Amid all the cheering about the new report from a major thought leader in social media, Jeremiah Owyang of Altimeter Group, let me be among the first to douse the enthusiasm with some cold water. I have at least three major (and one minor) bone to pick with the report. In short order, they are:
1. Defining "strategist"
Owyang's report does everyone a great favor by defining its terms at the start:
"The Corporate Social Strategist is the business decision maker for social media programs – who provides leadership, roadmap definition, and governance; and directly influences the spending on technology vendors and service agencies."
Sorry, but this doesn't sound like a strategist. It sounds like a glorified quartermaster. Besides, few large, mature organizations are going to allow anyone to serve as "THE business decision maker" for their social media programs. All such decisions will be negotiated between the CEO, the marketing department and the public relations department, with the legal department weighing in heavily. The role of the social strategist (of there is one) is more likely to resemble that of a special adviser than of a cabinet minister.
2. Advocating centralization
One of the strengths of social media is their complete lack of centralization (despite the best attempts of Facebook and Google to tidy things up for us by buying everything in sight). Yet Owyang advocates centralizing social media within the organization using a "hub-and-spoke" model that looks a lot like an airline's business model. And we all know how much we enjoy traveling on airlines. This is an attempt to impose a modern sterility upon a robust, post-modern environment. Are we really surprised that its advocates are running into resistance? That's the standard human response to all naked grabs at power.
3. Glamorizing risk
According to Owyang's survey of current "social strategists," 46 percent said they are successful at their jobs becauses "I'm willing to take risks." No wonder these folks are having a tough time getting a seat at the Table with the grownups. By their nature, executives seek to minimize risk, not to increase it. Few are impressed with the neophyte who is willing to risk the company's reputation -- and is ready to open up the company to a whole new set of undefined vulnerabilities -- in an environment no one (and I repeat, NO ONE) adequately understands. What the true social strategist needs most right now is a solid risk analysis of that environment, not a bigger budget to blindly explore the blogosphere while flying the corporate flag.
3.5 Obessing on ROI
Instead of restating my case, I'll just point to my recent post on this confounding issue.