I just spent the day at The Art of Marketing conference in Chicago listening to a completely wonderful lineup of speakers whose ideas and approaches I respect immensely. One of the speakers, Keith Ferrazzi, spoke early on about the difference between management and engagement and how it distinguishes very powerfully the difference between a fear-driven mentality (the reptilian brain) and one that is driven by chance-taking, creativity and higher brain functions.

The notion got me turning around job titles in my head, since it’s not uncommon to see job posts for a social media manager. Indeed.com shows some healthy relative growth in demand for social media managers:

Social media manager Job Trends

Social Media Manager jobs

Pulling away from the idea of a manager would be a healthy one, I think, though few businesses tend to think of a manager as a bad thing. It is only in the rarefied universe of communications professionals and academics that we debate the relative value of what’s in a name. Should we call the role of a person expected to lead a company’s social media strategy and programs a social media marketer? Indeed ascribes considerably more job postings to this particular phrase:

And yet, the notion of calling someone a marketer has its issues as well. In recent years, the marketer has been defined as someone who tends to push out information and not as someone who engages in two-way communication with prospects, customers, investors and so on. What, then, do we call this person a social media engager?

While it’s more accurately what the role should entail, it’s a silly, charmless sort of term that sounds like it originated from the George Bush Jr. era (I’m an engager, a doer!). I’m not fond of guru or maven or expert because these words aggrandize the individual and set up overblown expectations that few, if any, can live up to. And a social media professional sounds like a dodge. It’s also too vague. If I cannot tell you what it is I do, I claim to be a professional. The same goes for a social media specialist. Sociologist would make sense if, alas, it were not already taken! Darn.

Looking to the software development world’s job titles, I might try to apply the terms architect or engineer to the social media role. Social media architect might stick for someone who builds strategies and plans but does not act upon them–as does strategist. A social media engineer might also be accused of a great deal of planning but not actually implementing the plans, though that is precisely what we understand a software engineer to do. Social media coordinators show up in job ads pretty frequently, but a coordinator sounds like someone who directs traffic, or a dispatcher, not someone expected to participate actively. Similarly, a social media director implies someone who directs but does not get involved.

Finally, a social media assistant just leaves me scratching my head. Do I need someone to help me tweet? In a world where one-on-one interaction has never been more important to success, having an assistant just seems to be, well, counter intuitive.

So what’s in a name? Apparently, not enough. Those names that are typical to the business lexicon do not appropriately convey the essence of the job, which is to create interest and build that interest into loyalty and friendship toward a brand, and, yes, sales. Those names that may better convey the essence of the job are gawky, awkward things. Language fails us. Some may argue that the ultimate fate of the social media anything is to be subsumed under the larger rubric of marketing or public relations job titles and perhaps that’s the case. If that comes to pass, then I guess it’s the problem of the marketers and the PR folks.

Others may feel that an entirely new term should be coined, but I’ve never been much disposed toward splunge solutions…. Sadly, the term that, to me, most closely conveys the essence of the work sounds as high-falutin’ as guru or expert, even though its meaning is nowhere close.

Consider the social media raconteur whose job, quite rightly, is to convey stories and anecdotes in interesting ways. And yet, even this term does not fully capture the emphasis on conversation, again suggesting the one-way communication of stories. While a job title that goes in your Human Resources employee file is easy enough to dismiss, those of us in the field of communications realize the power in names and the sometimes not-so-subtle ways they can color attitudes and behaviors when they are ineptly or thoughtlessly applied.

Perhaps it’s possible that the hard work of getting social media right for the business world has been made harder because of the inadequate names we’ve been giving what we do. Or, maybe I’m just full of splunge. What job titles has your organization used when it comes to naming the person who uses social media to foster and grow online relationships?

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