chief social officer

Is It Time for a C-Level Social Media Executive?

By: Lucy Kaplan

April 24, 2019

Social media has become essential for businesses in every industry. Of course, you know that. Every morning, you relentlessly check every mention from the second your eyes open, to the moment you force yourself to power down and go to sleep. And while there are still those higher-level execs that aren’t quite ready to put spend toward social, they are now in the minority (thankfully!). Most recognize the need for a dedicated full-time person handling social media work, but might it be time to move this function into the C-suite? Would it be best to centralize this crucial function, or should responsibility for social remain spread across the entire business?

Though social marketers like ourselves are admittedly biased, many of us believe that having a dedicated C-level social media executive would be beneficial. A powerful player dedicated to strategic social allows companies to fully benefit from the myriad possibilities social media can offer, which translates into better business results. We recognize that adding new C-level roles is rare. But consider your IT department: It may not have existed thirty years ago, but as the function has become more central to operations, IT has cemented its place in the org chart, winning a CIO or CTO at the top. Chief People Officers have solidified the importance of human resources; Chief Communications Officers have done the same for PR.

The goal of social for any business is that of communication and collaboration. The more consistent and unified your brand voice is, the more your business will benefit. Spreading this role across departments risks letting too many cooks into the kitchen. It also creates more work: More meetings are necessary to put together and agree upon the editorial calendar, and more checks will need to be done to ensure your company’s social media guidelines are being followed. With a sole executive in charge of social, the function becomes more manageable in terms of both process and policy.

Smart senior executives recognize that social media collaboration helps their company become more competitive and successful. Without having someone in charge of this business role, it cannot be improved or optimized in a strategic way. Many companies have a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), but very few have a CSO (Chief Social Officer). Still rare, but more common, some companies have a Chief Customer Officer, charged with being the customer’s face of the business, while occasionally dabbling in social media. However, customer service is a full-time job, which means there is still a hole for a position with more of a 360-degree approach. CCOs tend also to focus on traditional methods (phone, call centers, text) whereas a Chief Social Officer might be able to engage with consumers in a more nuanced and forward-thinking way.

A Chief Social Officer could champion more progressive ways to interact with consumers, giving your business an edge over those still clinging to “the way we’ve always done it.” The CSO would be focused on guiding the social aspects of the business and putting out content that shapes conversations. They would engage both actively (by joining and starting conversations with target audiences) and passively (via social listening). Combining both functions would further brand advocacy and social sharing.

Many companies know that in order to remain competitive and effectively reach new customers, they must step up their activity on social platforms and effectively monitor the impact. We believe that brands adopting a CSO would see major growth of their businesses. Letting social into the C-suite will allow companies to be seen as trustworthy thought leaders, and send the message that the business is truly in tune with the consumer.

Follow Lucy: @lucyrk78

At The Social Shake-Up