The need for an internal social media manager

November 21, 2008 — Leave a comment

In the enterprise, software development is an area that can take years to be brought up to speed.  You’ve got to identify skill sets and core competencies of your developers, define standards and develop your architecture. But there is another movement taking place where IT departments (and really, the entire enterprise) has the opportunity to be on the bleeding edge: social media & the development of a social media manager (SMM).

Here’s a link to an excellent post by Paul Chaney making the case for such a position.   

This post, as many do, proposes creating the SMM as an externally facing position.  It’s a very good idea, but one many others cover and doesn’t need me to copy cat.  What I see an opportunity for is a slight twist on the position: create a SMM that’s internally facing.  Depending on the size of your company you might have multiple SMMs; perhaps one for each major function at your company – BizDev, Supply Chain, Finance, HR, Comms, Engineering, IT, Product…

‘What will the social media manager do ?’, you ask.  Ultimately, the SMM would act as a combination of two roles, maven and connector, made popular in Malcolm Gladwell’s, The Tipping Point.  At a very high level, they will listen in on and participate in the online conversation that is happening inside your company.  This assumes, of course, that your company has the means (tool) to have a conversation and that said conversation is happening.  (This position would be especially useful if your company has invested in a tool but can’t make it ‘go’) 

The chosen SMM will need to be a SME not only in social media, but also in the functional area of the company to which they are assigned to participate.   The idea here is that the SMM will be able to navigate the tool as well as the funcational landscape, putting people and ideas together to enhance knowledge management, reuse and collaboration; that’s your business case.  Until the semantic web hits enterprise internally, the SMM can act as a human proxy.  Most companies have ‘graybeards’, this would be a great way for them to participate.  

I see the SMM going to conventions, sitting in on key meetings, being an embedded journalist of sorts disseminating the information to those that can use it but can’t get it first hand.  

While the sound of the position is new, as Chaney points out, there is a good chance there is someone in your company already doing it, aka the Accidental SMM.  As we move to a work environment that supports telecommuting and virtual teams, the conversation is shifting from the water cooler to…to…to whatever the virtual equivalent of the water cooler is.  It will be important to have tools AND people to bring it all together.  Such a position might even help us with Knowledge Management, an initiative we generally lay at the altar of enterprise apps.  Maybe what we need is less machine and more human.

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