Over the last several years, as we’ve seen Social Media grow and mature within organizations, I’ve been in a bit of a struggle as I’ve tried to define my role at each organization. As a software developer and entrepreneur interested in product design and growth, I’ve been forced into this world of marketing, a world where developers typically avoid. I’ve grown to enjoy it, and I think I’ve gotten quite good at it – so much that I now see myself as a sort of bridge between marketing and technology. You’ll notice that, as the tag line of this blog often changes as I try to define what I do. It’s a gap not many cover. Yet I still can’t help wonder if my struggle is because my expertise is one that is not yet properly embraced by organizations.
My expertise – a mix of product management and design, marketing, understanding of software development and what it’s capable of, and a user experience centered around social interactions between people – is one that a typical marketer just won’t be very good at. At the same time, other roles I fill and I think I’ve gotten good at – Facebook Page and Social Media Account management, social advertising, social media campaign management, are roles the typical product manager or software developer will understand. I’ve come to think that there is a need for a new executive-level role at organizations where a focus on social within the product can be fully embraced. I’m going to call this role the Social Product Strategist, and it should be at the same level as Social Marketing Strategist (formerly called just, “Social Strategist”).
The Problem with our Current State of Enterprise Social Media
One of my favorite bloggers around the role of social media in enterprise is Jeremiah Owyang, a partner at Altimeter Group, who specializes in research in the way large corporations embrace social media. In his writings he discusses the role of Social Strategist within organizations, and the structure an organization should build around social media. They suggest a Hub and Spoke model, where a hub around social media, lead by the corporate social strategist, helps lead individual “spokes” within departments of an organization. This role of Social Media strategist is also likely to fade back into the organization, likely into a marketing department. I love their focus on this effort – I’ve embraced it in many of my efforts.
That statement around Social Media fading into a marketing department has always bugged me about the role of social media strategist though. I’ve always seen a strong importance around product and social media in the organizations I work with, and the need to integrate social deeply into the products I work with. Things like finding ways to embrace Facebook and Twitter to bring a user’s friends into the experiences that are being built. I think social media is much more than just adding “like” and “share” buttons on a site, and should have an even more important focus around determining what your existing “social network” is, and embracing that for each user using your product. This needs someone that understands social design. It needs someone who understands product design, social APIs, and what can be done with them. I don’t think this is a marketing role. It fits more in the product, or technology arm of an organization, if even that.
Defining the Role of Social Product Strategist