginning to get serious about social media.  One way to tell, look at the positions they are hiring for here and here.

Hiring a few of these positions myself, I am wondering what companies are looking for in candidates.  Social is a strange bird as no one company created it and no one technology runs it.  Therefore there are no processes, textbooks, online courses, etc that cover all the skills a “social” leader needs to have in order to be effective.  In fact, social media has become such a bucket term that anything that smells like an online interaction gets the label.  That includes search, CRM, community mgr, web architect, public relations (blogger), recruiting (HR) and others.  Companies can hire any of these positions with some proficiency.  Add the word “social” in front of it and it sends shivers of consternation through hiring managers.  Those managers don’t know how to differentiate a blogging skillset which is more journalistic in nature from a digital strategist from a community manager (think traffic cop).  To make sure you are getting the right person for the job, What keywords do you use to search? what questions do you interview with? what skills do you test for?

Companies are tentative now as they have gone after social skills that understood how to set up a blog but did not know how large corporations run in complex environments.  They understand how to get small groups of people interested in having online conversations but they don’t understand the pshychology or cultural elements that go into consumer marketing.  The other side is to take existing employees and train them to be social.  This helps align the needs of the business and the intricacies of getting things done but assumes a ramp up time to come up-to-speed on becoming social.

This approach to professionalizing your social efforts assumes that it is a personnel issue.  I’m not exactly sold on that either.  Socialmedia has effectively transformed the way we communicate in many ways, it did not invent it.  Companies who have never wanted to communicate with partners or customers before, simply don’t have the culture to do it today, whether they have a staffer who can blog or not.  So it becomes an organizational design issue not a staffing issue.  Companies who are set up in silos or independent operating groups or P&L’s are simply not designed to communicate across department whether you have the latest version of Jive or SharePoint or not.  There is something more fundamental to becoming a social business than a couple of trained people or a few new toys.

Another interesting point of view on this topic can be found here: http://healthissocial.com/process-improvement/professional-development-in-the-age-of-social-media/ ( a solid post by Phil Baumann)

So what is the best way to professionalize your company’s approach to social media?  How do you take it to the next level?  This week’s chat will take this discussion head on!  To facilitate the dialogue we have Chris Heuer, a proven innovator who has been able to re-invent himself many times over.  Chris is best known recently for co-founding the Social Media Club that has become the connecting point for the professionals in the social media industry.  there is no one better to help figure out how to professionalize the social media efforts of businesses.  This week’s topic and questions are:

Topic: Professionalization of the Social Media Industry

Q1: How do you determine a professional from a wanna be?

Q2: Does the bucket term “Social” need to be broken into specialties?

Q3: What pieces of social can you learn from books? From experience?

Join us this week 9/28/10 at noon eastern by following #sm79 from your favorite Twitter client or simply participate from our LIVE page at www.hashtagsocialmedia.com/live.

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