Companies Recruiting Social Media Experts

By Staff
May 21, 2009

Many companies are increasingly looking to hire experts in social media who can navigate, find and respond to customers on Web sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

The New York Times reports that the position of social media specialist has become "the hottest new corporate job among the Twitterati." The job involves generating conversation about a particular brand and promoting its image on social media networks - a responsibility that many companies and organizations are now seeing as essential.

"That's the way people communicate," said Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler on KATU in Portland, Oregon, explaining a recently-posted county job opening for a social media expert. "It's viral. These technologies are not just fringe technologies. People are signing up for social networking by the millions. That's where our constituents are. That's where the people are who we serve."

Not everyone in Multnomah County is convinced that such a position is necessary, since the job pays $60,000 to $70,000 annually and is funded with tax dollars. But Wheeler insisted that the job is critical - and took a 12 percent pay cut to fund it.

As social media networks become more popular, the opportunities in the field are expected to increase. The Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal reports that between September 2007 and February 2009, the job-searching Web site noted a 44 percent increase in the number of jobs with "social media" in the title.

Experts point out that the position is not simply about public relations. "They are not acting like spokespeople, but real people," said Josh Bernoff, who co-authored a book about social technologies and was quoted in The Times. "You have to be careful about what you say while, at the same time, be much more personal than the average P.R. guy. You need people who understand the mores and etiquette. Not everyone knows how to do that."

California State University East Bay, for example, recently began looking for a social media director. Jay Colombatto, associate vice president of university communications, explained that the position - which entails reaching out to current and prospective students, parents, influencers and neighbors - became necessary when the university realized where people were getting their information.

"It's not to say that conventional channels of communication are disappearing, but the mix is changing dramatically," Colombatto told the Business Journal. "And if we were to remain squarely focused on conventional media, we're missing some audience and the channels they engage in."

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