Debating the future of social media leadership and strategy

This is a video of me sleeping. Holy crap what a lousy picture.

Nevertheless, you are going to love this video. Jay Baer and I usually see eye-to-eye but when we were on a panel at the recent Social Slam event we discovered we had radically opposing views of the future of how social media is integrated into a company. We decided this was such an interesting topic that it would make an interesting debate … so here it is in video form.

It’s a short video but it covers a lot of ground!

Will social media marketing be absorbed into the every day workplace or will it stand alone as a distinct career? Or both?

What is the future of social media consulting?

What is the most economical way for companies to deal with the frenzied pace of change in social media?

What do we make of Chris Brogan’s prediction that social media consultants will be irrelevant in two years?

I think you’re going to love this video, and of course it’s OK to disagree.

With Jay.

No seriously … I enjoy dissent and hope you know that by now. How else will we learn and grow?  This is a GREAT discussion.  Let me know what you think!

All posts

  • I can’t WAIT to watch this. Now my dilemma is whether to tweet this out before I get to see it. Ah, moral conundrum on a Monday morning…

  • Ha! I really think you will like it. A great discussion.

  • Philosophically, I’m in line with you both (Hooray, I’m Switzerland!). Even if you have a lot of people building different parts of the space ship, you still need people who study and work on this FT to tell them what the ship should look like. Sure, that person can be someone in-house, but a lot of times when you’re standing inside the ship, that’s impossible to get a perspective on (especially for smaller companies). I think this is a particularly unique phenomenon when it comes to social media where you’re not actually even building a ship, but the space through which it will fly.

    At this stage in the game, it seems helpful to our clients to have an outside mediator in the room who can look at this holistically and strategically and help to weave everyone’s goals together into a game plan that’s functional and makes sense. Will these clients able to do that themselves someday? Sure. Some won’t though.

    I agree that people who approach social by teaching to the tools will become obsolete in 2 years. But people who have deep experience working in communications who focus full time on studying the digital ethnographic behaviors in the space in relation to the changing slate of technology people have at their fingertips and how that relates to a company’s bottom line? That’s a strategic skill that’s not going to get tossed out the window with the latest trends.

    (A lot of people don’t even realize that’s something you can even track, much less study.)

    I think the people who broadened their understanding of social media at the get go to encompass this bigger picture will continue to have a valuable skill set and perspective to bring to the table for companies for the long haul.

    In short, 2 years? Meh. I’ve been doing this for nearly 20. I’ve got no intention of leaving the building anytime soon. 🙂

    As always, it’s a pleasure watching your mega brains at work, gentlemen…

  • And, the debate continues… Thank you Jay and Mark for your introduction to a valuable and viable debate discussion.

  • I love this debate. Because Jay has a Marketers viewpoint. And Mark has a business operations viewpoint with a CFO slant. I align with Mark on this for the most part. It comes down to core competencies. I am actually shocked massive marketers don’t do everything in house. Because Coke and Pepsi and Bud and P&G might make good products but usually the products don’t stand out and what does is their marketing so it should be a core competency. But for a business that stands out with products or services social will not be a core competency for the most part. Boeing doesn’t make it’s own Phone System they pay a Vendor to provide and Install it and offer their expertise. They might have a proprietary intranet and network but I bet you a million bucks it is massively supported by the Cisco’s and IBM’s who know this stuff better.

    So depending on the use of Social Media and how it evolves will determine where and what role in an Org it resides. It might be integrated into systems by vendors. In 1994 if you wanted text messaging your company paid an outside vendor to provide Text pagers and it was a cost and each Text was $0.25 each (I know because it was my first sales job). Then that function was integrated into cell phones and the web. Now it’s bundled and free. I see Social Media Technologies doing the same. Why? They are communication technologies. The word Media should not be part of the mix. It is not media. Its Social Interpersonal Communication Technologies.

    So Jay. Should Social Communication Technologies be a core competency for a business when they don’t view Phone, Internet, Intranet, or even their Web Business as the same. Aside from Amazon how many Web Businesses do it all themselves instead of paying someone to create, maintain and host?

  • Mark W Schaefer

    Thanks Jen. I agree that the positions were not mutually exclusive … as we discovered once the discussion played out.

    To your point, i would add the dimension of taking an organizational view of the changes. There is a huge difference between checking a box and creating a social organization. I think consultants will also be needed to help close that gap.

    Thanks for the brillian addition to the dialogue!

  • Mark W Schaefer

    You’re welcome!

  • Mark W Schaefer

    Interesting perspective. I like how you rolled in the evolution of text. A good analogy. Thanks for the great comment Howie!

  • Anonymous

    Really enjoyed the debate but I think we have along way to go before Social Media Consultants are out of a job.

    There are still too many companies, large and small, denying the value of social. And too many Agencies thinking they know it all.

    Value in the future is going to come from providing recipes for businesses to use to help them fast track social and avoid the pitfalls. This doesn’t mean outsource the Tweets or status updates, but rather monitor, steer and assist.

    I even think Chris Brogan is off tack slightly. His post on the matter pertains to smaller consultants not being able to Wow the bigger companies anymore due to Agencies having “all” the tools. The issue with this is that even with all the tools for traditional Digital, Agencies struggle to provide positive ROI’s long term.

    In Social, results are harder to track, so I am not sure Agencies will fair much better here either. Leaving plenty of room for smaller specialists to step up to the plate and provide real value.

  • Mark W Schaefer

    Really excellent observations Sean. I’m not sure I follow on social results being difficult to track. Compared to traditional media, there are a lot more metrics available. Tracking ROI is difficult in most cases, of course. Thanks!

  • Where Chris is especially off-the-mark in this case is the belief that having the tools in place is even 50% of the success equation in social.

  • I don’t see the analogy as valid, because the social components of a company inexorably impact brand perception. Outsourced web hosting does not.

  • I’m 1/4 Swiss. So I’m with you, sister.

  • We TOTALLY should have Rick-rolled this video. 30 seconds of an actual debate, followed by an endless loop of the Charmin toilet paper cartoon bears. Next time!

  • Yeah, that would have rocked 😀

    And that’s when Margie decided she’d never again click on a video by Jay and/or Mark…….:)

  • Mark W Schaefer

    I don’t know … might have been an improvement. Those bears are awefully darn cute.

  • Anonymous

    I always say social media has 4 parts – strategy, planning, execution, and measurement. Then start looking at all the piece parts under these 4 headings. When you begin to look at it this way, then you will (rationally) see which parts should be centralized and decentralized. You cannot make a blanket statement for social media in general.

    Good talk guys!

  • That depends Jay. I view Social Media as Technology Platform not media. If you are viewing at as media and feel someone will be dedicated to teach people and coach on communication and media creation (content and exchanging) then you have a point. But I view it as communication tools. Like SMS Text, Phone, Email etc

    BUT that all said. That doesn’t mean there won’t be someone creating standards and processes. I come from Heavy Industry B2B on the Brand and Distribution Side. ISO9001 where processes such as how orders are entered, how work flow happens and how quality assurance/improvement occurs. So I can see someone taking these tools and creating say an equal to facebook but proprietary and intranet format so that business can improve. So instead of a 3hr weekly meeting we all use a version of Facebook/LinkedIn/GoogleWave-Docs for internal discussions and virtual meetings. Just not sure if I see that as Social vs IT.

  • Just so long as you don’t use the Bimbo bread bear. That guy creeps me out.

  • Q: Is social media too complex for one person to handle?
    A: No its not, it needs one efficient management graduate to handle one brand.

    Q: Are companies better off having one or a few social media practitioners, or many?
    A: You have employees? Why not use their base for online PR. Tell them to help people as representative answering one question a day! Nevertheless, you will need at least 1 or 2 people to manage Social Media from within the firm

    Q: What’s the role of third parties (including consultants) in social media strategy?
    A: There wont be Social Media Consultants – The future for them is to be new media consultant as they will always try to be the early adopters of a new medium! i.e Mobile. They will eventually be absorbed into integrated marketing for companies.

    Q: Is Chris Brogan crazy when he predicts social media consultants have just 2 years’ of relevancy remaining?
    A: No. Its 2 years on the international market for sure, but its 4 years for a country like India. By then every single person hired in a organization will be well aware of Social Media and there will be Social Media Policies within the organization to help people/ customers. Social Media will also be absorbed into Company Training Procedure. As of now even social media agencies are learning and unfortunately I feel most companies are determined to not to train their employees to handle Social Media internally and that’s why they outsource it. Probably they find it as a thing that will pass on!

  • Its hard for Agencies to track results cause they are building a long term communication asset for their brand in Social Media. 3 years down the lane, one influencer sees a brand viral video and spreads it in his network, that generate leads for the brand. Now how does a business calculate ROI on this? I think what we need to do is integrate offline codes that can be carried within a ‘brand communication’ – be it print, audio or video to track actual leads from various forms of communication!

  • Anonymous

    Great debate and great food for thoughts but I will remain neutral as I am a real swiss citizen;-)

  • Mark W Schaefer

    How that can be any more creepy than bears talking about cleaning their butts with less tissue?

  • Mark W Schaefer

    Excellent point.

  • Mark W Schaefer

    A1: Can all companies afford to hire a person to study this complexity and why would they if it is not a core competency and they can rent an expert to do it?

    A2: Agree.

    A3: Interesting angle. I might buy that.

    A4: Yes, he is crazy. I have had drinks with him. I also disagree with his view on this though.

    Thanks for the great comment Aniketh.

  • um, have you seen the Bimbo bear? He is like, zombie bear. And he wants to feed you his bread. *shudder*

  • There is a generation growing up who engages in social media natively. When these kids get to the positions of managers, leaders, CEOs, etc. the guys who are having a hard time with new tools and the social media as a concept will vanish.

    Social Media for them is what TV is for us.

  • Actually, I strongly believe you’re wrong. I recently was a guest lecturer at a major university for a week. Probably talked to 200 students. How many were on Twitter? About 10%. How many were on Linked In? 5% How many blogged? 2% You Tube accounts? 5% How many had Facebook accounts? 100%. This scene is repeated over and over.

    If it’s not texting or facebook, these kids generally don’t know anything about social media, let alone applying it to a business environment. So I disagree this is their new TV. Now gaming is another matter.

  • As long as he stays away from my butt I’m cool with it.

  • I love that you disagree Mark 🙂 and I hate to disappoint, but I agree with you. Young people I meet are clueless about Twitter, I’ll grant you. Few of them blog and use youtube the way gods of marketing intended. However….and here it comes.. 🙂

    Twitter, youtube and even blog does not Social Media make. SM is a mindset first and foremost and these kids have it.

    Social Media is a methodology second, and Facebook made sure these kids have that as well.

    The last part of SM are tools. And tools change, become outmoded and new ones come around. Platforms like Twitter and youtube are just tools. Nothing more. By the time these kids are in positions of power, new tools will be available and the learning curve for them will be minimal.

    But I could be wrong. It has happened once before 🙂

  • I think as you move down the age demographic there will be somewhat of a shift in what kids interact and what they find acceptable in the future. CNN talked about a poll that most teens preferred texting over other forms of social media. My youngest daughters are 12 and 14 and I know they text like crazy and very rarely use email or Facebook. This will definitely add to another shift in social media in the years to come. Great discussion Mark.

  • Hah! 🙂

  • Yeah, that is a good point. I would grant you their mindset should be different. And it is more about the mindset.

  • Totally agree. I saw a stat that show for people under 19, email is dead. Vast implications for the workforce of the future.

  • Keep it in-house! If an agency handles a companies social media the problem is that the client remains detached from their audience. As a consultant I’d much rather teach a company how to use the tools effectively, help them create a strategy, and even set up and implement the plan, but part of that for me is teaching them how to DIY. Companies MUST embrace and learn from their customers and hands-on social media is the most effective way to do that. Great video guys!

  • Anonymous

    Jay and Mark, this was one of the most entertaining, informative, brain-expanding discussions I’ve witnessed lately! As you talked about medium and large businesses, and the implications to them, I couldn’t help but think of all the independent business owners, 1-person shops, solopreneurs, all of whom are struggling with, in your words, the “too complex, too many moving parts, rapidly changing” landscape and tools.

    I wish I had a nickel for every person who implores me to “just do it for me”…In your words Jay, “take my pain away”. They’re thinking tactics, not strategy, and simply want to quickly be rid of that pain.

    Key points I’m pondering:

    Sung to the tune of “the times they are a changing”:)…platforms, tools, rules change so fast today, that it’s not only a lifelong learning attitude you need, but a moment by moment learning attitude.

    Has our educational system equipped us with the ATTITUDE and tools to accept and embrace change that now seems like the speed of light?

    Empowering people is what it should always be about, but to what extent and with what expectation and what ROI? I’ve often said that the people we should empower the most (the front line), are those that we empower the least: to our own detriment.

    Because, as Mark says, the playbook is constantly changing, we need to be chameleon-like in our ability to adapt to this swiftly spinning social media fast-forward world.

    So, have I taken a “side”? No. You both make valid points, and just when I think I’ve got a handle on a particular perspective, I clearly don’t. What I do understand and concur with you both: it’s ruddy complex, it IS all about people, and I wholeheartedly agree that it’s important to BE social, not just DO social…kudos and attributes to you both, Jay and Mark. Cheers! Kaarina

  • To be clear, I was not suggesting that a company out-source social media. I hypothesized that there will remain an independent niche for social media strategy based on the rapid pace of change and the need to quickly assess and adapt new platforms and rules of engagement.

    Thanks for commenting Kevin!

  • This is a wonderful thought-provoking comment Kaarina. Many of the points you make here could be stand-alone blog posts in their own right. I’m delighted you got so much out of the discussion and am grateful for the care you put into this response. Thank you!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, Mark, for your lovely comment: it warms my heart and motivates me even further in my own journey. Maybe one of my upcoming blog posts will take flight from one of the points above:) It’s so rewarding to connect. Cheers! Kaarina

  • Mark

    Thanks for you kind words, Cedric!

  • Very good video. I liked the debate and how you went with your personal point of views. I think that right now there is a long way to go but I think that companies will certainly do a mix and match of your ideas on how to manage their social media presence/strategy.

    I did my best to spread the word (about your video) but I am not sure that I had the impact I wish I had. Nevertheless I had the opportunity to read a (long) blog post on a French website that goes in depth about this video. I can say that the analysis is representing to its best your different ideas and comes up with the blogger personal comments about it. I think that I enjoyed the analysis as much as the video.


  • So nice of you to try to spread the word. I’m proud of the content in the video, so thanks!

  • I would say 25% of my blog post topics come from the comment section and commenting on other people’s blogs. Go for it!

  • Hans de Groot

    Hi Mark (and Jay),
    Nothing much has changed. Social media is like using the telephone. Everbybody has a phone on his/her desk, but there are only a few people who decide what switchboard to buy and what technology to use. If need be advised by some external consultant. People are trained on how to best use the phone and how to behave (The Lucifer,Smile While You Dial etc.) and if major changes take place (new technology, new functionality) they are trained again.In future the use of social media will not be (much) different.

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