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Help wanted: Companies recruit social media experts

  • May 15, 2009

By Mary Duan

As more companies look to social networks to promote their brands, they’re looking for staff who can head these efforts. New positions are opening up in companies dedicated to social network marketing — social media directors who can navigate and find customers on sites such as Twitter and Facebook, for example.

One example is BitDefender. About a year ago, the Mountain View-based marketing team of the Romania Internet and data security company decided it wanted to reach out and build a little community — and expand its customer base in the process.

Its first effort,, combined the look of a graphic novel with the most up-to-date information on viruses, spam trends, bots, worms and malware infections. It brought in forums and blogs where the community could share experiences and tips. And when PC Magazine last fall named malwarecity one of the Top 100 Undiscovered Sites on the Web, the site’s rising popularity spurred BitDefender to expand its outreach efforts.

The company now is looking for a social media director, someone who will work either in its Mountain View or Fort Lauderdale office and help BitDefender become a thought leader in the security industry. The salary is flexible based on where that person lands, from $90,000 to $115,000 in California and $75,000 to $90,000 in Florida.

BitDefender isn’t alone in its quest. Between September 2007 and February 2009, the last date for which data was available, the job-hunting Web site Simply Hired has traced a 44 percent increase in the number of jobs with “social media” in the title (often followed by the words “expert,” “strategist,” “whiz” or “project manager”), while the number of jobs with “social media director” as a title have increased by 3 percent.

BitDefender’s Vitor Souza, the company’s global communications director, said one of the biggest arguments the marketing team made to the executive team was that companies not supporting social media weren’t progressing. Using malwarecity as a demonstration project, the marketing team showed the increase in visitors and media recognition brought the company attention and consumers.

“We figured at that point we needed to take social media seriously,” Souza said. “But we’re also aware there’s very little expertise in the area.”

The company hopes to hire someone by June. The ideal candidate will be well versed in social media and search engine optimization. He or she will be in charge of developing and executing messages via a variety of channels — from forums to blogs and online communities.

Beau Roberts, BitDefender’s global marketing director, said the social media director will have some short-term goals, such as increasing brand awareness and traffic to the company’s sites, all with the long-term goal of lowering the cost of customer acquisition and retention.
“Companies have to rethink the way they’re doing things, the way things work, and in trying to establish dialogue with prospects and customers, you have to have something of value to offer them,” Roberts said.

At California State University, East Bay, the administration also is hunting for a social media director — one of the first such positions in the CSU system — to reach out not only to current students, but also to perspective students, parents, key influencers and East Bay neighbors.

Jay Colombatto, associate vice president of university communications, said the position became necessary when the university began seeing a profound shift in terms of where people were getting their information about the university and about their options.

“It’s not to say that conventional channels of communication are disappearing, but the mix is changing dramatically, and if we were to remain squarely focused on conventional media, we’re missing some audience and the channels they engage in,” Colombatto said.

The CSU social media director will be starting from the ground up — at this point, there isn’t an organized university program on Twitter or Facebook, although affiliated groups such as alumni maintain a presence.

“Our No. 1 priority remains building enrollment, and first-time freshmen undergrads are our priority among all different types of students,” he said. “Our social media person will figure out how to help us to engage, on what levels and in which ways.”

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