The Ideal Social Media Strategist Is Worthy of a Wage


I remember when digital photography became affordable for the masses. Overnight the market was inundated with “professional” photographers. In just a few more years when digital video cameras reached critical mass on Tarde’s S-curve (later Roger’s diffusion of innovations), again we had all sorts of people who were doing wedding videos for $200. Now in the present day of the social media craze, I am amazed by how many people have become social media specialists for little more than hamburger-flipping money. Now I know that some of these people are just helping out friends and family with their social presence on the Internet, and I don’t disagree with that. I encourage it; the more social engagement, the better. But what is concerning is the lack of distinction between the weekend warrior and a well-educated, trained and certified, knowledgeable, and passionate digital creative, social media strategist who deserves a professional wage. So how does one go about sorting out the professional from the fly by the seat of your pants individual? I believe there are a few credentials you can assess to qualify an individual who is worthy of a fair wage.

What’s their education?

The ideal social media strategist will be well-educated in the liberal arts and sciences but particularly in media communication and business. This individual’s education goes well beyond how to post an update on Facebook or make a tweet on Twitter. They have the ability to understand the role of social media from a business perspective while having the skills necessary to leverage a vast array of powerful media tools to create a professional social presence. They will likely have training in marketing, sales, writing (journalism), audio and video production, and basic layout and design. But more than that, they have a practical understanding of what works, what doesn’t, and what might work with social media.

There has always been the chicken or the egg paradox to new media. You need education—the egg, and you need experience—the chicken. But someone with a newly minted college education will likely have only functional experience with social media. Do you immediately discount a recent college grad who wants to be a social media specialist or strategist? Certainly not! They’ll have plenty of energy and lots of fresh creative ideas. Even when evaluating recent graduates, you should look for someone who has also been certified as a social media strategist or has specifically taken several courses within the disciplines of media communication and/or business.

What’s their dedication, experience?

The ideal social media strategist will be dedicated to the profession. They won’t be satisfied with just what they know today and will seek opportunities for additional training. They’ll keep current with popular and emerging trends in their field as they relate to your business. They’ll Interact and connect with fellow social media professionals, who have a diversity of experiences and knowledge, to broaden their horizons and seek new vistas of opportunities for you.

When the fad has passed and the rage is over, the dedicated social media strategist will still be in the profession. Therefore, you should consider their passion in light of their experience. Have they been working with social media through the ups and downs? Do you really want someone who is here today and gone tomorrow representing your public voice to the world? Or do you want a dedicated professional with the experience necessary to appreciate the importance of their role in the success of your business?

What’s their passion?

The ideal social media strategist will be passionate about your success. As part of your team, they take an active role in helping you realize your goals and objectives. Where the weekend warrior is subdued by the slightest setback, a professional draws upon their passion for success to power through the challenges they face. They won’t be satisfied with mediocre nor rest until you are successful. It is this passion that drives the professional social media strategist towards your mutual success. The enthusiast can definitely demonstrate their “interest” until the flash and fun are gone, but only passion for the profession produces a lifelong love for what one chooses to do. For example, I enjoy fishing with my girls, but if the fish aren’t biting we pack it in and go do something else. I’m a fishing enthusiast. But Babe Wilkerson is a professional fisherman who goes out every day and regardless of whether the fish are biting or not, he finds a way to catch fish. That’s the difference between enthusiasm and passion.


Worthy of a wage

When considering what to pay your social media strategist of course not only must you consider the factors outlined here but the full weight of your annual budget. Many businesses and organizations place this role within advertising and public relations, media relations, marketing, or a combination of one or more due to the intricate role of social media. Personally I would view them no less than an account executive on the pay scale. Although in some regards measuring the value of their work can be somewhat muddled, there are enough clear indicators of success or failure to decide whether their efforts and your strategic plans are worth the cost. However, could we agree that a professional level wage would be more appropriate than an entry-level offering? I have actually seen help wanted ads with very elaborate requirements offering as little as $10 per hour. Is that a fair wage for a social media strategist described here? I think not!

Considering what the industry requires for training and certification and what they can do for your company or organization, they deserve to be paid a professional wage. After all, what’s the value of your public image? What’s it worth to you to know that you can trust someone with your social presence on the Internet—the worldwide stage of public opinion? What’s it worth to you to know that you’ve got a professional finger on the pulse of your digital properties? Take the time and make the effort to compare their training, experience, and value with the rest of your staff and leadership, and then meet them somewhere in the agreeable middle where they are well compensated but remain a worthy, valuable asset to you.


About the Author:

Dr. John Weidert is an independent educator, communicator, and practitioner of educational and organizational leadership, communication, and media studies.