The hottest fashion tip for Fall? Try on some "Social Strategy."
The early 90’s were a good time for me.
Having rocked a “not preppy, not punk, but kinda goth-before-it-was-called goth” look in high school, the 90’s brought us the age of “alternative” and, all of the sudden, what I had been wearing for years started to look pretty cool.
I ran into an old high school classmate at the mall during that time and she commented, “Looks like fashion finally caught up with you, Jen.”
Unfortunately, as with any trend, eventually “alternative” fell out of fashion and, as quick as you can say, “hit me baby one more time,” my look was out.
(Although I’m still willing to argue that the color black is eternally cool.)
The birth of the “social strategist.”
I’ve been reminded of that time in my life lately as I’ve watched the rise of the words “social strategist” in bios and profiles across the interwebs. (Last I checked, there were more than 22,000 people with that term in their titles on LinkedIn).
You see, I’ve been a marketing strategist for more than a decade, and began incorporating social media into the mix of things for which I strategize, a few years ago.
In the past, I never found my job title to be particularly hot. In fact, “strategy” has been historically hard for me to sell clients. Over the years, most clients just wanted me to give them a new toy, rather than try to explain how to fix the one they already had.
So imagine my surprise when I realized that, once again, I was positioned to ride a wave of unplanned popularity.
But then I looked around and realized…this wave is really damn crowded.
- Who are all these people who are social strategists?
- Where did they come from?
- What makes them “strategists” and not just “people who use social media a whole lot?”
- What does being a “social strategist” even mean today?
Stop talking and…you know…go strategize something.
Oftentimes when I meet a fellow “social strategist” for coffee, I’ll notice one of two things (if not both) right off the bat: they can’t sit for more than 10 minutes without checking their phone and, they never stop talking.
And in my head, I often wonder, “How in the world do they manage to do this job?”
For me, strategic thought requires deep attention, empathy, understanding and oftentimes, silence.
Yes, I need to participate in conversations and chats in social channels, read feeds and posts on an ongoing basis and keep abreast of trends that change seemingly overnight. But I also need to hold all of that information in my head and let my neurons wrap around them until a strategic path forward emerges.
This is a process that includes…
- Reading industry articles, books and blog posts (um…the whole thing, not just the first paragraph so I can tweet a sound bite) and attending industry conferences, seminars and webinars.
- Researching, testing and reading case studies on new social tools to assess their strengths and weaknesses.
- Analyzing quantitative and qualitative data on my client and their customers, competition and brands, looking for trends, traffic and red flags.
- Listening carefully to my client’s story, both the parts they voice (“This may be a challenge for our department to launch.”) and the parts they show me through their nonverbal clues (This person behaves as if they were told to launch a social media strategy, but don’t really want to. I’m going to need to identify a back-up champion to include in the planning process.)
This part of my job is SO not sexy.
So I gotta think that some of the people who are trying on the sexy new “social strategist” hat for size might be inclined to gloss over some of these tasks.
What strategy means to me…
I don’t think of “strategy” as helping someone get from Point A to Point B – a simple task of learning where they are and making a map to get them where they want to go.
I think of strategy as helping someone find success.
It is the art of translating the macro seamlessly into the micro. And in that process you show people not only how to get what they want, but also remind them of why they wanted it in the first place.
But maybe my definition of “strategy” is wrong.
- In a medium that moves in time to a hummingbird’s wings, maybe a thought or sound bite that sounds strategic is strategic enough.
- Maybe our clients “houses” no longer need to be build with strong foundations since we’re all building our brands on sand.
- Maybe silence is overrated.
If those things are true, than yes…I am totally out of fashion. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
What do you think? What do the words “social strategy” mean to you?
I’ll be talking more about this topic, and helping people work on their own social media strategies, next week at the Social Media Optimization Summit in Dallas. If you’re attending the event, I hope you will drop by my session (held in two-parts, at the end of each day).
I’ve noticed this trend as well. Sadly I noticed it *after* I got into the game of working with people to create successful strategies focusing on social media tactics. I felt the same way my wife did when she decided on the colors she wanted in our wedding when she was six and those colors happened to be “in style” the year we were married two years ago and everyone thought we were just trying to be “trendy”.
There’s almost nothing worse than trying to be successful and take something you love extremely seriously, only to have it blasphemed by countless douchebags and therefore you look bad too. It’s frustrating because I LOVE what I do and I really strive to help the people that I work with to the best of my ability. And that’s really all I can hope for.
I’m with you. We should start a new trend, a club where only the pure of heart can enter. We may stand alone, but we shall stand strong.
It’s probably the same way my mom felt when she came up with the very original name of “Jennifer” for me back in the 70’s too. 🙂
I agree, it’s hard to market the value of what you do when everyone around is seeming to become overnight experts in it too. I’m with you…I just keep plugging away and do the best work possible. Hopefully the passion and experience of those who are committed to this industry and type of work will drown out the drone of the douchies.
Thanks for reading, commenting and tweeting about the post. You rock. I’ll be in a club with you any day!
Jen this is an awesome thought provoking, discussion starting, and actionable post! I really like the “It is the art of translating the macro seamlessly into the micro.” that nailed it! I think the problem is most clients pay for results quarterly. They pay for minor up ticks, the economy is built on the short term success. Ooops I should have said it used to be built that way. I do believe the saving and spending wisely on risks started in the homes across America and is making it’s way to the board room.
The other thing that is difficult to explain to companies is paying for “art”. There is such a playful dance between Macro to Micro, then rinse and buy new shampoo then repeat. They need to pay for bringing together several resources that have many specialties of art and science in the DNA. Companies want to hire the strategist, SEO, Social,Interactive, Creative, Marketer, Customer Service, Operations, Technologist (but not too much because having too much tech ruins your ability to anything else) Support, and Manager & Develop others. That is going in on the cheap and yup they probably will meet there 2010 4th Quarter numbers and they will have to find the next trend for 1st Quarter 2011. That is going to get tiring trucking that sand in…..
You keep doing what your doing and keep this faith “You are setting the trend”
Many thanks Keith. I image with your corporate experience that you see a whole other side of strategy than we do on our end. It is hard, because, yeah, most companies want the “short sale” not the “long tail” which is why selling strategic direction can be so hard. But it’s lack of foresight that put us in a recession in the first place. You’d think we’d have all learned the lesson that it pays to think a little more long term. Thanks for the feedback.