Social Opens New IT Career Path In Marketing

Many companies are dedicating IT staff to marketing and communications departments; others are hiring marketing staffers who have focused tech skills.

Debra Donston-Miller, Contributor

September 20, 2012

5 Min Read

Drew Grobengieser, IT manager at QCI Direct, sees the social writing on the wall. He and his IT colleagues are often called upon to integrate marketing efforts with back-end systems, and he sees the demand for social technology--and IT's ability to understand and effectively implement it--only growing.

"I am beginning to find myself doing more in the marketing arena, but it is very early on at this point," Grobengieser said. "Our company as a whole is focused on paid and organic ads more than anything else [right now]. I don't have any experience with anything social, but I think that in order to be competitive, we'll need to be out there on all of those social fronts. I'm sure in a year I'll be up to here in social!"

While it makes sense for IT and marketing to work more closely together, and perhaps even for IT professionals to be dedicated to marketing efforts, companies can't expect to just pluck people from the IT world and plunk them down in marketing--or vice versa.

Garrett Smith, CMO at VoIP Supply, shared with The BrainYard his company's list of marketing-focused requirements, used during a recent search for a technical/development person:

--Full grasp of website aesthetics and design with the programming knowledge to make it function.

--Ability to design graphics and icons when updating company Web pages.

--Ability to add social media icons to product pages, checkout pages, and blogs.

--Ability to design promotional banners.

--Ability to design email templates for newsletters.

--Ability to assist with any branding initiatives from a design and programming standpoint.

Smith said a hire based on these requirements was made in late summer.

"VoIP Supply's newest addition to the engineering department was hired with marketing in mind," said Smith. "The goal was to have an IT person who could work cross-departmentally and turn a marketing concept into code."

Is marketing driving your company's IT staffing, or is IT driving decisions around marketing personnel? Please let us know in the comments section below. Follow Deb Donston-Miller on Twitter at @debdonston.

Attend Online Marketing Summit 2012 and gather the insights and strategies you need to make the right online marketing choices to deliver the most value for your business. The summit--in Santa Clara, Calif., Oct 22-25--offers four days of inspiration, connections, and practical learning. Attend Online Marketing Summit 2012 using code QJBQSA01 and receive a 25% discount on conference passes or a Free Expo Pass.If there's been one group in the enterprise that has embraced social, it's marketing and communications. If there's been one group in the enterprise that has shrugged its figurative shoulders at social, it's the IT department.

But a funny thing is happening as social networking becomes increasingly critical to business efforts: Marketing is becoming the next big IT thing, and IT is becoming the next big marketing thing.

Marketing departments have typically been organizations' first and most fervent adopters of social networking applications and practices. And because so many social networking apps are public, very cheap, and easy to get up and running, it's been easy to leave IT and traditional technology procurement and implementation models out of the mix.

Now, however, as applications get more sophisticated and integration opportunities abound, many marketing departments are finding that their goals for social networking technology are exceeding the skills of their internal denizens. But rather than returning to the old ways of working with the IT department, many companies are dedicating IT staff to marketing and communications projects, while others are hiring marketing staffers who have focused tech skills.

[ For more on IT's role in social, see 5 Ways IT Can Stall Social. ]

"I have been in numerous meetings in which the marketing department was not aware of the technical options and the ability to do certain things in the context of a marketing campaign," said Ed Nash, president of Altius Management. "An IT person within the marketing team makes perfect sense, and ideally allows the team to be even more creative and realistic in their approach. Less time wasted, more time implementing cutting-edge creative campaigns."

At online printing company NextDay Flyers, there has been a blurring of the lines over time between marketing and IT, according to CEO David Handmaker.

"When we hire members of our marketing team, we look for candidates who are tech-savvy," said Handmaker. "If they know HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, it's a big plus. They don't have to be proficient in it, but if they know the basics and can clearly articulate their needs to the IT team, it can create efficiencies. Likewise, we look for IT team members who know more than just how to code. We hope they have a basic understanding of the e-commerce conversion funnel, SEO, and social media. We hope our IT team members are savvy enough to point out things such as a slow page load speed that can affect organic search engine rankings, and let us know we need to split test conversions before placing social media icons on our product pages."

Handmaker said two of NextDay Flyers' IT professionals act as liaisons between the marketing department and the IT team. "They join our marketing team for weekly meetings and are active participants in many initiatives," he said. "Their input is invaluable, and without their help we wouldn't be able to move forward in an extremely competitive online arena."

One of the big drivers for this melding of IT and marketing minds and mindsets is big data, noted Gregg Poulin, CMO of uberVU, which provides social media monitoring, analytics, and management technology.

"With social, there are now hundreds of millions of conversations going on daily that, when layered with contexts, become incredibly useful for marketing teams to use and engage their audiences in a smart way," said Poulin. "I believe that the requests for all the big data will soon become a request for intelligence or context on top of that big data, which will enable organizations to move forward and win against their competitors. IT departments would be wise to live and breathe marketing to be prepared for these shifts because it will soon be on them. The companies that get ahead of this will stand to reap big rewards."

About the Author(s)

Debra Donston-Miller


Freelance writer Debra Donston-Miller was previously editor of eWEEK and executive editorial manager of eWEEK Labs. She can be reached at [email protected].

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