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There's little room left for debate: any way you dice it, social media is mainstream. That should be good news for social media experts and gurus, right? Perhaps not.

Earlier this week, it was revealed that The New York Times was essentially eliminating its 'social media editor' position. The person who held it, Jennifer Preston, would become a full-time reporter again.

According to Poynter.org's Mallary Jean Tenore, who spoke with Preston, The New York Times determined that it really didn't need a social media editor. The reason? In Preston's own words, "Social media can't belong to one person; it needs to be part of everyone's job." She explained:

For us to really, truly sustain and scale the use of the social media tools we need to have our desk and department heads and section editors owning the social media channels and managing the conversation that’s taking place.

The realization that one person, or one department, can't and shouldn't be responsible for 'social media' is yet another reminder of the increasing maturity in the space. A year or two ago, having a social media editor made sense for a lot of publishers. After all, it was becoming evident that social media was really important, but how it should be used was still a big question mark. Having one or more people dedicated to the emerging channel permitted publishers to figure things out and experiment without creating chaos.

But today, social media is in many ways a part of the internet's fabric. For many, social media sites like Facebook are used just as often as email, yet you will probably won't find an 'email editor' at a major newspaper. And for good reason: email, like social media, is a tool, and if you're in the business of reporting the news, knowing how to interact with the social media sphere is a fast becoming a prerequisite for the job. Given this, The New York Times was smart to question whether it needs a social media editor.

Expect other organizations to eventually ask similar questions when it comes to dedicated social media positions they've created. Many will probably come to the same conclusion as The New York Times: placing social media in a silo isn't necessary anymore, and it's potentially harmful. The irony of this is that over time, we'll likely see fewer and fewer dedicated 'social media' positions even as social media usage rises. Instead, expect to see the words 'social media' move from the job title to the job description.

Patricio Robles

Published 10 December, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2381 more posts from this author

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Tim Cawsey

Tim Cawsey, Head of Branding & Content at Gemalto

We're currently deciding what to do about this in our organisation. In a large company I feel you definitely need a dedicated person to set up your Social Media strategy and probably someone identified afterwards in order to manage it. Maybe in a couple of year's it could then become part of the Marcom job description for many employees but who would then lead the task, shape the company strategy and liaise with any Social media agencies? As with any traditional tasks in a large company, if no one is in charge it doesn't get done. Any ideas?

over 5 years ago

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Meghan Burton, SEO & Social Media Manager at Web Marketplace Solutions

While I completely agree that everyone does need to be involved, I think companies, especially larger ones, need a dedicated social manager. Otherwise, who is going to be monitoring the company's reputation and posting regular updates in addition to engaging? Everyone should have the ability and be encouraged to post and chat themselves on the channels, but if no one is actively managing it then I can easily see how they would get sidetracked in busy times or when their own jobs take over. It's definitely possible that this could be part of someone's job rather than their whole job, but it certainly needs to be done.

over 5 years ago

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Duncan Birch

Oops above comment was by me happened to be logged in to Lauren's account!! please delete

Slightly disagree with their thinking on this.  Yes everyone needs to have some involvement in Social media because it is as they state becoming mainstream as communication.  However comparing it to email as a tool is a bit strange email has been around for a very long time and you still see lots of people in organisations with specific skills in email programmes, email marketing managers, email marketing execs, data handlers etc.  So I believe there is still a need for someone to be an evangelist a social media champion someone who is the expert within the business.  This space moves so fast you want reporters and heads of teams to be concentrating on what they do best reporting, editing whatever that may be.   

If you are going down the route the New york times are then you would definitely need some internal training on how to engage because not everyone is savvy enough.  So who would do the training? How about the social media editor??

over 5 years ago

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Dan Farmer, Digital Marketing Manager at Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity

Definitely agree that the long-term aim to have it as part of everyone's job is a good one, but you'll still need someone to oversee what the organisation's overall strategy is, train colleagues and report on successes. Also in the interim, someone needs to do the Tweeting and the Facebook updates while you gradually persuade department heads and CEOs that they should use social media and train them how to do it!

over 5 years ago

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Mallary Jean Tenore

Thanks for linking to my story! Such an interesting time for organizations that are grappling with some of these questions related to social media. . ~Mallary

over 5 years ago

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SuStokes

The way forward is definitely the role of the Corporate Social Strategist. A contract based employee that develops both short term and long term social media strategies within each individual department of a larger corporation. They are a social media trainer whose aim is to up-skill each department to manage their own social media channels. I am a Social Media Manager in a large corporate company, but I write strategy for other departments to implement. Over time, I then work at assisting them in better understanding the medium and various platforms. In a few months / years, I know I will and should work myself out of a job. If I suceed at that, I would have been successful. Ultimately, I believe that social media should be managed in-house. In order to gain insights into the feedback that you will be receiving from ongoing one to one engagement with your customer, you need to be managing it yourself. Once the corporate social strategist has successfully completed implementing social media into a business, their role should gradually move from full-time, to a monthly or even quarterly update of new avenue's within this ever changing industry.

over 5 years ago

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SM

I agree to the part that Social Media related responsibilities shouldn't be restricted to a single person in an organization, but its also important that they hire a Social Media Expert for their organization to maintain their mainstream campaign or strategy on social networks. If everyone in an organization will do it, they'll start doing it in their own way and the whole thing could become a big mess. We do need every individual to have SENSE and AWARENESS of Social Media, but on official grounds, companies do need an expert to review and plan a good strategy!

over 5 years ago

Simon Francis

Simon Francis, Campaign & communications consultant at Claremont Communications

Ideally, social media should be part of all communications' professionals job description. But the degree to which they will be expected to become experts will vary.

Just as there are existing specialisms within communications at the moment, and even within PR, such as planning, stakeholder relations, media relations, events, etc, there is room for the social media specialist.

This person's (or team's) role is vital, not only must they keep up to date on latest trends, but also guide their colleagues implementation of social media tactics.

A combination of both specialists and well-rounded practitioners who can deliver social media communications is the best way forward. 

over 5 years ago

Tommy Twanker

Tommy Twanker, Founder at Twankers

Patricio, as much as it pains me to say it, i do agree with your article. The sun has shone and the hay has been made. No longer is there the luxury for a dedicated social media guru within an organisation. Social is now part of every role whether it be external facing or purely used for internal purposes. Do businesses have email communication experts or does everyone just get on with the task of using email as part of their everyday role? (I think even I know he answer to that one). It will be interesting to see how this progression will hit the niche social media agencies. I suspect the agencies out there offering other key services and integrating social as part of that will be the winners. I did in fact make a rather humourous video about such an industry evolution around a year ago...it looks like my crystal balls may have been right. I won't post a link to it though as that would be down right cheeky. Tommy

over 5 years ago

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Richard Hamer

I've just had to reel a client in over his use of social media. What's the point of paying for an agency, and what's the point in using Facebook at 2 in the morning(!) in the morning! He's now back on board and we're working in harmony - and he can get on with running his business. 

over 5 years ago

Guy Harvey

Guy Harvey, Marketing Consultant - Social Media and Media Relations at Human Factors International

Well as the recipient of a dedicated social media position I'd like to say in my defense that I am needed to evangelize and inspire others in the organization to integrate social media in their habits. There is a way to go before everyone in the company is engaged enough for me to go away!

over 5 years ago

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Dan Bowyer

Really interesting perspective. 

And I agree (even though I run a social media management business!).

However, too soon maybe.

Social media is (and will be for a while) an explicit 'thing' rather than implicit until it finds its true form and function (Again, a while). Much in the same way that we still talk about ethical business or social entrepreneurship or operating a green business. None of which are implicit yet.

ALL businesses should operate ethically, green(ly?), socially responsibly etc yet we still see people tailing off emails with 'Please don't print this email unless you really have to'! Am I stupid!

I just don't think we're there yet. However progressive the NYT thinks it is :)

I genuinely believe social media will be the tag and function for a few years yet. Until simply 'modus operandi'.

over 5 years ago

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David Gallacher

Many organizations are still at an early stage in engaging with social media and having dedicated personnel to manage their online presence makes a great deal of sense.

For those few  that have managed to embed social media thinking throughout their organization it may seem appropriate to dispense with such positions - although I strongly suspect that they will still need to have a strategy (and associated policies and procedures) to ensure that the organization's image is well managed and their aims in using social media are achieved - and therefore the personnel to manage this. It would be interesting to know how the New York Times expect to handle this aspect.

over 5 years ago

Guy Harvey

Guy Harvey, Marketing Consultant - Social Media and Media Relations at Human Factors International

@Tommy Twankers "Do businesses have email communication experts or does everyone just get on with the task of using email as part of their everyday role?" Not really a fair analogy Tommy. For example using email on a daily basis is different from managing an email marketing campaign. Companies that have a dedicated marketing department probably still manage email marketing. Social is the same, there are activities that everyone can engage in others that may be centralized. It would be fairer to say that the knowledge of social media as a marketing tool is required knowledge of the marketing team, just as Internet marketing is required knowledge. It's their responsibility to develop strategy and systems that the whole organization can use.

over 5 years ago

Guy Harvey

Guy Harvey, Marketing Consultant - Social Media and Media Relations at Human Factors International

@Tommy, by the way, love the definition of Twankers on your website. I guess this is a bit of a thread for Twankers :-)

over 5 years ago

Paul Fennemore

Paul Fennemore, Managing Partner at Viapoint

My reasearch at Oxford Uni into how effective social media can be as a marketing medium gave rise to me having the data to create a social media maturity model.  The model is based upon dozens of face to face interviews with marketing managers and directors, communication directors and brand managers.

The model is based upon what practices yielded the most effective results.  One of the characteristics of a high level of maturity was that social media moderation was minimal and that employees were able to makes posts with minimal moderation and an open culture.

However, there was central ownership in marketing. This was because some control is required over code of conduct, tone of voice and responsiveness.Social media marketing also needs monitoring and measuring using sophistacted tools.  Another characteristic of a high level of maturity.  These resources need budgeting for. The most successes came from companies who operated like this.

If you want to know more about the maturity model I can be contacted on pfennemore@businesszone.uk.com.

over 5 years ago

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Job descriptions

These are some great thoughts, yes i do agree that social media is helping every one, its just become part of every ones life. I tell every one, that i got my first job from linked IN. thanks and i always love to be part of any social media sites@bose

about 5 years ago

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