It’s a really funny Jack-in-the-Box commercial: A keyed up young woman bounces into an office copy room and rambles on to Jack about pictures and trends that culminates with her snapping a selfie of them. The Jack character says “Let me guess: the new social media intern?” and instructs her to make copies, which leads her to mistake the glass scanning surface of the copier for a touch screen.
Tee hee. I laughed. I watched it again. I laughed again… hey It’s funny!
But I’m afraid that stereotype is becoming the impression a lot of experiences managers and executives have of social media experts. I could be very offended at the several implications the commercial made, but I guess I’m too lighthearted for that. If she was my social media intern she’d be way too busy to make copies. Also, the commercial has a modicum of truth. Five years ago social media was just on the major uptake with a lot of companies and a lot of the available pool of “experts” were just hipsters clinging to first-generation iPhones.
But the industry has matured a lot in a very short time. Just as we saw “webmasters” in the 90’s go from being one 40-somethings man who plays Dungeons and Dragons to a wide array of web specialists, we’re seeing the same phenomenon in web content (including in itself Social Media). A few years ago a company had the social media expert. But now, thing’s they’re-a changin. Let me give you a quick peek.
The overall trend is the Publishing companies of yore are now being replicated in social media agencies and companies with agency-sized social media departments.
But with this is a further realization that there is a union with web content, and that the latter has been largely neglected over the past decade. So now both are being brought into focus as the industry matures.
I’m going to take this from the bottom up because these teams exist by reason of the tasks they perform:
Content & Engagement is what we think of first when we think social media experts. These people sit around and think of everything fun, clever, juicy, informational, and sometimes promotional to publish. Under this general umbrella they perform three major tasks: 1. They find, collect, and monitor news sources and trends. 2, they schedule some content while rapidly producing timely content. 3, they respond to positive comments.
Then we have brand monitoring. These people are the bloodhounds of the internet. Their software is always looking for any mention of the company. But beyond that, they also monitor competitors and may be authorized to communicate to customers of those competitors on social media.
Customer service has a chair between brand monitoring and engagement. They field the complaints and escalate them accordingly, usually within the mechanisms of the conventional customer service department, though some companies are merging their entire customer service departments into social media.
Akin to brand monitoring are the lead gen agents. They scour the interwebs for people seeking the products/services offered, or those dissatisfied with the competition. They employ strategies to soften a prospect and develop them as a sales lead when appropriate.
Finally there is the gray-area position of web marketing. This isn’t strictly a function of social media (it’s part of e-commerce) but because of the many options for advertizing and various promotions on social media, there is a very real connection.
In a larger company or agency these roles are staffed by teams, each with layers of middle-management and possibly even one or two executives. It is easy now to imagine how a larger company or agency can keep 30 people busy, and why having one expert is as inadequate as having one webmaster would be now.
Companies like Delta Air Lines, Symantec (Norton), Dell, and Gatoraide have impressive “mission control” type arrays for their monitoring efforts alone. I gotta get me one of these!