They’re just going through an awkward phase.
Earlier today BuzzFeed Editor (and former Huffington Post social media editor) Rob Fishman declared the social media editor dead.
I disagree. Here’s why:
I’ve recently had the opportunity to collaborate with some great web developers on a couple projects. Now, I arguably know how to code. I’m not even that bad at it! But I’m nowhere near as good at it as these guys who do it day in and day out. They wake up thinking about code and probably fall asleep thinking about it too.
In working with people like this I not only get a superior product but I also learn a lot from just being around them.
It’s true that more and more people in newsrooms know how to do social media. At least the simple stuff. But I’d wager that in most cases they don’t spend all of their time thinking about how to make it really awesome. They have other jobs to do, too. And they still have a lot to learn.
They’re also not tasked with pushing boundaries, obsessing over metrics or watching out for the next new tool or trend. And that’s why we still need social media editors, maybe more than ever.
The role of the social media editor as we understand it today is not going away, but it is changing.
Social media is growing up.
As more and more people in newsrooms get comfortable with digital skills the role of the social media editor will be less focused on training and helping people get caught up and instead they will (I hope) be freed up to do more complex things.
And these roles won’t be occupied by the youngest person in the room who happens to know what a Tumblr is. They will increasingly be occupied by true professionals who not only know how to use the tools really well but also how to think strategically about how their work advances the goals of the organization as a whole.
The best social media editors already fit this description.
Admittedly there have been and will continue to be some bad seeds out there using their roles to build their personal brand in conflict with or at the expense of their organization but I think those are the exceptions rather than the rule.
So, no, the social media editor isn’t dead, the role is just going through an awkward phase and I’m looking forward to seeing how it emerges on the other side.