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03/21/2011 The Digital or Social Messiah

Businesses and agencies have recognized the energy of digital and social marketing. As they scramble to get up to speed and to catch up with consumers, many have tried to jump start their efforts by hiring or appointing a Very Important Person. Usually they have titles like Chief Innovation Officer, Chief Creative Technologist, or Director of Social Media. In reality, they’ve been anointed as the Digital or Social Messiah.

You know what a messiah does right? He leads you out of slavery into the promise land (well, not really, we wanders around for 40 years). He tears down the powerful and starts a new religion (or at least starts something). Or he leads a jihad and conquers the civilized world (over hundreds of years).

What’s wrong with this picture? Messiahs and Prophets may be necessary, but you can’t have true religion unless you have a good group of apostles around you. The messiah might provide the inspiration, but the apostles end up doing most of the groundwork. When you’re trying to establish a new digital or social religion in your company, do you have enough apostles to make change happen?

It was interesting listening to Bill Gerth of Comcast and Morgan Johnston of Jet Blue at the #BTVSMB social media breakfast today. I was particularly impressed with Bill’s description of Comcast’s social media team. It included key personnel from various departments around the enterprise, including customer care people and engineers. Bill doesn’t have to proselytize himself; he has others within the company with greater status within their own groups.

Agencies have similar problems. They need to talk digital, and they need a spokesperson, salesperson and leader, both internally and externally. But if you really want to gauge how serious they are, ask them how many digital or social apostles they’ve hired lately, especially compared with other hires in the traditional areas.

Everyone loves a messiah or prophet. But creating a new religion, whether it is digital, social, or Christianity, is hard work. One or two people can’t do it alone. The companies that are doing it right have lots of apostles doing the work.



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