What I learned meeting the Executive Recruiter: Natives, Immigrants and VPs of Marketing in Social Media

Just got back from meeting with an executive recruiter, no, I’m not planning on leaving Forrester, I was helping a friend, as well as doing some research about social media skillsets. You see this recruiter (he’s left a comment, and his name is Matt Raggio, you can reach him on his website) finds executive talent for social media startups here in Silicon Valley. He’s well connected to the VC community, and knows when leadership teams need to be built out.

See the challenge for many companies right now is that social media is a very important aspect of marketing, especially if your company is selling soical media products, services, or software. While the traditional forms of marketing don’t go away (advertising, lead gen, email marketing, website, SEM, event, and product marketing) they are all enhanced, impacted, or disrupted by social media.

Furthermore, a VP of marketing at a social media company really needs to demonstrate that his own firm has some expertise, if not mastery, over the very medium they are offering.

If finding the right mix of marketing resources wasn’t hard enough, there’s a gap between the Marketing Immigrants often the traditional marketers who use the same play book year after year and the new social media marketing folks, often young, masters at the tools, but lack business experience.

While the Social Media Immigrants may be entrenched and comfortable in the old ways, they often lack full understanding or the ability to do social media effectively, over planning, stiff messaging comes across un-authentic. On the other hand, the natives grew up or are familiar with these tools, yet they lack the ability to define, reach towards, or meet business objectives, or manage a profit and loss.

So you see the dilemma, finding these marketing leaders in the world of social media is a challenge, the right balance (at least in these early days) are hard to strike, and the often successful are very happy where they are.

I learned a lot from him, he gave me some pretty raw career advice, but I exchanged my knowledge too, I also told him some local haunts and events he should attend to find leadership talent. I also suggested he learn how to use Facebook to increase his network –and maybe even market the jobs using social media tools.

What do you think, is it easy to find a VP of Marketing that gets both worlds of natives and immigrants and do an effective job?

  • IMHO you need to almost go out of the shell to find people that are in both worlds, maybe not 100% true marketing but very aware nonetheless.

    Used to be specialization was important, I don’t believe the same is true anymore.

    What is important is being able to bend and learn something new and go with it or just say NO.

    This is harder to find than you can imagine.

  • Of course it’s hard to find leaders who can bridge traditional marketing with social media marketing. But it’s always hard to find people who can meld the latest technologies with the business context & experience to make smart business decisions.

    Rather than finding it all in one person, the key is to bring digital natives into the org but pair them with more seasoned execs who have proven their ability to embrace social media. There are some of us over-40 types who are heavy social media users even if our background makes us more comfortable with email than texting, for example. But you need the younger blood around so you can understand the behavioral differences of your target audience.

    One of my peers said today that “if you’re a product manager today you need to have a teenage child so you can see how they respond to the tools”

  • I work on the agency side and we are struggling as are most agencies on how to integrate social into the agency. I’ve been on both sides so I’ve been brought into to integrate social into everything we work on. The natives coming right out of college are helping me drive the integration because they “get it” and clients are demanding it.

  • jared but do natives know how to meet business objectives?

  • Great post and it hits close to home. We’ve been looking for the right person who has that balance between these two worlds and have yet to find that person. It’s not an easy task so I definitely feel the pain that your recruiter friend is experiencing.

    I love your descriptions of immigrants and natives. It’s so true and exactly what I’ve been experiencing as we review resumes and interview folks. I’m sure this resonates across the board for many others who are also trying to find the right person who gets, uses and knows how to leverage social media, but at the same time understands traditional methods, and combined, can effectively deliver results that align with business objectives.

    It has also been a great lesson for myself in terms of making sure that my skills are up to par (not that I’m leaving my current job anytime soon), but it’s been an eye opener to me and has made me realize that I need to continue to push myself even further than I already do.

    Great Jeremiah

  • It’d be more efficient to train a youth to take ROI into account, than to try to squeeze an old marketer into the social media realm.

    Not to mention, the ROI of social media (and the consequential figures) are not so easily and completely measured, compared to other forms of marketing.

    So I’d ease off the youngsters and let them play. It could be much more efficient, than making them do what they don’t want to do. At least, it’s a option.

  • Miiko, I didn’t come up with immigrants and natives, it’s been used quite a few times, long before me.

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  • I don’t agree that ‘natives’ or ‘immigrants’ are defined by demographics like age. It’s an oversimplification. To me, it’s more like the Mac-vs-PC ads, more psychographically-oriented, influenced by one’s ability to connect and interconnect with others. I’m a digital native AND I have more than 20 years’ business/marketing experience. I’ve sat through focus groups of 10-12 high school and college students, none of whom participate in social media AT ALL.

    You also state that “a VP of marketing at a social media company really needs to demonstrate that his own firm has some expertise, if not mastery, over the very medium they are offering.” Why? Does a restaurant critic need to be a professional chef?

    Further, if the point of the role is to market this site as a complementary investment to the current media mix, the best way to reach the target for this business is likely through ‘traditional’ B2B channels.

  • @Yura I’m with you on “ease off the youngsters and let them play” because I do think that they (at least the ones I personally know) are highly efficient and with a little guidance can quickly adapt to learn traditional methods and combine them with social media tactics to deliver ROI.

    I have to share one of my tweets about Millennials from last week because it’s just way too funny not to share it:

    Updating a spreadsheet while posting to Twitter about Perez Hilton gossip is an essential corporate skill: http://is.gd/hGq

  • Perhaps the recruiter should propose the client seeking New Media Marketing Leadership, consider embracing New Talent Management and Leadership Paradigms.

    For instance one could make a case for proposing a “People Mashup”.

    Generally speaking, a mashup is a combination of data from more than one source into a single integrated solution, thereby creating a new and distinct service that was not originally provided by anyone source.

    Employing a people mashup model(TEAM)could be an interesting alternative to the traditional leadership model. The leadership model driving the recruiters search was born during the industrial age and remained strong during the information age.

    We are rapidly entering the “Age of Collaboration” where the marketing conversation is turned on it’s head. With powerful technology driven paradigm shifts in play, perhaps the executive suite should begin to meet the challenges of the day with new LEADERSHIP and TEAM building paradigms too.

  • Great post. In my opinion, community management and marketing director roles are merging into one and neither role can report to the other. Increasingly, the VP of Marketing at a social media company should have the following competencies:

    – an understanding of online behavior and culture, self-expression, identity management and branding; this includes knowing how to manage and draw the line between their personal and public lives, since they will be the face of the company;

    -excellent written, oral and visual (video) communication and interpersonal skills, to be able to deal with people of all levels and walks of life;

    -a solid foundation in business and marketing, as you say, to understand what types of traditional marketing campaigns will have more impact, when to execute them and how to measure them;

    -the ability to identify and implement business processes, particularly for customer feedback in terms of product development and problem resolution;

    -familiarity, presence and authority on the social media starfish, to be able to leverage and build on the communities they have built;

    -the technical skills involved in blogging, podcasting, screencasting and video production and editing;

    -product development skills, to identify the community-enhancing tools and features that need to be implemented on the social media site.

    I’m sure this is only a part of the competencies since the role is evolving rapidly.

    Thanks for sharing notes from your meeting.

  • It’s hard to believe that there are many start-ups here in Silicon Valley all that serious about hiring a VP of Marketing. Startups here seem bent on using social media to replace marketing. Unless you’re talking about marketing tied directly to sales, funding, or rock star milestones. In that case, it’s all about zero-sum budgeting and feeding the core company needs: accelerating signups/downloads, search optimization, viral marketing, award-winning betas, speaking/photo opps, and other selective expenditures intended to obtain funding or suitors.

  • If you are a startup and you are looking at social media to replace marketing, then I think you are following a risky path. Social media works most effectively when you have your strategy in place. That means nailing down the traditional stuff — positioning, brand essence etc. You can accelerate your whole integrated marketing efforts with social media, but use your strategy and planning to deliver insight and drive towards your business objectives.

    Sure it is going to be hard to find someone with a foot in both camps. But don’t overlook the business fundamentals … and hire from the edge to fill the gaps in your tactical arsenal.

  • Barbara, Gavin

    Just to clarify, this VP of Marketing would not replace all marketing with social media. It would be an additional form of marketing.

    Even with that added, the VP really needs to get it and live it, to make it happen (and be authentic)

    In summary, it’s traditional marketing + social media.

  • Jeremiah, I have found that there is definitely a chasm between those that understand how to integrate the fundamentals of good marketing and those who understand social media .I do think it is hard to find the people that are senior and get the tools. I have talked to many a search person over the last year about this. What I have found is that so many marketing people I meet and know in executive positions are unwilling to take the time to experiment with the new tools and learn how they work. They figure that “need” can be addressed by the junior people and they don’t take the time to experiment themselves. I know that I find it sometimes overwhelming to find the time do my work and to learn these new tools. One has to sit for hours and just play with the tools. So it all adds up to time in job and people not wanting to have to go “back to school” and yet that is what they really have to do.

  • Great meeting you yesterday, truly enjoyed the conversation and the sharing of perspectives. And great to see the comments about our conversation regarding the challenges of recruiting the right executive to lead marketing for emerging companies.

    I especially liked the idea posted by Art Jones about a “people mashup”, really thinking about prioritizing what skills are most germane, acquiring those skills, and then complementing around those skills, the “sum of the parts are greater than the whole” theory.

  • I like the “Social Media Immigrant” reference which is analogous to the “Digital Immigrant” vs. “Digital Native”.

    So “Me” = “Baby-Boomer” = “Digital Immigrant” but now as I transform from one industry to entrepreneurship, I get to adopt “Social Media Native” characteristics.

    Who says an “Old School” guy cannot learn new tricks!

    Appreciating your perspectives.

    Carlos R. Hernandez
    Visionary Business Consulting

  • There’s a wide chasm between using social media to promote yourself and using it to promote a business. That transition usually requires someone with a marketing or PR background who took to social media early.

    There are large numbers of folks who want to get hired for their social media skills, but the ability to promote oneself by adding friends and profiles doesn’t qualify someone for the big bucks.

    I’m calling myself the Social Media Headhunter (search it on Google, I dare you), but really I’m placing SEO and SEM marketers, along with PR folks who know how to add social media to their toolbox to get press.

    Think of it this way. You may get hired because you understand how to use social media tools, but your salary is going to be based on your experience in providing measurable results.

    Hiring a VP Marketing in this arena shouldn’t be that much different than hiring any other VP Marketing. Do they know how to hire the right people and ask the right questions? If not, as a recruiter, do they allow you to coach them in the right direction?

    I made a placement this week doing just that.

  • Here’s my two cents:
    1. You need the fundamentals of marketing: business objective, “audience” insight, strategy etc… to get anywhere as a VP of Marketing. Many popular social media evangelists don’t “get” this.

    2. Any senior marketing executive today needs to get his/her hands dirty with social media tools and behaviors. You cannot delegate hands-on knowledge anymore.

    3. That being said, no knowledge of the current “tool” landscape is enough. You need a commitment to engaging in communities like this one to stay on top of trends and tools. We need to keep trying things (trying slingpage now)to understand their potential impact on our lives and the lives of customers.

    4. For once, I think it pays to try and see the forest: what trends are real and lasting? For instance, I believe brand community in all its many forms is hear to stay and will only grow. that will cause me to pay extra attention to developments – tools, trends, behaviors – in that “space”.

    5. we will find rockstars from both the immigrants and natives. Both can “get it.” I think it helps if they honestly love serving customers (i.e. other poeple like them) but I’m just sayin’…..

  • John

    Strategic viewpoint as always.

  • Jeremiah, I’m late to the comment party here as I’m catching up on my feeds, but I have to say there are “evolutionaries” as well immigrants and natives. I think you and your recruiter friend are slipping into the trap of looking too tightly inside the “social media” circuit.

    I’m a baby boomer who has managed to keep ahead of “new media” as it has evolved. I’ve been a practicing marketer and business strategist for over 25 years. And I’ve been assisting my clients in evaluating social media specifically for over 4 years – including its impact on the business and within business requirements.

    Inside “social media circles” I find the exact problem you describe. However, outside that tight circle, I find myself working with a good number of smart, seasoned, yet contemporary marketers and business executives who “get it” and are moving their business strategies well in line with the shifts in the marketplace. They’ve got their head down doing it inside the enterprise.

    They are the ones who live “on the edges” instead of inside the social media chamber. So consequently they aren’t recognized by those inside the circle – or recruiters.

  • Wise words Linda, I hear you.

    This wasn’t insular by my means, this is the requirements of the client who was hiring. Apparently, the person who was hired meets much of the description you mention above, it’s not a ‘social media geek’.

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