"This is a two-to-five-to-seven-year run, similar to what happened when we went from mainframe to client/server and then again when we went to the Web," Delattre says.
Companies of every size and stripe are implementing ever more ambitious strategies involving social media, so it's only logical that they need technologists who can make the most of their investments, says Rachel Russell, director of marketing at Hanover, Md.-based IT staffing firm TEKsystems.
Some companies are hiring people who understand the marketing value of social media as well as its technical complexities. In most organizations, social media has, until recently, been under the purview of either IT or the marketing department. Now, organizations are putting a new crossbreed of talent into jobs with titles like chief social media strategist, new media coordinator, manager of social media and (less frequently) socialite.
"What you'll see with these positions is a tie-in to strategy. Companies want someone who can help them understand and define what the strategy is; [someone to say] 'Here's what we want the social media strategy to be,' " says Matthew Ripaldi, a senior vice president at Modis, an IT staffing firm in Jacksonville, Fla.
The role isn't about sending out tweets and posting on Facebook all day, he clarifies. It's about leveraging technology to monitor online activity and interactions and to engage consumers.
Skills required: The ideal candidate is someone who has a strong background in business strategy and marketing with project management and business intelligence experience mixed in -- and a technical background, with skills in HTML and Web rendering, Ripaldi says.
And as if that standard weren't high enough, companies also want people with proven experience. Strong candidates would have solid experience in marketing and could demonstrate the ROI of their past marketing projects, Ripaldi says.
At TEKsystems, "when we're interviewing IT professionals, we want to hear about what projects they worked on and what they did for the business," says Russell. "What business stakeholders did you work with? What were the challenges? If they can answer those, [we see that] they get what they're doing."
In a move that may be welcome news to IT types, some organizations are going so far as to create more than one specialized social-media-oriented position. They're hiring a high-level executive to develop a strategy and then hiring a midtier techie as a social media architect, engineer or developer. The techies typically have expertise in coding, HTML, website development, graphical user interfaces and search engine optimization.