On the heels of the “SEO is dead” meme that’s now old news, online media outlets have been busy announcing the “death of the social media manager“. Community and vocational colleges are cancelling programs, as their placement departments struggle to find jobs for their stable of specialists who hold now dubious certificates in this field. The ‘cutting edge’ companies that were supposed to welcome them into the fold aren’t buying – because frankly, it’s no longer cutting edge. Social media itself isn’t going anywhere, of course. It’s not the medium that’s turning out to be a fad, but the specialization in it that was transitory. The transition is good for small business, since the reasons for it actually enable any size company to compete with any other size company, given an effective digital strategy. There are 3 forces driving the change:
Social Media Isn’t So Mystical Anymore
On Seinfeld, in the early 1990s, Jerry asked “What’s e-mail?” In 1994, that was funny; in 2014 it would be silly. If we were growing up in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, we can be forgiven for not having known much about computers back then. But if we’re still running a business or trying to get a job other than food service in 2014, and can’t at least boot up, browse the web, and use e-mail, we’re functionally incompetent. The laptop is now a household appliance. Granted, there are people still struggling with a PC, because it’s a PC, but Macs have largely solved that with a no-brainer operating system, and pre-baby boomers are planning their vacations online, while baby boomers are the fastest growing adopters of social media. Who hasn’t at least watched a Youtube video or read something in a blog? To network effectively, LinkedIn is virtually required. No one in the English-speaking world still asks “What’s social media?” or thinks it’s a passing fad. We watched revolutions spread across the Middle East and a presidential election fought and won using social media, even if we were just watching it on TV. Social media is integrated, in some way, into all our lives. As happens with every technology, from typewriter to horseless carriage, the mystery is rapidly dying off.
Social Media Is Still Somewhat Mystical
Social media doesn’t translate 1:1 into clients, let alone generate business instantly in most cases. It’s not advertising, and treating it like advertising ensures failure. In that sense, some people are still confused. Expecting to get clients from just “setting up” a social page and shelling out a few posts, isn’t realistic. It’s like buying a domain name and thinking that’s a guarantee of profit during the “dot com” bubble. That’s the kind of dream they sell on late night infomercials. Social media marketing is a long term commitment. Ineffective companies are flash in the pan – they approach it like magic, put out a lot of content in a short time, often with some enthusiasm and too much self-consciousness, then drop it, concluding it “didn’t work” or can’t succeed for their industry or their audience. Their effective competitors, meanwhile, are succeeding in building a social audience, engaging people authentically over time, and growing brand reputation. This will ultimately translate into more referrals and sustainable market share growth, but only if they’re consistent and committed. For them it’s not mystical, it’s the extension of their ongoing conversation with their market; it’s authentic. Marketing specialists who don’t set expectations effectively, face perhaps a 3-month cut off when clients with mistaken expectations ask “why isn’t it working” and allocate funds away from the process. The challenge is that, like “SEO”, social media for a lot of businesses still carries the technical wizardry connotation that a dot com did in the the 1990s. Companies that are slower on the uptake are still expecting automatic clientele from a bit of technical dabbling on the web, and within a short window of time. This will change, but both this mystification and the ongoing demystification ultimately secure the demise of social media as a specialist’s game.
Everyone in a Company is a Potential Brand Advocate
Companies can’t be competitive anymore by merely leaving the marketing to specialists. Small and medium firms are creating a culture of empowered brand advocates within and enthusiastic brand evangelists without. They are leveraging the entire team or organization’s brainstorming power for content contributions. They are making social savvy a core job requirement for everyone on the team. If you can’t contribute in this area, you’re just not as useful as the next guy. No one puts the ability to use Word or E-mail on a resume anymore. They won’t put social media there in a couple of years, either. It’ll be assumed. The bring-your-own-device (BYOD) revolution in corporate life is evolving into a recognition that workers are empowered in general. That scares traditional managers, but thrills smart companies focused on growth. If you can create a company culture where everyone’s contribution is encouraged, and individuals are empowered, you’re making internal fans. You can’t *buy* that kind of opportunity, you can only grow it. You can’t force people to cheer for you in any effective way, either, but an authentically laudable company will get lauded. Word spreads and growth becomes exponential.
“Death” is a transformation, not just a transition. Whether or not social media managers die the ultimate death depends utterly on their ability or willingness to transform. The solution for social media managers is more collaboration within the companies they serve, less specialization that emphasizes some kind of unique technical knowledge or content genius. The social media manager will need to evolve the role – integrating effectively into a company’s marketing culture, even helping it evolve. The role will include drawing out ideas and content contributions from professionals and teams, regardless of their role, instead of living the life of a solo with secret sauce. The wizard behind the curtain who does incomprehensible feats that no one else in the business can understand is dead. To the degree that that’s what we mean by “social media manager”, that profession is dead too, even if not all its representatives (or their clients) realize it yet. In short, the imperative for the social media manager is change or die.
To transform how your company approaches social media or help your social media agency evolve, contact MadPipe for help with your digital strategy.