Doing away with social media officers

Andrea Di Maio reports on the US Defense department doing away with dedicated social media officers:

No more specialized offices, no more social media silos, no more experts or consultants building new strategies. Social media is a tool, amongst many others, for public affairs professional to do their job more effectively and efficiently.

The next step is to realize that every single employee and soldier will end up using social media. Not for fun or as an additional task, but as one of the many tool to do their work.

This makes the point far better than I did recently.

Perhaps there is a role for a dedicated resource getting the use of emerging technology embedded in the working culture of an organisation.

The ultimate goal of anybody doing such a job, however, should be to make themselves unnecessary.

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Dave Briggs

I'm an experienced senior manager in digital and ICT, looking for interim engagements to modernise technology teams to help organisations transform.

12 thoughts on “Doing away with social media officers”

  1. I couldn’t agree more with all your points. I work as a digital specialist in the charity sector and often contemplate how long it will be before there aren’t any job titles with ‘digital’ in them. I genuinely think it part of my job to get everyone else doing digital ‘stuff’ as an integrated part of their jobs and at the moment this needs to be done in a supportive framework which we’re trying to create as a central digital team.

    Not dissimilar to IT – everyone should be able to use microsoft office but there should also be a few people in a company/org that can use it at a more complex level and are there to give support.

  2. There’s something flawed about this argument but it’s difficult for me to put my finger on what that is.

    My first response to Andrea’s quote was to think how many substitutions one can make to the expression “social media” where, if only people did their job properly, you wouldn’t need … e.g. “knowledge management” – this reminded me of the dilemma of knowledge managers – if everyone in the organization did a professional job as “knowledge workers” capturing and sharing their knowledge you wouldn’t need knowledge managers. As, I’m sure Ingrid K would tell you, this is not the norm. My second go at it (working for the police) was to substitute “detections” – and it just about works. So there is something in here about the argument seems to be “if everybody did did a professional job, you wouldn’t need….”

    It may be that the real flaw in this argument is the concept of “public affairs professionals” which carries a number of suppositions not least high quality professional training and education and accredited qualifications, and ongoing high quality training to keep the professional up to speed on a fast changing field (OR professionals who take their self development so seriously that they keep up with a fast changing field).

    The underlying theme appears to be “how do organizations adapt to a new and continually changing digital and social media environment?” This proposal appears to be saying “get rid of the expertise in the organization” and the adaption will somehow take place.

    For me, it’s not about defending or losing roles (although that is part of the discussion) but about articulating the transitions and adaptions that are needed to take place in organizations in a viable and meaningful way. Scrapping roles and posts doesn’t appear to do this.

  3. I read this as good news on the face of it – the ultimate objective that all organisations shoul aspire to.
    But I also agree with the comment above: that the need for expertise in any organisation is paramount, and you have to be sure that skills are thoroughly embedded across all staff before removing it.
    There is also a question mark around momentum. Yes, people will continue to use social media for their day-to-day work, but will the organisation keep up-to-date with the latest tools and developments?

  4. I’m completely in agreement with getting rid of social media officers, at least I think I am. I’d rather see social media embedded as part of a skill set across an organisation. But we all know it isn’t – not yet. So there may be a role for a while.

    As Nick points out there are KM roles as well as comms roles, customer service roles, and engagement and consultation officers. Also policy, research, etc. Each of these could be irrelevant if people just did their jobs… And these are all roles where I’d like to see social media used more effectively and in quite different ways.

  5. Fine as a concept. As I’ve mentioned before, comms skills – like IT skills – should be part of the job spec. Same goes for socmed. Though it’ll do me out of a third of my job. 😦

    In most organisations though, it will take many years to change the culture.

  6. There is no arguing that more and more people within organizations are adopting to the use of social media both in their personal and professional lives. Depending on the size of an organization, this can be a problem in terms of monitoring the conversations and the ability to not control the messages but to ensure that the message remains in line with an organizations overall goals.

    I think the idea of completely abandoning a social media officer would be akin to removing a media relations office from an organization and allowing everyone to speak officially on behalf of that organization. As wonderful as that might sound, there will be times that the specialties are required and key contact people are required.

    The goal should not be to remove the social media officer, but to ensure that your key people are trained and qualified in the use of the tools and are part of the overall communications abilities of an organization. Removing the name social media officer will be a given as that position should be held by someone that is competent in all matters of communication and be able to include the use of social media within their job scope. One designated person as the social media officer creates problems for an organization that is within the space. Time off, holidays, sickness or transfer are all issues that can abruptly stop the best efforts of the organization.

    The more voices there are can certainly be a benefit, but the quality of what is being said is still required and to that regard, a proficient communications team with interchangeable personnel is key.

    (MHO)

  7. To add to Nick’s and Tim’s thoughts, perhaps a better role for the communications team would be more behind the scenes — internal rather than external public relations, developing the message and then educating employees on how to deliver it, listen for feedback, respond to that feedback and so on. The team would also be responsible for researching new and upcoming tools that would be beneficial to the organization, then training employees on their use.

    The team would take more of a central role in the event of crisis, but in general, help guide the rest of the organization across PR, marketing, customer service, product development and sales. As such it would not be a position or team of planned obsolescence; monitoring and messaging would evolve along with the organization and the technology.

  8. Oh, this is a subject I keep righting a blog on. And then deleting because it doesn’t really sum up the point I’m trying to make.

    The US military doinga way with social media officers is interesting. Having a browse at this link gives some great stats: http://bit.ly/fMBhfL They have 583,000 people being liking the US Army on Facebook. They have more than a million liking the US Marines.

    Does *anywhere* in local government have that sort of clout? Of course it doesn’t.

    A social media officer – or someone doing that task with whichever job title can point the organisation in the right direction, shape, train and act as an insurance policy to the meek.

    I’m guessing that most of the readers of Dave’s excellent blog don’t need a social media officer in their set up. I’ve just met with 10 people in trading standards who definitely do.

    In summery, the five steps of reaching social media mainstream nirvana that struck me mulling this post over.

    1. Be JFDI > 2. Get a policy > 3. Have a social media evangelist to spread the word > 4. celebrate that you are mainstream. > 5. Bingo! You have the wisdom of your very own internal crowd of social media officers.

    Most of local

  9. Agree with the sentiment, but the reality doesn’t often freflect this.

    Most social media ‘departments’ are woefully under-resourced, and made into silos by default (ie they are one of only a few groups allowed even to access social media). Given this, it could be argued that more of them are needed, not less – at least until their expertise is embedded across the organisations they work for.

    Also, they fact that they may work in silos is surely as much (if not more) a failure of management as it is the social media team themselves.

    Agree wholeheartedly though that that – at the very least – all comms people should be comfortable with social media.

  10. I’m joining this a bit late but sometimes that’s the best way… I’m all for spreading it about and encouraging all staff to ‘feel the love’ about their employer but there are lots of reasons this isn’t happening including time constraints, fear of the unknown and a lack of clarity re what they can and can’t say. It’s a particularly big challenge for large organisations. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out for the US Defense Dept and others in the months/years to come. But I reckon it’s the start-ups and small businesses that have the real opportunity here. They’re the ones that have been born alongside social media. They have size on their side which makes them more agile and able to build a social company culture from the inside out – from day one, or at least from the very early stages. I’ve blogged about this today in fact.

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