More companies are searching for experts in Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but they’re settling for junior staff and not paying that much. And they may have a dotted-line relationship to technology departments

Social media job titles grow, but will they work in IT?

As IT departments grapple with how their organizations will use social media and the implications on enterprise systems, companies are trying to hire so-called specialists who may face an uncertain reporting structure and career path.

According to the job site Indeed.com, there are more than 1,300 social media-related job opportunities in Canada. Many of these are not traditional IT roles. Neither are they always strictly marketing and communications roles, given the need to use advanced monitoring tools and sophisticated dashboards to manage communities on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and proprietary Web sites.

Sandra Miles, president of Miles Employment Group in Vancouver, some of the most popular titles being sought by companies include social media communication coordinators, social media strategists and social media marketers.

“We’re seeing more hybrid roles where people are combining a number of skill sets and abilities and grouping them for what’s happening in the workforce today,” she said. “It’s more of an interdisciplinary function filled with programming as well as copyrighting skills.”

Some of the requirements for this positions can be quite varied, Miles said, with demands for a background in marketing, history or something more technology-related. “I don’t think people know what to do. It’s such a new field and they want everything from an understanding of Google Analytics to creating a mobile app to managing all the outreach of social media.”

Alex Blom, CTO of innovation and social practice lead at Helix Commerce, who also works as an instructor in IT World Canada’s Tech Learning Space social media program, said many organizations simply don’t understand the role for which they’re hiring.

“You see companies recruiting an external person but really, the most successful people are the internal champions who urge others to use these tools,” he said.

Miles said from what she’s seen do far, most of the social media jobs in Canada are relatively entry level – with a salary to match.

“I do think this is a great opportunity for youth,” she said. “There is always a desire for people who are mature and have more experience of how the business operates, but combining that with the social media skills is rare. People are having to take a risk.”

Blom warns that some firms may regret bringing on someone too junior or too green. “You would never put a first-year grad in charge of you press release, or associate a statement with a brand without any management oversight,” he said, “but that’s what’s sometimes happening in social media.”

As to whom such employees will report into, Miles said it may not be as clearly defined as other enterprise jobs.

“They’re doing several different pieces,” she said. “This is the new way of working in a flatter organization. Everybody’s gotten into smaller teams, tighter teams. Maybe it’s not as linear in terms of reporting.”

Even if they do some work with IT department, however, those who take on these social media titles are unlikely to become full-time members there, Blom said.

“They’re most likely going to end up in traditional PR. That’s all they’ve been trained in and all they’ve ever done,” he said. “I think that’s a very scary prospect for all these people, that there’s a hell of a lot of waste in social media and that it’s not providing benefit. There are a large volume of people for whom, if they have shown no proven ROI, it’s going to be detrimental for them.”

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