I remember the first thing I bought online. It was 2001, I was in college, and I needed a new bag because I was moving to New York for an internship. I was pretty sure my credit card number would be stolen or something weird would happen. Twelve years later, I shop online multiple times a week. Social media is going the way of online shopping. In the same way that online shopping has become a seamless, ubiquitous part of our lives, social media will soon be invisible. Will we ever stop referring to “social media” as such, with the term becoming implicit? I contend that we’re heading there faster than most people in our profession realize. Social media is certainly not novel anymore. More PR pros, marketers, and communicators—including this author—have some variation of “social” in their job title. Even more will have social media in their job description. Jonathan Perelman, head of agency relations for Buzzfeed, is quoted in Forbes and Digiday saying that PR is “bound for a renaissance.” I agree. Nathan Freitas, marketing director for engagement at Salesforce.com, highlighted this in a recent quote in InformationWeek: “I see jobs moving away from including ‘social’ in the title as it becomes more ingrained into our jobs.” The terms “social” and “social media” will eventually disappear in job descriptions as they become an expected element of any communication practice. It’s not just external. Communicators are expected—they way they’re expected to know how to use Microsoft Word—to understand social media business tools. When my previous company shifted to Google Business tools, it brought a sort of niche social network to our company. Multiple training sessions were held. I was amazed to see the division in the company between those who instantly understood what it meant that we were switching to Google and those who were essentially starting from scratch. Think of the savings in time and resources if everyone had just known what it meant to take internal business operations social. Social media’s expanding and deepening presence extends to strategy as well. Today, marketers tend to view strategy as tiered. There’s your overarching marketing strategy, your PR strategy, and your social media strategy—all with their varying goals and approaches and with very little, if any, interaction. Why cordon off social media? Shouldn’t it be the connective tissue between PR and marketing? From a resourcing standpoint, it doesn’t really make sense anymore to delineate between those who understand social media and those who do not. Simply put, the generation of marketers and public relations pros that are leaving college now don’t differentiate between “online” and “offline,” or “social” and “traditional.” It’s all social. The communications profession as a whole is heading there.
Don’t think for a second that the need for traditional marketing and PR skills will go away. To be a skilled social media pro you still must understand audiences, write to those audiences, monitor industry trends, and collaborate. Let’s face it—social media content isn’t the best content your brand should be putting out. Social media should be driving people to great content. For that to happen, you must dismantle the walls that define your social media department. We talk often about what baseline skills the PR/marketing/communications professionals of the future will be required to have. You don’t see “the ability to read and write” in job descriptions these days; it’s assumed. Soon the term “social media” will disappear from our job descriptions, too. (Image via)