The social media manager as rock star

Enrique Dans
Aug 5, 2014 · 4 min read

Apple’s signing up of Musa Tariq, Nike’s (and formerly Burberry’s) social media director, has opened many people’s eyes to the growing importance of this position.

We’re talking here about Apple, perhaps the definitive opaque marketing company, a company that wears its secretiveness on its sleeve, and that has so far turned its back on the social networks. For many years, Apple’s only use for the social networks was to use them to select guests to its presentations in the hope of turning these into social objects, while limiting distribution to Tweets and a few photographs. These events, where not even streaming was available, were 100 % about marketing, although in a sense there was still a certain amount of spontaneity to them: the company and its products were a social phenomenon with far-reaching repercussions despite doing almost nothing, and as a result the company was the envy of just about every consumer products manufacturer.

But last October, Apple announced it had hired Angela Ahrendts, Burberry’s CEO, to lead its retail division. Ahrendts’ claim to fame was, among others, that she had played a key role in orienting the once-stuffy British raincoat maker from a purely luxury brand to one with a presence on the social networks through partners such as Salesforce.com. Under Musa Tariq, who worked under Ahrendts, Burberry set up Tweetwalk, which was used to present its collections before they were seen on the catwalk. After Ahrendts left, Tariq went to Nike, where he took control of social media from the agencies it had been outsourced to, centralizing them under his direct control.

Even though they may still lack the resources to handle marketing themselves, more and more companies are following Nike’s example, or at least thinking seriously about how to do so, knowing that they will have better control over their marketing, as well as acquiring valuable knowledge in the process.

In the case of Apple, we are talking about a brand that has used the social networks almost reactively, simply to provide answers to certain questions — and sometimes, not even that. Until now, the brand had no social network strategy as such, and the only working social media accounts, besides the ones belonging to several top executives, were for products such as iTunes or AppStore. But the arrival of Musa Tariq, who for sure will see the number of his Twitter followers increase substantially in the next few days, can only mean that all that is about to change.

The world of social media is undergoing a major redefinition: for companies in the consumer markets, it is already evident that those likes and follows will help bias purchasers towards their products, keeping them at the top of their mind and recommending them to others. For companies not in the mass purchase markets, for those working in planned purchases or in B2B, social media is showing that the name of the game isn’t solely how many followers you have, but whether they are the right ones, and that you are able to attract and hold their attention.

It therefore makes more and more sense to have a director of social media. This person can decide on how the company will interact with the public, avoid strategies of the kind associated previously with the mass media: forget about sending out flyers, lists of influencers provided by your agency, paid reviews, buying followers, and as a rule anything that is not a change toward more genuine relationships, more real, and more transparent, and toward becoming a genuine benchmark brand, and where communication is immediate. We have moved on now from “some kid who knows what Facebook is toward somebody who can manage a crisis, much more than a mere community manager, and much more that somebody at the fourth or fifth level of management. The difference between “having a social media director” and “having a social media director who has a clear vocation for their job” is paramount these days if you value your company’s image and profitability.

All brands should understand by now that it is not possible to separate marketing from its natural conduit, the social media. For Apple, this is a process borne out of logic: to take a proactive approach to something that, spontaneously, often ended up being a social object, part of the conversation. And for Musa Tariq, who has suddenly become something of a rock star in social media terms, it’s showtime… :-)


(In Spanish, here)

Enrique Dans

On the effects of technology innovation on people, companies and society (writing in Spanish at enriquedans.com since 2003)

    Enrique Dans

    Written by

    Professor of Innovation at IE Business School and blogger at enriquedans.com

    Enrique Dans

    On the effects of technology innovation on people, companies and society (writing in Spanish at enriquedans.com since 2003)

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