Are You Ready for a CSO? (Chief Social Officer)


A few years ago, social media was mostly an annoyance to most businesses IT directors who tried to keep employees from accessing social networks during working hours. Well, that still goes on today. However, most organizations have began tapping into the power of online communities. Dell has made millions from its Twitter account over the years and that number continues to grow. It’s hard to find any organization without a Twitter account or a Facebook fan page. But as social media has grown and developed has your online strategy grown as well?

Are you ready for a chief social officer Maurilio Amorim

Fast Company’s latest issue features an article on CSOs (Chief Social Officers). These are not interns who “play around” the internet for companies such as Ford and Virgin Atlantic. These are highly skilled, highly compensated professionals who are setting strategies and directing teams to harness the power of online networks.  So if you haven’t taking this thing seriously yet, you’d better wake up. And Soon.

If you’re thinking about taking your social media strategy to the next level, and perhaps hiring or creating a position, even a CSO, here are a few things to consider:

Find someone who likes people. Social Media is a conversation, not a monologue. Success here means more than just messaging. It’s the most important customer initiative you will probably ever undertake.

Find someone who’s already doing it well. You can empower, train and grow talented people much easier than you can train someone who might never perform to the level you need. I’m not convinced you can even train people to do social media well. Do yourself a favor and recruit someone who’s doing it already.

Find someone you trust. Social media is messy. Even the best of conversations can go awry and your CSO and her team will be your voice at the front lines. If you don’t trust them to speak for you,  then don’t hire them.

Find someone who cares. Conversations begin at all times including night and weekends. This is not a 9-5 job. If you’re not part of an important discussion about your organization when it happens, then you miss the opportunity to make an impact. In my experience, you cannot teach people to care beyond the work-day clock. They either do or don’t.

What’s the next step for your organization’s social media strategy?

  • We added this position in July and is the best investment I have made in a long time or could have made. We have increased our engagement and awareness. Great post.

    • Wayne, I call always count on you to be on the front lines. I appreciate your pioneering spirit to try a new idea or approach. No wonder Soles4Souls is doing so well.

  • I had a conversation about this topic with the team last week. I like your point about the hours the conversation happens. What about a way to scour through the internet and hear what is being posted about your company, products similar, etc. I don't want to just be out there talking…

    • Absolutely, Zach, that's part of the strategy. There are several options out there for "listening" software. Google alerts is the easiest and it's free. But first and foremost, we should listen before talking.

      • Zach

        I'm with you all the way man!

  • CSO is a newly coined term that even companies that have the position might not be calling it by this term. However, the function is the same. Keep me posted on how it turns out for you.


    It's due time that companies started taking his seriously. Thanks for highlighting this!

  • CraigAWarner

    great thoughts and very insightful as The Gideons International develops its social media strategy. Thank you for sharing.

    • I love the Gideons. My first New Testament was given to me while in a public school in Brazil before I was a believer. The Gideons could benefit greatly from a well-conceived social media plan.

  • You're right Aaron, without metrics you can't justify a CSO, or a sales position, or even a CEO for that matter. If you can't measure it, then you can't quantify. The great thing about online tools is that you can measure effectiveness and you can do it instantly as oppose to weeks or months as with traditional marketing campaigns. Dell can trace over 6 million dollars to its Twitter account alone. I can quantify several clients I would not have had it not been for my social media involvement.

    Before hiring the position you need to decide your expectation in terms of revenue increase or new business and hold that person accountable to results. Give them time and tools and if they're good, then you'll see results.

  • Great post, Maurilio! I'm excited to see where this position goes, and how it affects companies (I would love to have this position somewhere!). It makes sense for the CSO to be a position in itself, rather than a 'marketing director,' as social media is so much more than marketing… it's brand identity, it's marketing, and what people often don't realize… it's customer service! I would love to help people realize the potential to build a quality brand and business through social media!

  • Maurilio & Lawrence,

    Before reading Lawrence's comment I was about to say that, of all the organizations that need to wake up to the need for an CSO, churches probably most need to stop hitting the snooze button on the social alarm. After all, it has been ringing for awhile.

    A few churches that I've had dialogue with recently are in the throes of hiring a new staff member. Their first instinct is to hire along traditional lines (i.e. we lost a youth minister, we need to hire another one). My challenge to them has been that a staff loss gives the church an opportunity to recalibrate, and they would be wise to evaluate their needs and consider hiring a communications director. This is especially true now that many churches are going multi-site.

    Unfortunately, I observe churches continuing to hire along those traditional lines but then asking these new (usually younger) staffers to also shoulder the load of communication (web development, blog posting, email newsletters, Facebook & Twitter updates, etc.). This strikes me as a half-hearted commitment to communication and an unfair expectation of a new children's director, worship minister or youth leader.

    The CSO may not be a full-time position for many churches, but it is time for church resources to be allocated toward social communication (including paying great volunteers like Mrs. Wilson).

  • Excellent list of the things to consider for a CSO. I think a lot of orgs are seeing the value of Social Media but many are still treating it as insignificant by the type of people or resources they put forth. I hear so many saying "Well, can't I just let my admin handle the updates?" or "Can we recruit an intern to do it?" Like anything else, if you want A game results then you need to put your A game into it (or A Group… haha).

  • Lawrence, my church mobilized thousands of volunteers during the Nashville flood through social media. It was so successful that we now have our twitter and flickr feed on the homepage of our website.

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