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Monday 6 April 2009

Bringing Social Media In-house?

Here's an intersting point of view on whether companies need a social media specialist in-house. Pepsi is leading the way with the recent appointment of a global director of social media but there's still a common view that social media may be better outsourced to agencies, who can integrate social media marketing into their overall digital mix.

Do You Need a Social Media Marketer?
April 4, 2009,, By Todd Wasserman

Do you like to go on Facebook and Twitter all day? Do you excel at making online friends and writing pithy tweets and status updates? If so, there may be a job out there for you!

If more companies follow the lead of Pepsi, Ford, Dell and Toyota, then social media marketer will become a growing occupation as more companies hire full-timers to interact with consumers on their behalf via Facebook and Twitter. But the lack of ROI around social media, and the belief that such duties should be spread around rather than concentrated in one unit, may limit that growth.

“Most companies just aren’t ready,” said Matthew Schwartz, president of MJS Executive Search, which placed Bonin Bough as global director of social media, a new position, at PepsiCo in September. Schwartz said he would not describe social media marketer as a hot new occupation yet. “Pepsi was a visionary.”

A recent survey of 110 of the top CMOs by recruiting firm Heidrick & Struggles in Atlanta seems to echo Schwartz’s point. The report found that social media was a relatively low priority—ranked in the bottom third. “Mostly it’s because of analytics,” said Lynne Seid, a parter at the firm. “The things that are measurable are a top priority. Most marketers see [social media] as an experiment.”

While almost every company does some form of social media marketing these days, the function is usually performed by an interactive marketing group and not broken out separately. Coca-Cola, for instance, clearly believes social media is important. The company created an office of digital communications and social media led by Adam Brown, director of digital communications for Coca-Cola, last month. But that group doesn’t hire a single full-timer charged with social media marketing. The company prefers that all employees in marketing and communications do some social media marketing instead. “Our model hasn’t been to have a staff that does nothing but respond to tweets,” said Michael Donnelly, director of worldwide interactive marketing for Coke. Donnelly said he believes having full-time employees charged with such a function comes across as disingenuous. “The only way is to be genuine and real,” he said.

That’s not everyone’s view. Dell has more than 40 full-time employees charged solely with social media marketing on behalf of the brand. Dell formed the group in 2006 after blogger Jeff Jarvis had shown how consumers in the Web 2.0 age can flex their muscles. Jarvis’ bad experience with Dell tech support, outlined on his blog Buzz Machine, in 2005, wound up hurting the brand’s reputation. “That was a factor and it was a catalyst for us to start listening and engaging people in the blogosphere,” said John Pope, a Dell rep.

Another pioneer in the space, Wells Fargo, has had a vp of social media since 2005, Ed Terpening. Part of the function of such a position is to determine which forms of social media are worth investing in. “We were the first brand that participated with Second Life and the first one to leave,” said Tim Collins, director of experiential marketing for Wells Fargo.

Wells Fargo entered Twitter in late March and Collins sees that as the big three of social media marketing outlets along with Facebook and MySpace. Other brands have been on Twitter for a while, including Dell, which has more than 80 accounts (most notably RichardatDELL with more than 5,000 followers) on the network and Ford, whose Scott Monty holds the title head of social media for the brand. As of last week Monty had more than 16,000 followers on Twitter and has authored close to 13,000 tweets—bursts of text of no more than 140 characters. While those tweets often plug Ford products in one way or another, he occasionally goes off topic as if to underscore the fact that he’s a real person. (Last week, for instance, he entertained a discussion with a follower about the fact that Bacardi rum is actually made in Mexico, not Puerto Rico as commonly thought.)

The mix of genuineness and salesmanship is a key to being a successful social media marketer, said Collins. “You have to have a passion for the space,” he said. “You can tell some people are very passionate and you can tell [when] it’s kind of forced.”

Though Collins said Wells Fargo has been able to prove ROI on its social media efforts in many cases, Schwartz said most companies are still tentative about social media marketing.
“There’s been a lot of pushback on that as far as marketing goes,” said Schwartz. “People think that social media doesn’t work. It’s hard to find ROI on pure social media marketing, but it’s a long, slow build, not something you see immediate gratification on.”

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