Salary Benchmarks: From Blogs to Boardrooms

More marketers are creating senior roles to bring social media in-house

Marketing unveiled its 2012 Salary Benchmarks survey in its Oct. 8 issue, running a sector-by-sector breakdown of salary ranges for every level of the marketing industry alongside reporting and commentary on issues shaping the marketing job market. Over the coming days, MarketingMag.ca will present some of that editorial package, explore freelancing, pay raises, title changes and talent retention.

More marketers are creating senior roles to bring social media in-house

“I never thought I’d be the in-house guy doing social media,” says Brendan Sera-Shriar, senior community manager at Mega Brands.

It may be a company built on construction toys, with brands like MEGA Bloks and Magnext, but Mega Brands’ successes have turned it into a massive company with all of the structure and process that entails. On paper Sera-Shriar admits he is an unlikely candidate to help the Montreal-based multinational, the largest maker of preschool toys worldwide, build its social media presence. An accomplished developer-designer for mostly start-ups who naturally picked up social media, he had no experience in a large corporation.

Yet that didn’t scare off Mega Brands’ chief technology officer or VP of marketing, both of whom interviewed Sera-Shriar for the job. “They didn’t have to hire me, and quite frankly they didn’t have to keep me,” says Sera-Shriar, who in September celebrated his first anniversary in a position he says he loves (see sidebar pg. 26).

Sera-Shriar is one of a growing number of talented twenty- and thirty-something social media authorities who recruiters have been drafting into the marketing departments of large organizations over the last 18 months.

That adds to the demand already fueled by agencies looking for similar experts as traditional advertising, digital and PR firms are all fighting to own their share of the social media pie.

“Companies with large marketing departments have the sense that it is quite expensive to send all of their social media needs to an agency,” explains Craig Lund, president of Marketing Talent, a Toronto-based marketing recruitment firm. “The thinking is if they can bring in some extra head count, they can do more of the work themselves.”

With the maturation of social media as a business channel, large companies are also looking for talent whose duties go well above and beyond responding to customer comments and queries via social media. “We’re starting to see some pretty senior roles on the corporate side,” says Lund. “People are making $80,000 to $110,000 as social media managers.”

For that kind of compensation, companies want leaders who can help integrate social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs, Pinterest and LinkedIn into the overall marketing function and create a strategy that directly ties to key business performance indicators. In many cases, companies have created positions which combine social media and digital media into a single director or VP role. And companies with tier-one brands are willing to pay big bucks, between $120,000 and $140,000, in compensation for these positions, says Ari Aronson, founder and executive recruiter, Ari Agency.

The unique challenge for corporations is finding social media natives who thrive in the fast-paced, make-it-up-as-you-go-along world of social media but who can also successfully navigate, and ultimately flourish, in a corporate environment.

“A lot of organizations like the banks and CPGs are very process driven, and so there’s a huge learning curve to it,” says Lund. “That’s why you’re seeing a lot of head hunters now trying to poach people who have been at one corporation and place them in another.”

Jerry Sen is one of a select few with extensive experience in both the agency and client world. He spent time with DoubleClick, JWT and Syncapse, where he managed digital programs for North American brands. On the client side he spent four years at Smucker Foods of Canada as senior digital communications manager, helping to grow their digital investment to over $3 million per year.

In January, Maple Leaf Foods hired him as director, digital and social marketing. At the same time, a full-time community manager was also hired. “Maple Leaf Foods has made a significant investment in social media and digital engagement, and the company has strongly supported hiring experienced digital talent to lead the channel,” says Sen. “The increase in investment requires a tighter integration between brand teams and digital marketing on a daily basis.”

To do that more effectively, he says “the company has built an internal team that can develop strategy and execute independently, while also working with agency partners on larger multi-channel campaigns.”

Still, candidates like Sen with proven corporate experience are in short supply, says Aronson, because few companies have groomed that kind of digital talent internally. “Some of the brightest digital minds have spent more time in their basements than in the boardroom,” he says.

Yet these individuals who come from a more entrepreneurial or start-up background can serve as much-needed change agents within big organizations. “It starts at the top,” says Aronson. “Investing in a seasoned director or VP who gets digital and can mentor a young team of social media minds is a huge asset. They are the ones who are pushing traditional marketing boundaries and stuffy corporate marketing departments.”

Salary Benchmarks 2012
Q&A: Rise Of The Freelancer
Keeping Talent: Think outside the bucks
The Raise: Don’t ask, don’t get
Column: 5 Hiring Trends for 5 Years

The trend of marketers adding social media talent has been more pronounced in the U.S. where companies have been proactive about hiring for an increasingly connected world, says Deanna MacDougal, partner and president at Merlin Group and VP, recruiting, Marketing Talent. Last year, for instance, American Express recruited Silicon Valley entrepreneur Josh Silverman as president, U.S. consumer services business. He is the co-founder of Evite and past CEO of Skype.

“There is so much talent out there,” MacDougal says. “Companies could be better off doing so much more with better people if they just pulled their head out of the sandbox.”

Still, Michael Gates, VP, partner of executive search at Mandrake, says companies have good reason to be cautious about hiring someone who is well-versed in social media but brings little to no corporate experience.

“If someone has chosen to work in a place where they can bring their dog into work and wear flip-flops every day, will they be happy in a cubicle?” asks Gates. “A larger company might be better off to hire an agency or consultancy with really great talent, because the company would then be able to tap their ideation and creativity while having the agency manage those personalities.”

Sera-Shriar admits “the learning curve has been quite high.” He says he has had to learn the fundamentals of a retail-based business virtually from scratch, including how to work with distribution channels, vendors and factories. “In the interview process, I thought social media [the way I knew it] could be applied to anything. I soon realized it has to be applied very differently,” says Sera-Shriar. “For the first time, the term ‘ROI’ actually had to mean something—I needed to bring in hard numbers to show how social media would actually help the company.”

Desite this steep curve, Sera-Shriar has helped significantly boost Mega Brand’s social media presence, which lagged competitors (in particular Lego) before his arrival. He created and now regularly updates the Mega Bloks blog, and organizes all of Mega Brand’s North American consumer shows, including San Diego Comic-Con, New York Comic-Con and Fan Expo—all rich fodder for social media content.

Though he’s only been at it a year, he’s noticed a change in how the brand is perceived. “I no longer have to ask people to review our toy products,” says Sera-Shriar. “Bloggers and other social media types are now reaching out to us.”

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