The days of the social media rockstar are drawing to a close.
We’re starting to see the end of social media as a standalone, magical mysterious thing that we do — something every startup embraced, every small business resisted, and every corporation fled from in fear — and we’re seeing acceptance, and even love, from those who previously spurned it.
Amber Naslund’s recent post, The Begrudging Death of the Social Media Superstar, plus a recent Jay Baer podcast episode with Dorie Clark, has got me to thinking that the end is in sight.
Social media will no longer be a viable standalone career path.
In the last six years, I’ve seen positions like Director of Social Media Marketing, Online Community Manager, and even VP of Social Media created to take advantage of this growing communication phenomenon. (I will not dignify positions like Social Media Wizard/Ninja/Guru with any response greater than a sneer.)
But I think we’re going to see those positions pulled into their respective departments, and they’ll become part of the general rabble.
Everyone in marketing and PR is going to be expected to be good at social media, much in the same way you need to stop listing “Proficient at Microsoft Word and Internet Explorer” on your résumé.
History Is Repeating Itself
Newspaper people panicked when radio showed up, and the radio folks were the stars of the day. Radio panicked when TV showed up, and the TV people were the stars of the day.
Newspapers, radio, and TV all laughed and laughed when the Internet showed up. Then they ran around, screaming like they were on fire when the Internet started playing songs, streaming TV, and posting classified ads.
In the business world:
- people turned up their noses at computers in the 1980s, but now we no longer have typists, because everyone does their own typing.
- The postal service got worried when telexes showed up. . .
- . . . and those people freaked when fax machines showed up.
- Fax manufacturers peed themselves when email became the main method of communication.
Every step along the way, the new people were the stars, until everyone calmed down, and they were absorbed into the general landscape.
That’s happening with social media.
The social media people have been rockstars, writing books in a whirlwind of publishing activity, speaking and attending conferences. The ones who were doing it first are now considered the godfathers and grand dames of the industry, and the upstarts aren’t finding any real room to shine. There are no unexplored frontiers.
It won’t happen right away. There are still plenty of companies that aren’t doing social media. Hell, depending on which stats you see, anywhere from 40 – 60% of companies don’t even have a website. That means there are still plenty of people who aren’t adopting the Internet, let alone all the cool stuff it can do.
But when PR and marketing agencies are folding social media into their day-to-day offerings, and not a special add-on, you know things are settling down.
Social Media Experts Were Too Good At Their Job
That’s because, thanks to the social media evangelists who preached the gospel of engagement and relationships, everyone started doing it. And we all got good at it.
Eventually the executives who made the decision to create social media departments are going to start wondering, “Even my kids are doing this now, what makes these people so special? Why do they get the rockstar treatment?”
And the decision will be made to fold social media back into the regular marketing department. Or PR. Customer Service. Sales. R&D.
This is good news for people who are already good at marketing, PR, customer service, sales, and R&D.
But if you’re not good at it, you’re going to have a problem.
If you were only good at using the tools — you were “good at Twitter,” “good at Facebook” — you’re going to have a hard time fitting into your new role. If you thought that social media was all about using the tools, you’re in for a shock.
You need to get good at something else too. You need to get better at the departments and functions you were supporting.
You’re going to have to redefine yourself as a content marketer, a marketing strategist, a PR practitioner, a customer service professional. Social media is only going to be a part of what you do, not the actual thing you do.
Just like writers don’t have to be “proficient at Microsoft Word,” being “good at social media” will not be enough.
Photo credit: eat more toast (Flickr, Creative Commons)
Great piece, Erik. Passing this along to our web manager at JMM.
Hey Erik –
Thanks for the shoutout.
I agree with you to a point. I definitely think that social skills are going to continue to be distributed through the organization and become more pervasive and about business objectives, not specific social media-related efforts.
But there’s a nuance here that I didn’t articulate very well in my post, but I think it’s important.
As social business becomes more the MO instead of just “doing social media”, we still don’t have an answer for where it lives, and it needs somewhere. I don’t think it’s going to be enough for it just to be dispersed independently in various departments. We have C-suite roles that are holistic and support the entire business. HR and IT do that to an extent, too, because they’re practices that have to carry across and touch all disciplines. I think social business needs to be that way too.
But as it matures – and maybe even after it’s well established as best practice – it needs some kind of alignment in order to thrive. I’ve yet to make up my mind whether that means there’s an executive that’s responsible for ‘social business’ itself or something else, but the reality is that we need someone to be accountable for the purposes, vision, and results of social business initiatives (and things like innovation, organizational design, culture development ) as their purview, not just an aspect of their job description.
I don’t have the right answer to it yet and I don’t think anyone else does either, but I do think social as a mindset is unique, and is going to compel some different ways about thinking about our org structure and how we assign some ownership and direction for it.
Thanks again for the link and continued discussion.
Great Post Erik, I have just finished your book, “No Bullshit,” and couldn’t agree more. I liked the many points you made in your book and this post, marketers need to adjust their way of thinking, especially those who have had success in the past. Why can’t we see the same continual patterns we fall victim to over and over again? I don’t know if it is a specific age in which we all get to a point of “technology intolerance,” but it has been very difficult to get some of the senior staff member of my organization to adapt.
First, thanks for reading the book. I appreciate it.
I think what also happens is that the plucky young upstart soon becomes the entrenched establishment. Look at Apple — they took boring computers and made them awesome. They were subversive, and bucked the system. They threw the big hammer into the giant face of status quo (re: 1984 commercial).
Now, Apple is the entrenched establishment. Want to put a subversive app that bucks the system onto their app store? Not going to happen. They have a business to protect, and they’ll fight any plucky young upstart who tries to hurl hammers.
Newspapers did it, radio did it, TV did it, and now the Internet is doing it.
This is why we need to be students of history, both recent and ancient. Because we will keep falling into the same traps, even the ones we sought to avoid when we were young and plucky.
Interesting and thought provoking and a wake up call.