As social media has permeated throughout the business community, it's necessitated an increase in social media focussed positions and roles. But with companies still learning to grow with these new platforms, industry standard job titles have not yet been fully established, leaving many unsure of what exactly they call themselves in the new frontier. Are you a Social Media Strategist? A Social Media Specialist, maybe? The specifics have not been clarified, and while some new media companies have taken a more progressive approach (check out Buffer's staff listing) others have tried and tested different attributions, seeing which resonate best or most accurately reflect the work they do.
To assist with this debate, here are three groups of the more common social media job titles, along with some positives and negatives associated with each group.
Category 1: Titles in the Traditional Style
These are the safe ones, the titles most resembling traditional positions and encompassing the various aspects of social media management into singular descriptors. These are stable, reliable titles that most people can relate to. The benefit of using traditional titles is they're recognisable - it makes it easier for people to understand who you are and what you do, as they already have an association with these titles, a general feel or what they do. The attribution of 'manager', in particular, can be quite powerful, as it immediately implies authority, someone who can get the job done.
The negative of traditional titles is they can seem stale - social media is dynamic and fresh, and some of these traditional attributions can evoke the smell of mothballs and leather-bound books. Generally, the positives of traditional titles outweigh the negatives, but as we evolve within the new media landscape, there is a case to be made for job titles to evolve in step, moving away from preconceived understandings and towards descriptions more true to the tasks each role plays in the process.
Category 2: Titles in the Modern Style
These titles are a bit more modern, more applicable to newer roles, and would require a bit more explaination to those not working in the field. Importantly, they're more specific to the detail of each role, more aligned with what these people actually do. These titles are becoming more common and that's likely to increase as social media is further integrated into the business landscape - and over time, these are the ones that are likely to become more widely recognised social media roles, moving towards the 'traditional titles' category instead. The main positive of these titles? It gives social media roles clear identities, and thus, acknowledges their importance. It defines the unique role each of these positions play in the overall structure and allows businesses to hire people based on more specific skill sets and attributes.
Category 3: Titles in the Hyper-Modern Style
And then there are these - the more extreme examples of modern social media job titles. These ones always need explaining - the specifics of these roles not clear from the position alone. They incorporate pop-culture and zeitgeist and attribute cool, active titles to fit into the fast pace of the modern business landscape. The main positive of extreme modern titles is that they get noticed - people ask questions about them, they generate conversation. They're also fun, allowing businesses to show off their more progressive side, highlighting their willingness to stray from tradition. The negative is that they can be seen as amateurish, confusing or, at worst, annoying. These titles tend to be the most in-flux of any of the categories, shifting with the winds of change that wash through the industry itself - and maybe that's the point, that they're not definitive labels. As with the Buffer example above, many successful businesses have incorporated new titles like these with no definitive negative impact or hindrance.
And that's really the main point - whatever job titles you go with, whatever direction you take, any of them can work for what you want to achieve. As with all things in social media, there are no definitive rules for success, only ideas. We discuss, we propose, we share experiences - there's no prescribed right or wrong way to do things. We're all still learning, still testing to see what works, advancing with the systems as behaviour transforms and shifts. In two years time, things will be different again and some processes that are currently best practise will be frowned upon - such is the nature of working in a progressive environment.
So does it matter if you want to call yourself a 'Social Sensei'? Nope, what matters is what you do. What you do, what you know and how you make that title work for you. You can call yourself anything, as long as you provide value in the services you provide.
The only point worth noting is that you need to be wary of the impact your chosen job title has in the minds of others. If you were a salesperson, for example, and you decided to call yourself a 'Super-Duper Salesman Supreme', but then you weren't able to reach your sales targets, that title is probably going to have more of a negative impact on you, personally, than if you'd just called yourself a salesman. Heightening expectation puts you in a position to meet it - if you wanna' call yourself an expert, better make sure you actually are. Otherwise, stick with the traditional titles and let your audience allocate the superlatives.
*Note: All of the job titles used in this blog post are now, or were once, real - any affront to your personal tastes should be addressed with the originator, not the author