Is There a Disconnect Between Social Media Job Descriptions and Compensation?

A less-than-satisfying experience with a recruiter for a social marketing/community manager opening at a $1 Billion+ retailer got me thinking this week about social media job descriptions and compensation this week.  I also noticed that the blog post with My Social Media Job Description continues to be my most frequently viewed post.  Plus, I happened to see the summary of Forum One’s 2009 Social Media and Community Compensation Study.

So, a perfect storm of coincidences led me to this conclusion:

For many companies, there appears to be a disconnect between the experience and expertise they seek and the compensation they are offering.

Let’s begin with my first experience this week.  The $1 Billion+ retailer that got me started on this rant is looking for a combination social marketing and community manager.  And this company is not just looking for any old social media “joe”, they want to hire a social media guru who can:

  • build a social media and community plan
  • execute innovative campaigns
  • position key company players and partners as experts
  • manage blogs and other social media channels
  • collaborate with other departments
  • be responsible for customer relationship marketing and segmentation
  • have knowledge of ecommerce, content management systems, customer service software and best practices
  • create a community central hub
  • present the brand online
  • stay on top of social media trends and viral technology

Of course, they want a candidate who has excellent verbal and written communication skills,  has a passion for social media and has a demonstrated experience in a wide variety of social activities.  The kicker is that the target salary range for this company is just $50k to $60k per year – which is at least 50% lower than what I would rate the position for a company of this size with a well-known brand especially when the company is lagging in their use of social media.

Next we’ll move to the latest social media community compensation study from Forum One.  The Forum One study is good as it presents some interesting data points in an industry where there is a lack of good data and presents an average salary of $81k.  On the other hand, just looking at the salary averages and median in the report is misleading.  As noted in the excerpt below, there are peaks on both the high end (more than $150k) and on the low end (< $25k).  For medium to large companies and established brands, the peaks on the high end make definite sense.  The peaks on the low end are for non-profit and other volunteer-run communities and should not be included in the averages.

Here is an excerpt from the 2009 Forum One Compensation Report executive summary:

The average salary of the research participants, $81k, is the same as last year. The mean was $77.5k, which is $10k higher last year. As in 2008, there were peaks on both the low ($0-$25k) and high ends (more than $150k). There were also peaks and dips throughout the salary spectrum for 2009, including peaks for the following salary ranges; $50-55k, $65-$70k, $90-$95k and $100-$105k.

Several respondents mentioned feeling like they were being inadequately compensated because of lack of data available regarding community and social media salaries, as well as lack of understanding of community and social media ROI relative to their organization’s activities.

For comparisons to the 2008 report, check out my blog post “So What Do Community Managers Make?”

The entire 2009 40+ page report is available from ForumOne for $99.

From Forum One 2009 Social Media Community Compensation Survey - Average and Median Salary by Region

With that, here is my advice to companies who are in the market for a social media and community people:

  1. Broad experience is critical – Social media crosses many corporate silos and in addition to strong social media credentials you should expect your candidate to have experiences in marketing, strategy, product marketing, press and analyst relations, business development, technology, sales, project management and quantitative analysis.  The candidate will need to use all of their vast experience to bear in order to be successful in planning for and implementing social media across your organization.  And by the way, the social media credentials are pretty easy to validate – by just looking at someone’s blog, Twitter stream and LinkedIn profile, you can get a pretty good handle on how someone uses social media in their day-to-day life and how they would use it in your company.
  2. Strategy and planning experience is very important too – Social media is not another channel, it is a strategy for listening to and interacting with customers, partners and prospects.  In many cases, the candidate will need to develop and sell the social media strategy internally before embarking on an implementation plan.  And quickly dismiss candidates who have not shown that they are able and willing to roll up their sleeves to implement their social media programs.
  3. Look for maturity – The question is: do you really want to trust your social to a 25-year just a couple of years out of college and who has not really been around the block yet?.  I’m not saying that the 25-year old can’t do a great job, it’s just that it’s a risk I wouldn’t take.  In many cases, the candidate will become the external voice for your company and brand, and you want someone who has done this more than once.  The candidate is also going to have to work with people from throughout the company from the C-level executives down to people who actually ‘touch’ the customer so it is important for the candidate to be able to be credible at all of these levels.
  4. There are only a so many social media gurus and rockstars – If you specify that you are seeking a social media guru or rock-star, then expect to pay a premium as these people are rare and they have many options.  If you are not willing to pay for this type of expert, then don’t use these descriptors in your job posting.  To further illustrate my point, check out my Spend It On Beckham blog post which includes a discussion of productivity between the best (rockstar) and worst (mediocre) software developers.
  5. Be realistic with the salaries – Or as my wife reminds me, “don’t get cheap”.  Getting cheap or settling for second or third string talent when hiring for a social media position is not going to get where you need to go.  In fact, it could even set back your social media efforts by 6 to 12 months or longer.  Check out my blog post on Community Managers and Quarterbacks to see why.  There may not be an comparable salary for this position in your company because you are seeking both a broad generalist who has specific experiences in driving social media programs.  This also means that companies will need to triangulate the salary by comparing positions in several parts of the company and coming up with a hybrid salary model.  This also means that companies will need to triangulate the salary by comparing positions in several parts of the company and coming up with a hybrid salary model.  If you are a medium to large firm with an established brand, you should also try to match your comp ranges to companies in your peer group.

Please share any other ‘disconnect’ experiences so collectively we can educate all companies who will be hiring in the near future to beef up their social media efforts.  I look forward to your comments.


11/12/09 Update – I just Amber Naslund’s excellent post titled “Hiring for Social Media: The Ugly Side“.  Amber outlines 5 missteps that companies take when putting together social media and community job descriptions.

Without giving away too much, here are 5 missteps that companies make with their job descriptions:

  1. Heavy focus on tools
  2. Assuming that anyone can do this job (and cheaply)
  3. Neglecting engagement
  4. Thinking content is inherently valuable
  5. Making social media synonymous with traffic or lead generation

Amber’s entire post and extensive list of comments are worth reading too.


11/13/09 Update – Amber did a follow-up post called “Hiring for Social Media: Good Moves“.  Amber outlines the good moves that several companies are taking and she backs up her recommendations with real excerpts from social media job postings.

Interestingly, she calls out Medtronic ((Social Media Marketing Strategist – Medtronic) in Good Move #1 for their understanding that social media is part of a larger strategy and something that should be woven into business goals.  I found the Metronic job posting last month and thought it was really good too.  And then I realized that it borrowed heavily (and verbatim) from my Social Media Job Description blog post.  It’s a small world…


3 thoughts on “Is There a Disconnect Between Social Media Job Descriptions and Compensation?

  1. I’d be happy to work on a set of job descriptions tailored to show progression that is similar to progression in other functions.

    Then we could add career paths showing how people acquire the experience.

    This would be putative at first. We could update it as we get case studies and survey data.

  2. Way to call them out on this in your blog, Tom. That is utterly ridiculous. I have been talking to community managers about this very thing and was told by someone recently that she has been going on interviews, enlightening them with her knowledge, as they take notes, mind you…only to never get a call back but see that the position has changed drastically a week later and now includes everything she told them about the kind of work that is needed to do what they want to have done. An atrocity. I think that everything you’ve written here is absolutely right. What happens in her case is they are able to glean their needs from a professional because they never gave them much thought in the first place.

  3. Pingback: The Jubb Hub » Job Dilemma

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