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.