by Michael O'Neill
February 28th, 2013

Earlier this week I came across this article by US-based social media director Rick Wion in which he lists the key personnel needed to build the perfect social media team. A good post but among the coders, designers, media buyers and even interns, there appeared to be something missing: the writer.

Wion himself conceded the importance of words, saying: “When it is all said and done, writing is the single most important skill in the social world.” Not enough, apparently, to prioritise hiring an actual writer. Instead, Wion suggests that “everyone must be a good writer.”

While I can see the value of having a team full of multi-skilled individuals who can contribute outside of their traditional work silos, should such an important aspect of the social media framework be relegated to a secondary skill-set? Should we really expect coders and designers to have the instinct, training and experience to identify and create the kind of content that resonates with the target audience? Let’s flip the situation: would it make sense to bypass the hiring of a talented designer and instead put faith in a data analyst, in the vain hope that “everyone must be a good designer”?

I ask these questions not because Wion is necessarily wrong, but because they add to the current debate concerning the transition of journalists into social and online marketing, specifically the growing need for content managers.

Brand journalism, content marketing, or whatever you choose to call it, is nothing new. What is new is the technologies being used to syndicate this content, in particular social media. In this context, brands need not only to hire skilled writers but to also integrate them into the overall social team. And not just to update social feeds. Much more important is to have something interesting to include in those updates — whether video, text, infographics and more. In short, the kind of timely and relevant content that has good writing at its centre.

As organisations rush to scale up their social teams, they should not forget the value of a good in-house writer. Writers may not be as hip as that app developer you just hired, and they may not be as “digitally native” as your intern, but in a world where brands increasingly see themselves as online publishers — with social media the distribution pipe — considering writers as an afterthought is a big mistake.

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