Everything I know about Social Media I learned from Open Source

Marketing has finally made the transition. “New marketing techniques”, social media and community development are now common job requirements as these tactics are driving more comprehensive strategies that focus on the user. And yeah, I may be years behind on this, but I haven’t looked for a job in a while and last I looked, marketing job requirements included messaging, marcom and product launches.

There is quite a collection of talented unemployed people in the circles I travel in. And while each of us have different backgrounds, experiences and passions, we find that we are all looking at the same jobs. We shouldn’t necessarily be competing for these positions, but 3 different job titles have gotten all mixed up with a common list of requirements.

  • Community Management/Development – Requirements are to know how to use social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs, forums, etc to communicate marketing messages, but more importantly to create 2-way conversations with the user. Manage and/or create and engage a community. Create programs. Advocate for that community inside the company.
  • Social Media – Some companies are looking for “social media marketing”, or “social media experts”, or social media is listed as a requirement in the job description. Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc… In other words, see above.
  • On-line Marketing – Which is the idea of using Web 2.0 tools, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc… Deja vu.

How did these things get intermixed? Here’s an excerpt from an interview I did with whurley about it and how I think it happened:

Everything I know about social media I learned from open source.

… All communications (in open source communities) were done openly and publicly to help the project grow and get adopted. (Community Manager) was not a very common job title, and one a person earned, not got….


… (Open source developers) were miles ahead of the word-of-mouth marketing phenomena we have today. Open source developers were implementing social media before the term existed, disseminating information through public blogs, searchable e-mail forums, and online discussion groups. My role in marketing became figuring out how to scale what they were doing, encourage it, amplify it when necessary, get myself and the company out of their way when needed, and to advocate on their behalf….

This theory that open source started the social media “movement” started with a discussion I had with James Governor (@monkchips) of RedMonk a while back. 5 years ago when I started working in open source, my use of a blog, forums, email aliases to communicate publicly with about the community I was working with would have been (and was) called community management. Today, using those same tools, plus some new ones, is called social media.

Where open source and social media are divided is in what the communities talk about. Open source communities talk nearly exclusively about the code. There isn’t a ton of personal discussion that goes on. Social media communities talk about anything and everything or even nothing. The pendulum swings one way for open source communities and fully in the other direction for social media. Somewhere in the middle is the use of social media to engage with a community around a brand.

Whether these job titles will all merge into one or whether they will become more specific and differentiated remains to be seen. For now, there is demand for talented community managers, social media experts, and online marketing geniuses. We just have to look a little more carefully to find the right one for us.


5 responses to “Everything I know about Social Media I learned from Open Source

  1. heatherjstrout

    Thanks for this summary. I’m sending this to the team I’m working with. I think they’ll find it valuable as they’re building an open-source-like community now.

  2. Its nice to know about open-source community. As I am architecture & designing of the community for our company. So, its really nice to know the importance of it. And By the way, its not a marketing recommendation but just like to inform you that our company is having product for in-text customization platform for publishers & bloggers like you. Do check http://hover.in


  3. I think you hit the nail on the head here. I was called as a reference (with my permission) for a friend interviewing with a local Seattle software firm. My friend is a marketeer and knows certain aspects of marketing really well. The recruiter asked the usual questions and I gave my friend a glowing review. She’s really good.

    Then the recruiter asked if I had any questions or could provide any additional info. I asked her what they were looking for in a marketing person and what they expected from them. The recruiter rattled off a list similar to yours in your blog post AND added event management, collateral development, and lead management/generation. While all of these roles can all fall into the marketing category (at least to me they do) they require a fairly senior person to do them all well.

    The point of this comment is that companies should really think about what they want before throwing out a job requisition. There are many variants within the realm of marketing – each of which has and requires different levels of experience and seniority.

    My friend did not get the job. No one did. I think the software firm went back and re-evaluated what they REALLY wanted to do.

  4. Jeff,
    It’s true a lot of companies, in an effort to cut costs I can only guess, are trying to hire marketing “jacks-of-all-trades”. It is pretty difficult to do all of the things you listed well.

    I’m impressed that you asked the question of the recruiter. Most references would just do their thing and hang up. 🙂

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