A Public Service Announcement: Drop Guru, Ninja, and Expert From Social Media Job Titles

The Case for Serious Social Media Job Titles

Jeffrey L. Cohen makes a great case for why your company needs a Chief Social Officer – a C-level executive with expertise in and responsible for Social Media. He makes some great points and then says, “If you currently have ninjaguru or expert in your social media title, it is time to drop it. If you want to be taken seriously inside the organization and out, you need to take yourself seriously,” and at first, I took it a little personally. Not that long ago, I was checking out SocialMediaJediMaster.com as a possible domain. Then I started thinking.

Executives Question Social Media

In many organizations, it’s already hard enough to sell social media to executives despite silly job titles. Many company executives question your ROI and don’t understand your strategy. They think that your social media staff is playing online, or better yet, that the job can be done by an intern. By having quirky titles in your social media group, you might be able to add some flavor to your LinkedIn profile but it could come at the expense of your department being taken seriously within the organization. Besides, when downsizing comes, are you more likely to layoff the Senior Manager of New Media Communications or the Supreme Overlord of Internets?

Take Yourselves Seriously

Only when we’re able to take steps to change silly job titles collectively as Social Media industry can we be taken more seriously individually, across our organizations, and collectively as a profession. That’s how we’ll be able to earn budget dollars over traditional marketing channels and that’s how executives can start to understand our place within the organization. Pick a title that shows the value you provide to your company, not the methods through which you accomplish it. Lots of people have a blog, thousands of Twitter followers and have set up Facebook pages. Use that title to communicate the value that you have and can contribute to your organization rather than what a big shot you think you are now.

So when your director asks you what you’d like on your business card, please don’t add any of the words at the Social Media Job Title Generator: http://socialmediajobtitle.com/

Thank You.

Do you have, or have you heard of any funny social media job titles? How do you feel about making social media more serious? Let us know in the comments below.

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6 comments

  1. I’ll be even more pleased when we also drop ‘social’ from jobs titles. Yes, even for those roles that are primarily forward-facing via social channels.

    I’m partial to a phrase coined from a team Deb Lavoy works with: Value Engineers. Also have an appreciation for ‘Conversation Architect’ depending on the role.

    There certainly is a lot more involved in most SM roles than just being social. Until we recalibrate that thinking beyond social, it will continue to be an uphill battle to get the c-suite to take those roles, and those who fill them, seriously. Like the early days of the web, the band wagon picked up speed to quickly. Back then, everyone was suddenly a web site designer. Now, you can’t hold your arms out and spin without accidentally hitting a ‘social media consultant’.

    The professionals I admire the most are those who combine a solid understanding of business strategy with an evolving education of the impact of pervasive communications. Social doesn’t factor into any title I’d give them. Much less ‘guru’, but they certainly are the breed to watch.

    1. Great points Kelly! I definitely agree that yes, our goal is to really eventually not have jobs. In many cases, we’re trying to make the entire enterprise social – from customer service to sales in addition to marketing. There aren’t any Vice Presidents of Email or Directors of Phone. Why not work on titles that show what we’re contributing and now how we do it.

  2. Eric, there’s a problem that doesn’t have an easy answer.

    “Social Officer” or “Director of Conversations” just doesn’t fit, because existing external facing jobs are either about Arena or Audience.

    Media Relations.
    Government Relations.
    Customer Service

    What we know as Social steals attributes and audience from so many other existing silos, it is messy to manage. That’s why the first decade of social media has involved internal struggles about who should “own” it — because we’re still in a corporate paradigm where someone NEEDS to “own” it.

    Social is not what we use nor who we talk with — it’s a hybrid. More importantly, it’s simultaneously the channel and the process and the opt-in audience. But Channel may be the most useful distinction, because it can be used by anyone in the organization. Which means going back to your question — “Chief Social Officer” makes about as much sense as “Queen of the Fax Machine.”

    The glove does not fit. You must acquit.

    1. I don’t know about you, but “King of the Fax Machine” would be a pretty powerful title; I also like “Community Data Commander”. You can now address me by either!

      In all seriousness though Kelly Craft is correct. Social media must be woven into all facets of the business, but it cannot be a randomly woven in, there must still be a leader.

      For the most part the leader should either be the PR or marketing director. How do we decide which network is attributed to which field? Twitter is often used by PR departments to calm consumers after a marketing blunder, but marketing and sales often use consumer information from all networks (Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Pinterest Facebook, Google+ etc.) to better target them. Big multi-nationals hire customer service representatives and social media “gurus” yet, for the most part, they do the same thing.

      Social media strategy must be created with the overall marketing strategy in-mind. I don’t know how many times I have seen mix messages and wonder if the bandwagon decided to throw a social media aspect without consulting their IMC strategy.

      Titles or no titles, we need to step back and take a look at the organisational structure of corporations and figure out how to integrate social media (better) into the departments. A chief social media officer does not make sense to me as I have always thought that social media is a tool for marketers, not a seperate entity.

    1. I think these are two different things. Do there need to be Software Engineer I, II, III, IV type titles, maybe not. But when you call yourself the Chief Super Social Media Awesofficer, you de-legitimize the department within the organization.

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