"This is a two-to-five-to-seven-year run, similar to what happened when we went from mainframe to client server and then again when we went to the Web," Delattre says.
Companies of every size and stripe are implementing ever more ambitious strategies involving social media, so it's only logical that they need technologists who can make the most of their investments, says Rachel Russell, director of marketing at Hanover, Md.-based IT staffing firm TekSystems.
Some of them are moving to hire people who understand both the marketing value of social media as well as its technical complexities -- an acknowledgement that in most organizations social media has, up until now, been under the purview of either marketing or IT. Now, some are putting a new crossbreed of talent into positions with titles like chief social media strategist, new media coordinator, manager of social media and (less frequently) socialite.
"What you'll see with these positions is a tie-in to strategy. Companies want someone who can help them understand and define what the strategy is; [someone to say] 'Here's what we want the social media strategy to be,'" says Matthew Ripaldi, senior vice president of IT staffing firm Modis in Jacksonville, Fla.
The role isn't about sending out tweets and posting on Facebook all day, he clarifies. It's about leveraging technology to monitor online activity and interactions and to engage consumers.
Given all that, the ideal candidate is someone who has a strong background in business strategy and marketing with project management and business intelligence experience mixed in -- and a technical background, with skills in HTML and Web rendering, Ripaldi says.
If that order weren't tall enough, companies also want candidates with proven experience. Strong candidates would have solid experience in marketing and could demonstrate the ROI of their past marketing projects, Ripaldi says.
"When we're interviewing IT professionals, we want to hear about what projects they worked on and what they did for the business: What business stakeholders did you work with? What were the challenges? If they can answer those, [we see that] they get what they're doing," Russell says.
In a move that may be welcome news to IT types, some organizations are going so far as to create more than one specialized social-media-oriented position. They're hiring a high-level executive to develop a strategy and then hiring a midtier techie (as social media architect, engineer or developer) with skills in coding, HTML, website development, graphical user interfaces and search engine optimization.
Big data is on the agenda of nearly every future-looking operation, for good reason. "Organizations are drowning in the amount of data that comes in, but it's all very siloed. People have the information, but they can't find it," says Daniel Burrus, founder and CEO of Burrus Research Associates in Hartland, Wis., and the author of Flash Foresight: How to See the Invisible and Do the Impossible.
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