Background of the Corporate Social Strategist: Educated, with a Focus on Communications and Marketing

The following data and insights is just a subset from  Altimeter’s recent in-depth report on the primary business decision maker in large corporations, please read the “Career Path of the Corporate Social Strategist” (Open Research) first. You’ll find the report is filled with data around job titles, duration in role, department, responsibilities, challenges and aspirations. Next, you can see the actual list of these strategists segmented by industry, and then see how hiring has changed in the “On the Move” series.  Many years ago, (now I sound old) I had this role at Hitachi, before Facebook and Twitter were viable options.

To better understand this role, let’s focus in on once piece of the data: their educational background.  We analyzed 50 job desscriptions to find out what they wanted, and then also matched 50 job descriptions of actual corporate social strategists to find out what they had.  For the most part it lined up pretty well with education requirements. Here’s the findings of their background and make-up:

Education Level of Corporate Social Strategist
Finding: All of the Corporate Social Strategists sampled had bachelors degrees –exceeding the requirements from the 50 posted job descriptions (Source: 50 job descriptions and 50 LinkedIn profiles, 2010)

Focus of Education Degree of Corporate Social Strategists
Finding: Of the degrees achieved, most were focused on communications related degrees, quickly followed by marketing. (Source: 50 LinkedIn profiles, 2010)

Success Skills of the Corporate Social Strategist
Finding: These professionals are a jack of all trades, willing to take calculated risks, and works well with others in other departments (Source: 140 survey respondents, 2010)

A New Profession, Rooted in Communications, Prepares for a Risky, Cross-Functional Role
In the full report (here’s the link again), we know that most have been working for just over a decade, most are in marketing or corporate communications, the data on their background matches this nicely.

  • For today, Communications and Marketing are ideal education backgrounds for social business.  his group was more educated than the job requirements were listed by the hiring companies. All of the those we surveyed had an undergrad, and a handful having advanced degrees (18% had Master degrees) and one respondent had a Ph.D. It makes sense that the first role to be severely impacted by social was corporate communications, as the influence flow from bloggers and customers caused a serious disruption from 2005-2008 with mainstream media picking up these stories and amplifying them. When we modeled the data, we included degrees in English, Journalism, Communications into that first line item.
  • Yet expect over time the degrees to shift out to a wider segment.  While the corporate social strategist is often the leading the ‘hub’ within the company, I expect this to shift to a stand-alone social media group, and then strategists to appear at the ‘spokes’ starting with support, then product, and then into regional areas.  When the role starts to permeate beyond marketing and communications, expect a new class of degree requirements to appear.
  • Not For The Timid: Be Prepared to be Flexible and Willing to Stick Your Head Out. No doubt, this individual is leading change management within the status quo culture within a corporation, we call these individuals ‘Open Leaders’ who are willing to give up control to gain more influence. These professionals must be proficient in a number of skills such as communication, education, persuading, knowing technology, crises management, and program management. Additionally, because they are changing ‘the way things have always been done’ they must be willing to take risks, and work with stakeholders across the entire company.

For Those Seeking a Job in Social Business
Our 2011 social business forecast data indicates that corporations will spend their largest line item on staffing up the social business team, so if you’re seeking a role during a recession, there may be opportunities for you. In the past we’ve seen some real scrutiny placed on the journalism and communications practice, and I’m here to tell you that the data supports that the innovative practitioners have already adapted these new technologies and there are some ripe opportunities. If you’re a student now that is studying communications and marketing (or a professor guiding them), I’d love to hear your thoughts below in the comments. If you’re teaching in these courses, please feel free to use our research reports under the Creative Commons licensing that we specified in the report –it’s intended to share with attribution. Also to keep some perspective, while the Corporate Social Strategist may be the leadership position, there are many other roles in the team, as we’ve started to explore in this Quora thread, also see Focus.com, which has a B2B slant where I posed the same questions.