What's in a title? A digital marketer by any other name would smell as sweet.
Creative thinkers in digital marketing and social media are bypassing conventional job titles for innovative and original positions that better speak to the nature of their jobs and their tasks. Their spin on traditional headers might make you look twice at their business cards, but they do demonstrate new ways in which the fast-evolving worlds of social media and marketing can be approached and conceptualized.
Meet the Social Media Ninja, the Ringleader, the Ambassador of Buzz, the Web Marketing Therapist, and the Community Trailblazer.
The Social Media Ninja: Katrina Kibben, Monster.com
"To be honest, I'm not 100 percent sure where my title and position are evolving to, but I know it will be led in part based on my talents."
When Monster.com was looking for a social media expert, they posted the open position, naturally, on Monster.com. To help it stand out, the job search website displayed some HR innovation with a unique title, and Kibben joined the team after answering the ad for a Social Media Ninja.
iMedia Connection: How did the title "Social Media Ninja" come to be at Monster?
Katrina Kibben: After my first interview, Monster's director of social media relations (Kathy O'Reilly) and senior global VP of corporate communications and social media (Janet Swaysland) explained how they were expanding the in-house social media team at Monster and were looking for a "band of ninjas" -- people who could:
- Collaborate with a team to monitor and analyze social media activity
- Make recommendations based on insights and trends
- Serve as an agile member of a highly visible team within the Monster marketing group.
The ninja title was something Kathy and Janet created and worked with Monster's internal recruiting team to approve. They wanted to stay away from guru, maven, and other titles like that, and thought ninja was more action- and results-driven.
iMedia: What was the interview process like?
Kibben: One unique aspect was a work sample I had to complete in my final interview. I was handed a press release and told to create a very basic social media strategy to increase awareness of the story. This project was great insight into what my day-to-day role would entail.
This was also a pretty long interview process. As you'd imagine, several candidates had applied since this was such a cool opportunity to work with a well-established brand. Both Kathy and Janet even tweeted about the job opening, driving even more attention to the role.
iMedia: What technically falls under your job description as a Ninja?
Kibben: I work on a team of three to implement social media strategies that support Monster's business initiatives. We really take the time to look at what social media channels will be most effective in reaching our target audience and never take a "fill in the blank" approach. My focus within the team is on our social media campaigns for job seekers and helping the team wherever I can with my technical knowledge (HTML, SEO, etc.)
Social media also does not work as a standalone solution at Monster. Our team works directly with PR and marketing to support all of our campaigns. It's a real team effort.
iMedia: What would you say are the biggest challenges of your job?
Kibben: My biggest challenge is reminding myself to never get in a groove and to always keep testing new strategies. With most jobs, you get into a pattern, and in social media you never can because the pieces are always moving. No two days are ever the same. While this is really challenging, it's also what I love about my job. There's always something new to explore and learn.
iMedia: How do you see your position -- and your title -- evolving over the next few years?
Kibben: I get that question a lot -- including if the next step is Samurai. But since a Samurai traditionally kills himself/herself in the end, I'm opting out of that title! To be honest, I'm not 100 percent sure where my title and position are evolving to, but I know it will be led in part based on my talents.
One of the best parts about working at Monster is that there are a lot of opportunities to try and learn and continue to grow. As long as it supports our brand strategy overall and helps our key audience (job seekers and employers), you're asked to innovate all the time. I can take my strengths and apply them to create a role that works for me, in an area where I can best support our business.
The Ringleader: Adam J. Broitman, Circ.us
"Life is way too short to be mediocre. If you want mediocrity, don't ask a Ringleader."
For the partner of an agency called Circ.us, the title of Ringleader might seem like an obvious fit. Broitman shared more on the story behind this title, and how he sees it reflecting his responsibilities and unconventional professional background.
iMedia: In your own words, "Everyone should live the life of a Ringleader." Why?
Adam Broitman: Everyone is in charge of his or her own destiny and should treat life as such. I know it sounds cliché, but I feel bad for those that wake up in the morning just to get through the day. If you don't love what you are doing, do yourself and the people around you a favor and do something else. This life is a circus -- why not be a ringleader?
iMedia: So, what is the life of a Ringleader like?
Broitman: A Ringleader treats every effort like an opportunity to achieve greatness. Life is way too short to be mediocre. Potential clients come to us and ask us to produce mediocre ideas and we tell them, "No, but we would be happy to give you an idea worth producing." If you want mediocrity, don't ask a Ringleader -- there are a thousand agencies out there that would be happy to produce run of the mill garbage for you simply to collect a pay check.
iMedia: Strong words! How did the title "Ringleader" come to be at your firm?
Broitman: I was a blogger for many years. The name of my blog was A Media Circ.us and I adopted the title "Ringleader" as my pen name. When I was hired at Crayon (now Powered) I kept the title. Today, my business partner, John Swords, and I decided to share the title, partner and ringleader. People take themselves way too seriously and place too great an emphasis on titles. Having met CEOs of ad agencies that have the creativity of a doorknob, I figure -- why not title myself Ringleader?
iMedia: Does having a unique title influence the way you approach your job?
Broitman: My business partner's and my titles have absolutely nothing to do with the industry we are in -- this was done by design. Neither of us studied advertising or traditionally studied marketing, and both of us got into this business late in the game. However, we both have had had success in other tech/creative fields, which has been a great asset to us. The ability to think laterally allows us to produce ideas that the typical digital marketer would simply not produce. We never start concepting or creating with the notion that we are digital marketers -- we always start at the core; we are human, we are social beings by nature, we are slightly insane, and we have a passion for the way our culture is changing -- and the role that technology plays in that change
Community Trailblazer: Annie Heckenberger, Red Tettemer.
"Who cares about titles? My work speaks for itself."
Annie Heckenberger, the brain behind Pennsylvania Tourism's pioneering partnership with Foursquare, sounds off on her role, how her title informs her job -- and how it doesn't.
iMedia: How does being a "Community Trailblazer" inform and affect your job?
Annie Heckenberger: The title Community Trailblazer gives me more freedom to work beyond what might be my defined scope of work if I were "director of PR and social media." At Red Tettemer, our culture encourages hybrid staff members who stretch beyond the traditional agency roles. My title, at face value, indicates that I work with and within communities and that I'm seeking new ways to do my job, innovating. What those new ways are is up to me to define and make happen.
iMedia: What would you say is your job description?
Heckenberger: My job description? Do you have some time? Just kidding.
I work with account teams, our media planner, and our clients to shape strategy and plan our approach.
Then I collaborate with our creative teams to help shape campaigns so that they'll be newsworthy, appeal to press, and generate additional attention. I also help guide our clients on the ever-changing social media frontier and suggest ways for them to consistently provide value within social media communities that are relevant to their businesses.
Last and hopefully not least, I help Red Tettemer showcase agency work to the outside world and tell our own story.
iMedia: Do you ever feel your title is too limiting in its scope due to its emphasis on the community aspect of social media/digital marketing?
Heckenberger: I don't feel like my title is limiting in any way -- in fact, it's just the opposite. I think it's liberating not to be fenced in. Beyond that, who cares about titles? My work speaks for itself.
iMedia: How have your clients and new business prospects reacted to your title?
Heckenberger: Clients and prospects seem to dig the title. It definitely gets people talking.
The Ambassador of Buzz: Jonathan Kay, Grasshopper
"I would say my title helps me remember that I really am a company ambassador, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week."
While the Ambassador of Buzz might not get invited to many fancy state dinners, the title definitely cuts straight to the heart of the most vital necessity for any social marketer: buzz! The fact that Kay is an ambassador constantly reminds him that he is representing his company, and bringing it out into the world, 24/7.
(A tip for job-hunters out there -- Kay is now hiring for an "Apprentice of Buzz.")
iMedia: How did the term Ambassador of Buzz come about at your company?
Jonathan Kay: The funny part about the title is that I came in one day during my first week and had an email from our CEO (which is scary enough in your first week) saying... "You are now officially the Ambassador of Buzz." Ha! I would later learn that the term came from this idea that the best employees are those that are "company ambassadors." Being that they wanted me to lead and start a buzz function for them... the link between company ambassador and ambassador of buzz was a pretty logical connection!
iMedia: So what exactly does an Ambassador of Buzz do? How do you define "Buzz"?
Kay: Our buzz department at Grasshopper Group is tasked with the goal of creating word of mouth (buzz) about our company in any and every way possible. What is so great about our buzz function (and why I love my job so much), is that we accomplish our goal by simply using good old fashion relationship building mixed with a good deal of social networking.
For me buzz equals word of mouth. I would imagine it means something different to everyone. However, a true success story to me is: Jane Smith goes to a local networking event (organized by the Grasshopper Group buzz team), where she gets to meet tons of cool entrepreneurs, learn some good strategies for her business, and have a free drink. She goes home and tells her roommate/colleague about the event. Did we sell our service that night? Nope. But we established ourselves as a personable and knowledgeable expert on entrepreneurship. So you better believe if Jane (or her roommate) ever need an entrepreneurial tool or resource, they will know where to go!
iMedia: How does your job title affect the way you perceive your job, and how do your clients/customers view it?
Kay: I think the fact that I am an ambassador forces me to realize the influence I have both internally and externally. On some level, when I am on the phone talking to people, and sharing a beer with someone at a local event, I am representing all of Grasshopper Group. So I would say my title helps me remember that I really am a company ambassador, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
I think the job title has a similar effect externally with clients and customers. First and foremost it lets them know that I am a fun, passionate person who cares about their company and their job. Which is always important. Second, I think (I hope) it gives them the impression that I can make connections for them both internally or externally.
iMedia: Any tips out there for people seeking to be the "Apprentice of Buzz"?
Kay: The most important tip I could give to anyone trying to get involved in a "buzz related" job is to be passionate. It's important to not only like what you do, but to believe in it as well. And the craziest part is that people who love their jobs are actually better at what they do because of it. Just remember, people like doing business with people they like. So if people trust and like you, they will want to do business with you.
The Marketing Therapist: Lorrie Thomas, Web Marketing Therapy
"Admitting you need social marketing help is the first step to recovery."
As the Marketing Therapist, Thomas dishes out tough love, stages interventions, and acts as a support system to those navigating the social web. Together with her colleagues Emilia Doerr (Client Treatment Specialist) and Amy Dunn (Web 2.0 Fear Specialist), they comprise of one creatively unique practice.
iMedia: You and your colleagues have such interesting titles. What's the story behind them?
Lorrie Thomas: We are all about being true to our authentic selves, even when it comes to our marketing job titles. It's healthy self-expression! Every team member at Web Marketing Therapy selected their own job title based on the type of social marketing support work they do. I am big on empowerment. I wanted my team to love their titles and own their own title decisions. It was a creative process for everyone and a fun way to start work on our team. Marketing is about sharing stories; our job titles set the tone for our professional story!
iMedia: Describe a social media intervention.
Thomas: Many professionals can be dangers to themselves and others when it comes to social media marketing. Some get a sense of entitlement, thinking Facebook and Twitter is supposed to make them millions; some [almost seem to have] Tourette's, where they can't stop overtly commercial outbursts; and some fear social media altogether and simply can't get started. No matter what the intervention issue is, Web Marketing Therapy diagnoses, prescribes, and guides healthy social media. We treat the cause of social media goals first, never band-aiding symptoms. If I have to bust out Marketing Therapist tough love on some overactive egos, then I intervene as needed.
iMedia: How do your clients and new business react to your interesting job titles? Have there ever been any issues equating marketing with "treatment"?
Thomas: My title started years ago when my clients would call and say "I need to talk to the marketing therapist." The pattern of my support-approach stuck, and more people started calling me that, hence the birth of Web Marketing Therapy.
iMedia: How does your job title affect the way you perceive your work?
Thomas: I can speak on behalf of all my colleagues that our titles help set the tone for our work. Our approach marries fun, humor, passion, and professionalism. We are the CEOs of our own careers, so why make work boring?
One could argue that in a field such as social media marketing -- which still struggles on occasion to justify its legitimacy and speak the language of ROI -- these quirky titles might serve more as a distraction, and further emphasize the notion that social media is fluff. However, anyone in this field needs creativity, passion, a sense of humor, and the eagerness to stick their neck out and be noticed -- what better way to embody these aspects up-front than with a unique job title? These titles showcase an entrepreneurial spirit, as these professionals take the lead in defining their own jobs, carving out their own specialized spaces in this industry, and affirming what their work means to them.
And with a title like that on a business card, you just know you'll be giving them a call.
On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.