The Perfect Chief Social Media Officer

Chief social media officer, as in “who should be put in charge of social media in an organization”?

When Forbes chimes in, it means this is no idle question. With budgets increasingly shifting from the more traditional areas into digital and social media, it’s not a mere question of job title, but rather of who’s going to call the shots in marketing and communications.

When I look at the corporations I know, I don’t really get the picture of a prevailing organizational solution, but rather of work in progress.

As a consultant who sometimes gets asked this question, this is worrisome, as it means I cannot fall back on experience, but rather must synthesize an answer analytically.

The way I go about this is based in my now-infamous Digital and Social Media infographic below, where I can easily map the key skill for each block of the project. This helps you define the skill rainbow you need for an ideal team and, by definition, the supervising abilities the manager of that project must possess and, by extension, the areas that a successful chief social media officer should understand in order to drive strategically within the organization.


While it was developed with an agency in mind, it applies almost literally to the internal organization of our clients. Being the rather diverse set that they are, organizations must accept the fact that the perfect solution may be utopian, at least until the new crop of marketing and communications graduates.

Here are the most common placements I have come across:

  1. Insight – Can fall under research or consumer insight
  1. Content Strategy – Most commonly found in communications, even though often in reactive mode, while proactivity is key in SoMe.
  1. Online Asset – This is all over the place — under IT (it’s a website), under product management (it’s “my product” website) and under mobile (when it’s a mobile app). Corporate image plays a role because it’s visual, and IT plays a role if it feeds or draws upon internal IT data resources. Very messy.
  1. Outreach – Paid (ad-driven) part usually under advertising, earned part MIA.
  1. Community Management – We’ll think about it when we get there!

If an organization wanted to create the perfect CSMO, it should therefore invest in getting someone to spend six months in each of these departments, as they all contribute essentially to the success of the project.

Gianni is European Director for Digital & Social Media; a nuclear engineer by background (I know!) he started in tech (IBM, Olivetti, Lotus) before moving to the dark side remaining however an hopeless geek and gadget freak. His personal hero is Nobel prize winner Richard P Feynman, perhaps the best science divulgator who ever existed, which explains Gianni’s love for speaking and lecturing. Married and father of three he loves reading and movies as well as living in the countryside with three cats, two dogs and a horse. Catch up with him also on his personal blog