I’ve been working in web for 12 years now – I built my first community strategy for a client in 1996. If there’s one thing that I have learned, it’s that everyone considers themselves to be a “strategist”. Having said that, when you are working on web initiatives of any significant size, you are working as a part of a team, an eco-system of people who all bring something important to the table.
In a conversation with a client we were reviewing just how many different flavors of web strategists there are – and how do clients determine what kind of web strategist they need? Below is a review of many of the common types of web strategists and their respective strengths:
- General Web Strategist - this kind of web strategist has a broad and deep experience base, has usually come from an agency or consulting background… has really “been there and done that” with almost any kind of web project or business model. They are experienced enough to be flexible to work on most kinds of web projects and the best ones have implemented their strategies.
- Web Marketing Strategist – a strategist who is focused on outbound web marketing techniques. They live and die by data and results.
- PR Strategist - a PR professional who leverages social media and web marketing as an integrated part of PR strategy. Could include monitoring conversations, identifying influencers, syndicating content using social media for PR purposes.
- Brand Strategist – usually focused on more of the creative, UI and brand elements of web. These strategists usually come from a creative or agency background.
- Advertising Strategist (Media, SEO, SEM, WOM) Focused on media and online advertising.
- CRM/ Web Strategist – a strategist focused on the customer contact strategy, customer touchpoints and CRM. A sub-set of this can be relationship marketers or database marketers. It will be interesting to see how this role evolves given how social media has changed the touchpoints companies have with customers.
- Web Analytics Strategist - focused on the measurement and analytics of web. Could encompass everything from basic web analytics to rich media, community and social media analytics. Like web marketers, for this strategist – data is king.
- User Experience Strategist - a strategist that looks at the audience in detail and optimizes the overall user experience. Often these strategists come from an information architecture or creative background.
- Content Strategist - plans the overall content in a web site – which could include editorial, third party content or user-generated content. Considerations such as assessing audience content needs, publishing strategy, licensing, syndication of content are all considerations.
- Technical Web Strategist – sometimes referred to as a “Solutions Architect” Looks at the technology and infrastructure needs, technical requirements and informs the development needs. Typically these strategists come from a consulting or developer background.
- Subject Matter Experts - Web strategists focused on a specific industry (SMB), point solution (wikis. blogs) or audience segment (Gen Y).
- Community Strategist - A strategist that understands the complex interactions between community members and the ongoing needs, opportunities and dynamics of online communites. A sub-set of this could also be Community Managers who are very hand-on yet closely tied to the strategy of how to build, grow and manage the community.
- Social Media Strategist – focused on leveraging social media for marketing purposes. In my opinion the best social media strategists are those that walk their talk – they actually blog, they use Twitter, they belong to social networks and communities.
I don’t agree with Steve Rubel that the need for these roles will eventually disappear – I think that’s a wishful-thinking PR perspective. I have seen increasing demand in our enterprise client base for web and social media skills. While I do agree that these skills will eventually become required for all marketers, I believe that there is always room for experienced, quality consultants. Jeremiah Owyang did a post on the need for the social media manager and two distinct roles that Forrester sees emerging: the social media manager and the community manager.
Most enterprise marketers are just beginning to experiment with social media and I believe its a long way off before they acquire deep skills. In the meantime, when leveraging the skills of a web strategist, its important to ensure that you are engaging the right kind of strategist to meet your objectives.