Not long ago, Sandy Carter met a CEO from a company who had decided not to venture into the world of social media.
The CEO told the IBM executive that social media "is really interesting, but my board and I voted to opt out."
Carter, who is IBM's vice president of social business evangelism and sales, didn't lay hands on the sinner and pray for his soul. Instead, she showed him that people were tweeting about his firm, discussing it online, and posting YouTube videos and Flickr photos about it.
"Because he'd chosen not to participate, he wasn't in the dialogue," she says. "He hadn't actually eliminated his risk; he had increased it."
Social media has grown beyond just getting people to click thumbs-up icons, as more and more firms are crowdsourcing product development and using social customer service, says Carter, who blogs at Social Media to Social Business.
IBM offers both training and products for social business, and it has held internal "jams" online for the past 10 years to develop products in areas such as its Smarter Planet agenda.
When a field is growing, there are jobs to be had.
Adding social media to the business
Carter cites a recent study that shows that applying social media to customer service results in an 18 percent increase on average in customer loyalty. In sales, it means a 15 percent increase in revenue, while in HR, it reduces costs by 15 percent.
When the Internet became mainstream in the mid- to late 1990s, everyone rushed to hire webmasters. Now the new wave of social media business could create from three to five times the number of jobs that the Web launched, Carter says.
Here are some roles to watch:
1. Community manager
If companies use social media, they will have communities, whether internal or external. Somebody's going to have to maintain the discussion, keep it moving along, and assume responsibility for its success.
Carter just returned from a trip to Asia, and she heard about the need wherever she went. IBM has created a community manager training program.
"The demand for companies for these community managers is great, and the supply is low," Carter says.
2. Social analytics manager
The analytics manager monitors the Web and analyses the information, organizing it in a way that helps a business take action on it.
They're responsible for tracking "not just the volume, but how they say it: whether it's positive or negative," Carter says.
One university used an analytics manager to create and shepherd a community called Class of 2014, encouraging prospective students connect with professors and alumni, she says. The university stirred up discussions and answered questions.
"Based on that combination of analytics plus action, they were able to increase their matriculation of students for the class of 2014 by 23 percent," Carter said.
3. Social business risk managers
Nearly all the top Fortune 500 companies have had a major crisis that boiled up on the Web, Carter says. Environmentalists tangled with Nestle, Domino's had a brand crisis caused by gross-out employees with a video camera, and IBM itself constantly manages risk, she says.
Companies need to work out how they will respond to—and when they will just ignore—a flare-up online.
"It's not about eliminating risk," she says. "It's about managing risk."
4. Social customer service manager
Such an employee scours the blogosphere and Twitter and Facebook communities looking for customer concerns, insights, and statements, and then tries to figure out how to meet their needs, Carter says.
Zappos, the shoe and clothing maker, is doing this, and Royal Bank of Canada set up the RBC Advice Centre, Carter says.
"In fact, they've crowdsourced new financial offerings based on that community and the advice they're receiving," she says.
Which brings us to:
5. Social product innovation manager
Crowdsourcing a product can get it out the door 20 percent faster, and with a 20 percent higher success rate, Carter says. So a social product innovation manager is a hot new job as companies generate ideas or solicit comments.
The handbag and accessories maker Coach has crowdsourced products and gotten employees talking with customers, launching a "design the next Coach tote" contest, Carter says. Sun Life Financial has done crowdsourcing through IBM Connections. Such programs need a point person.
"This particular person is becoming increasingly important to their company's innovation engine," she says.