Fire your Director of Social Media!

At a recent ANA conference I was interviewing Brian Wallace VP of Digital Marketing and Media for RIM when I heard him say “2 years from now- if I still have a Director of Social Media – I should be fired!” and after thinking about that I can’t help but agree with him.

The theory here is as CMO’s appoint a head of social media in their organizations, it fosters silo-like behavior and departmentalizes social which by definition runs counter to the behavior within the organization you are trying to instill!

As the “lightning rod” for all things social at Avaya – I have tried not to accept the mantle of being the head of social media and instead be more of a caretaker of social activity across the company. I agree you need someone to know what is going on across the company socially but you should not confine social to just a few select people.

My social media team has grown from 7 people at the start to now over 75 people as part of a “virtual cross discipline team” that meets weekly about social activity. And I often wonder how will I push the barriers of that team out – to be more like 15,000 people acting socially in a coordinated, passionate way about our brand. Said differently how do we make social part of the very DNA of the firm?

Ideally, I think you need to treat the role of the Director of Social Media as a way to activate the entire organization socially and then when that’s complete – move on to something else. What’s your view?

64 comments to Fire your Director of Social Media!

  • floyd

    "Activator" or accelerator is a great way to describe the role of a social media director. I also like to think of them as the chief strategist, but when you look to the skillset of such a person what should they really achieve in the organization? Hiring a kid that "gets Facebook and Twitter" is the wrong approach.

    I like to think of such a position, if an organization wants to hire this position, as a journalist, an internet marketer that understands seo/sem, a salesperson, a strategist, a copy writer, a PR specialist, an analyst etc. The current task of the position is to champion social media, create strategy with measurable results, and report on results. Then when the program is launched this person can move into other areas of expertise and research emerging trends.

    The title Social Media Director seems to be as obsolete as 8 track media director. This is a first of many trends that requires research, understanding, and strategy. If that is put in a bigger box that encompasses Social Media, then they have room to grow…

  • Maureen Kelly

    Great points Jeremy, especially noting that this position needs to measure & report on results.

  • Paul Dunay

    @ Jerome – Well said – You so often hear of the scenario where a company hires a "kid" who gets social for the role. And I couldn't agree more its the wrong approach.

    Especially since Social has the promise of transforming other parts of your organization – it would be helpful to have someone who can really drive change in that role.

  • Mike Volpe - HubSpot

    Exactly right! Social media is just one marketing tool Only when it is used as part of a complete inbound marketing strategy will it work.

  • Paul Dunay

    Hey Mike – thanks for commenting! – Happy Holidays to everyone at HubSpot!

  • Sherrick Murdoff

    Great post – social media should be a part of every department, it's a means of doing business. The same way the computer, email, groupware, internet applications all became a part of doing business, so will social media. The good news is social media is made to be very user-friendly so we will not a "social media administrator" the way we need an IT administrator today.

    However, in the short to medium term companies will need someone to help lead and inspire, to help integrate and show the results. The social media director and/or community manager is an important role, but one that evolves. Two years from now hopefully it is not necessary… but I wonder what will be next?

  • AdaMarcom

    Very well said. It saddens me to still hear some marketers say things like "Social Media is not my forté." Well, if it's not today, make it one tomorrow. The silo'd condition of corporate marketing is yet to improve, and I long to see more cross-discipline collaboration to happen within the marketing communications world. Years ago, we used to separate Digital Marketing from Corporate Marketing, but hearing the two department names in one company today would make me shiver and wonder what on earth is happening. The same principle goes for Social Media. As marketers, we've got to understand and adopt social media as part of our day-to-day marketing disciplines. There shouldn't be any if's, but's or why's.

  • Tracey

    I generally think of social media in the same way I'd think of any other marketing tactic. You might have personnel to direct just that specific tactic; however, all tactics should ultimately flow to and from one unified marketing strategy. And there's no point in a marketer executing tactics without learning the strategy behind it.

  • Paul Dunay

    @ Sherrick – totally agree – I almost can hear the words – Social Media "enabler" in what you were saying. Thanks for commenting!

  • Paul Dunay

    @ Ada – I have heard some marketers say the same thing but what really woke me up was the people inside my organization who I had to approach (like Finance and R&D) about reactions we were getting in social media where I needed their help – I thought I would get the same response but instead they were happy to make social a forte and fast!

  • Paul Dunay

    @ Tracey – agreed – almost a Chief Social Coordinator 😉

  • Dana VanDen Heuvel -

    Hey Paul,

    In principle, I'm 100% with you. In fact, we've advised several clients against hiring someone specifically for the social media role. That said, saying 'fire the SM director' is like saying 'fire the customer service director'…as customer service should be everyone's job, shouldn't it?

    Anyone leading the social media efforts in an organization (or any effort that directly impacts the customer experience) needs to be a true steward of the brand, grown from within and not hired from without (my opinion…).

  • Paul Dunay

    @ Dana – Nice I like your analogy and you are right sooner rather than later social will be everyones job just like email is today as well

  • Kash

    I do agree with you 100%. I've been working in the social media field and recently was asked what I can offer a company outside of social media, during an interview. I think social media is beyond just the sites we use,and the people we connect with. As Director, they better be able to engage the entire company and community in such a way that everyone becomes a director of social media without really noticing.

  • Paul Dunay

    @ Kash – I like that thought alot – everyone becoming the Director of Social Media in the company – thanks for commenting!

  • Johan Gradvall

    Great post! I agree.
    I think many, if not most newspapers, made the mistake of creating separate editorial staffs – one for print and one for web. That didn't result in anything but silo-like behavior and competition for ad sales within the organization. We should learn from that mistake and be careful not not create organizational silos based on media type.
    Social Media "Activator", "enabler" etc. sounds great to me.

  • Paul Dunay

    @ Johan – wow Johan what a great point – we should not let history repeat itself like print media did – now years later the profound difference between print and web can really be seen in their siloic approach – great point!

  • Darcie Meihoff

    Great post! I think one very important point here is the fact that the social media “enabler” (great term, by the way), also plays a proactive role in helping round up and identifying content that can be shared. In working with a lot of companies, we’re realizing many divisions/groups have some wonderful information and resources that still are only being shared via very traditional routes and they simply don’t have time to focus on how to do it. A good social media pointteam can help tease that out from all corners of a business, generate ideas for where else it can be shared, and also help spot opportunities for content that would be useful to develop & share with audiences for additional social value.

  • Paul, I know this is a relatively old post but since you just featured it in your newsletter I thought it appropriate to comment. Simply put, I think you’re right on target. For social media to be truly effective it needs to be as inclusive and collaborative as possible. SILO = DOA. That’s why Media Logic has developed Zeitgeist & Coffee, which helps organizations take full advantage of ALL of their great content-contributors — most of whom would otherwise go unnoticed and untapped. Typical Z&C clients start with a handful of contributors…then they see how easy and productive it is to add more and they expand further….and further. We use Z&C for ourselves and we’ve set-up all of our 75 employees as contributors. It’s fascinating to see how it builds momentum. I’d be interested to hear what you think — to learn more, check-out

  • I missed this the first time around, so I’m grateful that you choose to include it in your latest newsletter.

    I agree that much of the responsibility of a social media director lies within the firewall helping a company transition to a more transparent, more social media-ready environment. And, from what little I know of the corporate world, it’s a task that can take years.

    That being said, it does seem this position is one that takes on a rather “Johnny Appleseed,” or “Apostle Paul” type character. (BTW, John Chapman – aka Johnny Appleseed – was a missionary, so the examples aren’t as disparate as they may seem. Heh.)

    Taking a cue from what you said, “…activate the entire organization socially and then when that’s complete – move on to something else,” there is something of an apostolic character about the job to be sure. Plant, water, then move on.

  • Glenn Dobson

    This only applies if you believe that Social Media somehow belongs to Marketing people and that they are the ones who should drive it, I disagree. I think Social Media belongs more to Support than anyone else, the majority of interactions being had with customers are in the support realm after all. If you look at it from this perspective there is definitely room for a dedicated Social Media person, someone to respond to support calls and act as a conduit between the company and it’s customer.

  • Thanks for this great post! I totally agree with the content of what you say. Still, I don’t think the position will be useless in the future. As every manager position it has to change with the requirements and the needs, but as always it is important to have someone in charge of guiding the boat through the waters. Social Media is changing so fast and evolving at a pace, that hardly anyone can keep track of. A good social media director does not stop at using Twitter or Facebook but explores new possibilties and is a main position for any questions the whole company has.
    More than that, it is not done by implementing social media strategies. Since it is comunicational work it is not static.
    Bottom line: I totally agree with the change of the role, but I think the position will – because of those changes – be even more important.

  • Yes the perspective you have written about is correct. You need a swat team of folks not hampered by red tape, title battles, or business unit supremacy. This team is accountable and responsible begin to understand what the companies definition of social is based on the needs and wants of each organization. These individuals help each unit understand the landscape, potential strategies, tool integration, and skills necessary to care and feed this ongoing ever changing environment. This is constructive collaboration, there will be positive conflict, which is a good thing. The predetermined social path dictated by a few that swoop in and wait for the unit to take action is unrealistic, unfair, and frankly dead wrong of an approach!

    That means this swat team is consistently standing up more swat members as they engage each organization, but that increases the ability to influence organic changes that is needed in the social dynamic of planning, strategizing and executing in a much more rapid pace. The organization should also be less fearful of letting people follow this passion even though they might not have a Marketing, PR, Advertising, or Interactive background. Get them out of their current roles and turn them loose!

    The thing that really makes this whole swat team work is doing a 180 on what you think is needed for this team! You may find a Financial Analyst that understand and functions externally very social, get her or him on the team! You may find a technical architect supporting an current application that is very social get her or him on the team.

    It is an eclectic group of swat members that helps go across all the business units to collaboratively take action with the people they are helping to gain more knowledge and wisdom with social concepts and tools.

    Everyone in your whole company needs media training! Your employees are now the story, your customers are now the story not the Brand Institution…..

  • @Darcie – Yes I like the idea of a social media point person for content – it you take that idea a step further its really a publishing role (much like a magazine) complete with a publishing calendar

  • @David – sounds cool – I will check it out – I like the idea of a “Conversation Management Suite”

  • @Paul – I hadn’t considered the apostle angle to this role but I guess its a fair metaphor.

  • @Glenn – that’s a great point and one I wholeheartedly believe in – since I am @Avaya_Support I can tell you that is the single best place to house Social Media since the ROI is strongest in that area (ie saving and delighting customer)

  • @Deniz – ok fair enough – I guess time will tell – thank you for commenting!

  • Good post! There are 2 discussions going on here, though: first, the issue of whether Social Media should be part of Marketing or Customer Service, to which I suggest they should never have been separated in the first place, and the Social Media function can be a catalyst for reconnecting what years of infrastructural fragmentation hath wrought! Marketing is, IMHO, the process of identifying and connecting the market to the offering in a meaningful and effective/efficient way. This connection includes everything from clarifying the value of the offering, crystallizing the need of the customer, and communicating the benefits of one to the other…to engaging the consumer/client for their feedback and user insights, redirecting positioning (or even reconstruction of the offering), and yes, CRM.

    This leads us to the second issue presented by this great posting: whether social media directors should render themselves obsolete by their very success. A competent individual would respond to and address the current needs and, yes – render themselves unnecessary, I suppose. A great Social media director will forever enlarge their own value proposition, by advancing their understanding of a landscape that will never stop expanding. If the value of a role is judged only on its function TODAY, we’d have a lot of out of work doctors, lawyers, tax preparers, and IC manufacturers! Just as practitioners in those fields must always update their skills and offerings, so must the social media director, and indeed marketing team as a whole, consistently revise and reinvent their value to the brand which they serve. If successful, they need never be “out-of-date”.

  • @Keith – I agree and I think my role in Social within Avaya is to help recruit all 21000 employees to become part of one Avaya Social Network. This is going to require a lot of training from the basics to the advanced tactics. This is something I am working on building out.

  • Meg

    I always enjoy reading your posts, Paul. You make such interesting points and always present unique angles. I learn a great deal from your site!

    I totally agree with you that it should be many people instead of one. But at the same time, I think it’s also good to have that one person who mulls through everyone’s content and lightly sculpts it into the company’s trademark voice. I definitely agree that it should be a large group effort, but as a few others pointed out, utilizing that one person to polish the communications and figure out what’s the next big thing, what’s working and what isn’t, and where to lead everyone is important too.

    Thanks for another great post!

  • @Meg – FYI – I have heard the role you describe called a “Content Curator” – not sure I totally get the need for it in my organization since unlike fine wine content doesn’t get better with age 😉

    Thanks for the comment Meg!

  • @Nicholas – thanks for the recap and the clarity – I agree there are 2 conversations happening here and you are spot on in both conversations! thanks for commenting

  • […] just finished a great blog by Paul Dunay about why you should fire your director of social media. Paul, and his muse, RIM’s VP of Digital Marketing, Brian Wallace, posit that social media […]

  • I hope I come back to this post after 2 years and say I have my job as Social Media Swami still. 🙂 joking aside when people ask me how big is the social media team I tell them its about 800 ( all employees)We are not yet there but we are steadliy getting there.The social media part of the organization should be the internal consultant to help the organizationacross all divisions embrace social media.


  • Greetings to you all from Cork Ireland, where I’m considering all your points.
    I found you via Twitter, but while I was reading your post and comments my tweetstream moved on, and I can’t remember who gave me the link. [Isn’t that the world we live in! Ideas, inspirations fly in for somewhere, and you easily lose track of where they began.]

    The word that came to me was “Catalyst” – certainly not “co-ordinator”. I found the view that “it’s also good to have that one person who mulls through everyone’s content and lightly sculpts it into the company’s trademark voice” wonderful. Horrific really. No way could you do anything valuable by developing such a voice, I’d say.

    What’s needed I submit is diverse voices, a multitude of voices, all of which smell different – as if they truly came from individuals. The crowd outside your organisation is suspicious. We expect bull. We expect your company voice to lie, over-promise, under-deliver. Our starting point is scepticism. You have your work cut out to grow a garden of flowering voices within the business. But it’s worth striving for.

    I suggest you’ll have a hard time if you stay within the notion of developing within. It’s in the meeting of the internal folk with external customers, stakeholders, suppliers, and lurkers that hope lies. Use the outsiders to develop your insiders. Cultivate the external as much as you cultivate the internal staff for all departments.

    Enough. Never meant to go on and on. Probably repeating myself. But thanks. It’s fun to be sparked off.

  • […] Here’s the blog that set me off… “Fire Your Director of Social Media” by Paul Dunay.  Paul interviewed Brian Wallace VP of Digital Marketing and Media for RIM.  This is what I said in my comment. […]

  • Excellent thought-provoking post. I agree with you and with the argument throughout the comments that social media shouldn’t be owned by any one function – although at present as organizations evolve, it makes sense for marketing and communications to drive participation.

    But two years from now? Who knows. We can assume that the social media space is going to continue to grow and integrate with other communications tools, other forms of entertainment, and so on. It could be that the term “social media” will fade away as all media becomes social. That could mean that if you’re a Director of Social Media now, you have an incredible opportunity to innovate and create integrated marketing/sales/support teams who get it.

    The flip side is that any company that still employs a Director of Social Media in a few years would be like a company today that employs a Director of Print Advertising. A bit behind the times.

  • Great article and thought provoking.

    Right now, yes, the role is likely needed as an activator/lightening rod to engender and grow a social media ‘way of doing’ in a business. However as time passes, the role should inherently move from rolling-the-sleeves-up-doing to directing, promoting best practice, encouraging innovation and mostly participation. As @rexster a senior partner at Deloitte in Australia is noted for saying – Social Media is not something you strategise and plan, it’s something you do. Initially yes, learn by doing and have that lead by an individual/small team, as it grows, empower more and have that individual/team champion continual improvement/innovation and gathering ROI from the activitiers.

  • Absolutely, you’re discussing how success for Social Media is not a silo its as an embedded, inherent, normal part of business:

  • For years I’ve been helping businesses inspire their staff to be be evangelists for their company out in the community. Where once the “community” consisted of the soccer bench, service club meeting or church social; now it embraces a much larger circle through social media. Most team members don’t know they are goodwill ambassadors for the business (they think they were data entry clerks, research assistants, etc.)and getting them to see beyond their job description to their REAL role in the organization falls to the leadership. Anyone care to lead?

  • @Shashi (aka Social Media Swami!) – I like how you think Social is everyone’s role in the company – I feel the same way – but I got a long way to go to get all 21000 trained and using social tools!

  • @Paul (from Cork Ireland) – thanks for commenting and welcome to my blog – I like your idea of Social Media Catalyst – I can say I feel like that is a good description of my role!

    I agree there needs to be disparate voices and one thing I was thinking as I was reading your comment is Social is a lot like email in the sense that you would never be able to “mandate” one voice for all email – and – therefore you would never want or mandate one voice for all social activity!

  • @Dan – I know 2 years – who knows what will happen – but one thing is for sure – social is just beginning and the landscape is surely going to be different! Thanks for commenting

  • @Doug – thanks for the link to the History of Social Media – clearly that blog post will be ever evolving!

  • @Sunny – your post reminds me of 2 things: one is Seth Godin’s last book Tribes – where he asked us all to lead!

    The other thing your thoughts on community are spot on – so many marketers think about starting a new community when in reality you should think about utilizing existing communities and bringing them online!

    good comment thanks!

  • Sue Anne

    More than any other activity, the use of social media — especially for larger brands — needs to be integrated and cross-discipline. Marketing, PR, customer service, etc. all need to be involved. Just like any activity though, it does need a strong bit of leadership to keep all those cross discipline teams working towards the same goals.

  • (overcoming the) barriers to successful enterprise social media implementation…

    Futurity media’s Stewart Baines has posted a few interesting questions on his blog. My answers are long-winded, but I think there are rightfully so. This is a difficult subject, and writing short yet sensible answers would be a challenge (anyway,…

  • […] to a single team or department within your organization. Social media should be considered a “cross-discipline” […]

  • […] 4) Open boundaries to facilitate internal collaboration and external outreach. Social requires employees to step outside their functional comfort zones and work with outside partners and influencers. Rather than opening borders completely, top firms progressively allow more access to resources, opportunities to interact, and incentives to do so by establishing a community hub. The community hub (aka community portal, social networking site, forum, etc.) creates structure, but offers enough flexibility, to allow social interactions to evolve. Encourage employees to collaborate with each other first because this will foster the skills, norms, and creative thinking needed to make the transition to external interactions go faster and remain permanent. To see how one marketer is wrestling with this today, take a look at Paul Dunay’s blog post titled “Fire Your Director of Social Media!” […]

  • What are some best practices for protecting employees and customers from the dangers inherent in social media? My company offers Social Media monitoring as well as social engeering training for execs, but what are some other ways to minimize risk in this area?

  • @Brent – I highly recommend a strong social media guidelines – email me if you want me to send you some samples I have collected

  • I’m in the bar/nightclub industry and stay up to date on current social media trends.
    It is important for me to have a social media director. For many reasons… @Paul can you please send me a sample or two that may apply to my biz. Thanks!

  • @Jim – please email me so I can send them to you (use my blog email me facility)

  • Great stuff.. Keep it up! 🙂

  • it’s important to have one consistent director and “keeper” of the message who knows it all and knows it well. however I do see your point on having a team of people well-versed in the organization with knowledge on how to push forth that message at all times because a company is ONLY as good as its message 🙂

  • […] Paul Dunay from Avaya was talking to Brian Wallace, VP of Digital Marketing and Media for RIM, and recalls him saying that “2 years from now – if I still have a Director of Social Media – I should be fired!” Once it gets off the ground, social media isn’t a programme in itself – it needs to support the bigger goals like prospect acquisition, customer growth or co-creation of products/services. Putting it in a silo won’t help anybody achieve these core objectives. […]

  • […] VI suggest decimating England’s population of lawyers. Paul Dunay recently echoed this in his blog: …2 years from now – if I still have a Director of Social Media – I should be […]

  • […] Also I am not seeing anyone really “killing it” with or in social media (sans Mark Zuckerberg of course). There seems to be tons of Social Media consultants and Directors of Social Media but will that party last? (see my post on Fire your Director of Social Media). […]

  • […] just finished a great blog by Paul Dunay about why you should fire your director of social media. Paul, and his muse, RIM’s VP of Digital Marketing, Brian Wallace, posit that social media […]

  • While I agree that there should be a group dedicated to “socializing” the company who’s sole purpose is to perpetuate a presence in Social Space, I disagree that you

    “need to treat the role of the Director of Social Media as a way to activate the entire organization socially and then when that’s complete – move on to something else”

    I believe that there should always be a focused group responsible for driving the company’s social message. Leave it to the masses and trained or not, at some point the chances of a social mis-fire or mis-use are much greater.

  • […] Fire your Director of Social Media! | Buzz Marketing for Technology […]

  • I couldn’t agree more! There needs to be a facilitator of conversations rather than censor telling other what they are allowed to talk about or share. As a father of an 11 year-old, I understand the necessity to protect oneself or children. Some things are inappropriate for some people, however, that should not preclude others for whom the media is appropriate from seeing it. I keep having flashes from documentaries of book burnings in Nazi Germany. When we start censoring what people can say, do, or post, that’s what we’re headed for.
    The conversational streams should be exactly that—streams which ebb and flow without well-defined restrictions.
    Like Brian Wallace said, after two years, the director of social media has become too comfortable with the status quo to remain on the cutting edge of technology—which is, after all, what social media is all about.

  • @Mark – great comment – thanks for sharing
    I totally agree that leveraging social conversations presents a huge opportunity for brands!

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