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Social Media Mavens Invade the C Suite

May 14, 2012

I’ve been a bit at odds with so-called social media expertise of late (which doesn’t bode well as I’m slated to speak at a social media conference next week). As I’ve mentioned in the past I think it’s easy for organizations who are looking to build a social media presence to either get shiny object syndrome or go through an identity crisis. And now, as more organizations are moving social capability into the “C Suite” it’s going to be increasingly easy for them to put social media on a platform where it shouldn’t be.

It’s easy (and more fun) to be the snarky critic of an organization’s inefficiencies. No one is better at this than contractors and consultants (before you get offended I’ve worked as both, and I haven’t held my punches against federal workers in the past). When you’re on the outside looking in, it is incredibly easy to judge, criticize and condemn the activities within an organization. It’s even easier if you’re separated from it all by a C suite office. As someone who’s spent a career as a field officer versus a general, I’m going to have a natural bias toward respecting the perspective of the infantryman.

Social media culture change has to start at the top. But its implementation should be done across the organization. If organizations continue to implement C suite social media positions, they shouldn’t position them as consultants to the brand, but put them in the field along with the marketers, IT pros and others responsible for the nuts and bolts of social media implementation.

There are great times to hire consultants and contractors. But if those consultants and contractors only have an advisory role, you’re probably wasting your money. Long-term, significant social media change must happen internally. If you bring in a consultant to train your staff, educate your leadership, implement a program or manage a campaign, great. But expect the effort to burn out quickly after they depart, unless they’ve left a road map and equally competent full-time staff in their wake.

All too many social media efforts burst open like a firecracker and then fizzle like a dud. Those with staying power may not have as dramatic an entrance, but they’ll have built a program based on long-term organization goals, brand objectives, and a solid and feasible content creation strategy.

Long live social media, but beware its experts.

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