Social Media Strategist vs. Social Media Managers

The life of a maturing industry is never dull, and social media is no different.  Just like the web design industry before it, social media has its share of charlatans, snake oil salesmen, and general opportunists.  Another similarity is that the general public, in a display of lack of caring or laziness, refers to everyone with different titles that mean the same thing in their minds, “Social Media [insert title here]”.  Even worse, if you run into a particularly condescending non-industry professional, all you’ll get is, “Oh, you ‘do’ social media”

No aside from the fact that social media isn’t something to be ‘done’ like the interior meat of a steak, or the next word after ‘Git-R”, there is a serious issue.  It’s time we started separating the roles of this industry into their proper categories not only for client clarification, but more for client satisfaction.


What I’m NOT talking about

I’m in no way referring to people who call themselves experts (although I have no qualms with owning your expertise), or any of these ridiculous super creative titles that only exist to confuse people into handing over money to out of work real estate investors from 2006. (No offense to former investors…I’ve been there)

For the sake of this article (and our sanity), I’m going to focus on two titles:  The Social Media Manager; and the Social Media Strategist.


Why is this important?

It just is, but if you want a responsible answer, I’ll give you this.  You call the guy at the hospital a doctor.  But often times he has a real title.  And if you’ve ever needed a specialist, you’ll understand what I’m saying.  I can call you doctor all I want, until I need a heart transplant, then you better be a cardiologist.  If you’re ok with a dentist fiddling around in your chest while you’re knocked out and your life is in the balance, then this isn’t the blog for you anyway…

The truth is that your online marketing campaigns are the same way.  Everyone can be one of those folks who ‘do social media’ until you really need something done.  So right now, I will correctly identify who does what, and who doesn’t do what…simply because I love you THAT much.


What is a Social Media Strategist?

Now when I brought this up to resident genius and #TeamCbus Jedi Knight Nate Riggs he waved his hand in front of my face and told me something about having the wrong droids.  Undaunted, I came up with the following definition of a social media strategist.

A Social Media Strategist (SMS) is someone who plans or creates the direction of a brands interactions as they relate to reaching a certain goal or benchmark on one or more platforms.

In short, your SMS is like your online marketing business planner, or online field general.  They take all of the variables of the social world, along with all of your goals, shake them up in a snow globe and chart a path to profit for your company.

Sound good?  Damn right.  Tons of companies want to jump into the social space and just start ‘doin’ stuff’.  A strategist will tell you what stuff to do, why you’re doing it, and how that stuff will get money in your pocket.

Ok, good so far, then what’s left for the …


What is a Social Media Manager

I wanted to ask super-hero community manager Amy Schmittauer about the role of a Social Media Manager, but she was busy hob knobbing in fancy hotel rooms (because she’s very important) and I couldn’t reach her, so I came up with the following:

A Social Media Manager (SMM) takes an existing social marketing plan, and executes regular interactions on behalf of the brand they represent while measuring progress toward a pre-determined goal.

Simply put, they are like your social media foot soldiers or the worker bees of the social media industry. SMM’s put in the LONG hours making sure your brand looks just as good as those pretty designs (made by Social Talk Live) when you open your proverbial ‘mouth’ online.

Still with me?  These folks are worth their weight in gold because they control the tone, message, and ultimate success of failure of your online interactions.  They are the literal life support of your social campaigns.  They do the hard stuff so you get to grow your business in other areas.

If we’re clear on who does what…what is there left to talk about?


How Brands are Mucking This Up on an Epic Scale

The short version?  You’re hiring a dentist to do a heart transplant AND pull your wisdom tooth.

Long version?  No one is segmenting these two projects.  The general belief is that the SMM does everything and all is all goodThis belief if not accurate.

Not so fast, my friends.

Every other industry in the world separates these two jobs.  Need proof?

In politics, the strategists create the campaign direction and goals, then the local teams execute.  The strategist looks at the results and adjusts the actions of the teams until the goals are met.

In corporations, executives make strategic goals and plans and send them to employees to execute in front of the customer.  Executives then look at the metrics and decide on adjustments needed to reach a goal.

In sports, a coach creates the strategy to beat Team X, and the team executes on the floor.  At regular intervals the coach brings the team in for adjustments until the game finishes.

See what I mean?  Even in marketing firms, the guy who pitches you the best marketing campaign ever isn’t out there hanging a billboard (who does that still?) and passing out leaflets.  They outsource the execution to another team and watch the metrics for adjustment.

Ok, so I have proof, but why is this even important?  Why should you care about what I’m rambling almost 1,000 words into this thing?

The roles are important, and messing them up can be a disaster.

A strategist’s role is to look at the big picture.  How are we performing over large areas, and how do these macro movements push us toward our goals.

A manager’s role is to execute micro actions on a regular basis.  They sweat the small stuff and deal with individual requests and complaints.

If your strategist is too close to the situation, then they can’t see the forest through the trees. #FAIL

If your manager is too far away from the situation, they can’t give enough attention to the details that really matter. #FAIL

The outcome, your campaign sucks, and your results suffer.  Sound familiar?


What’s the Takeaway?

There are tons of managers out there every day who don’t have a clue how to get you more fans and sales, but are some of the greatest voices your brand can ever have to represent it.

There are tons of strategists who would kill themselves if they had to tweet for a brand every day, but they are excellent field generals and can direct a campaign as well as than any high-dollar firm out there.

It’s time we treated this industry with the same respect that we treat our businesses.  It starts with getting the right people on the bus, and then putting the right people in the right seats.  Brands should stop trying to cut corners in the social space because when things go wrong here, they go wrong on a larger scale, faster and can hurt you much more than doing anything at all.

Hire a strategist to make you a GPS-accurate road map to your goals.  Trust me, it’ll be awesome.

Hire a top-notch community manager to handle your day to day interactions (within reason, but that’s another post).  You’ll be able to work on your business, instead of in your business if you do.

Very rarely do you find someone who does well at both, the skill sets are vastly different.

If we develop our businesses with the right tools they become assets larger than we can ever imagine, but if we try to take shortcuts, we always end up with the short end of the stick.

Trust me; no one wants to wake up with a bicuspid stuck in their left ventricle.  Make the right decision. smiley


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