Tis’ the season for list building and top this, top that, predictions here and predictions there. As a social media strategist, on any given day I’m scouring blogs for either personal development or in my function at my company. Since Thanksgiving my feed has blown up 2011. I’m not sure how many more lists I can cram or predictions for 2011 I can retain. However, I’ve come across a common theme in blogs that has given me pause. The most recent, 10 Ways Social Media Will Change in 2011, from Read Write Web hit me this morning.
Number ten is something I’ve seen on several top ‘whatever’ lists. It reads
The role of the social media strategist will be changing…
Why the pause? I’ve been in my most recent stint as a social media strategist at my latest company for just 3 months. But already the pressure is going beyond the tactical implications of social media. The pressure now is all encompassing, how do we measure its effectiveness and what function does it best serve. Gone is the day of a social media strategist who just “does social.” In the field, the pressure is on to make it meaningful and to define its function.
The PR of Social Media
Let me explain that a bit further. A lot of posts debate over who should run Social Media, Marketing, Public Relations, Advertising, Human Resource etc. A common response is: all of them. I disagree and think that’s a cop out. The more time I spend using social media for business, the more I am convinced that it is inherently a Public Relations function. Public Relations professionals are the ones with the skills to extract a diverse amount of value from large publics. Social media at it’s core is building relationships. The textbook definition of public relations, as defined by the Cutlip Center is
the management function that establishes and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and the publics on whom its success or failure depends.
Social media then becomes a tactic of public relations and can support a variety of functions within the business setting beyond public relations, including marketing and human resources.
The biggest mistake I see time and time again is assigning marketing folks to social media functions and expecting them to extract value from personal engagement. That’s what Public Relations does.
Social media strategist expectations. Numero uno, relationship-building
When it comes to change for the social media strategist, my reaction is based in hope. I hope that it becomes understood that public relations needs to be at the core of successful social media efforts. It is by the natural ebb and flow of relationships the rest of the business functions will benefit. Applying the heavy hand of marketing to engagement and relationship building will simply turn off publics. What are your thoughts, where does social media fit in the business world and who is best equipped to handle it?