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Are there a bunch of Sally come latelys out there selling books and online courses in social media? Yes, they are out there. But, they are preying on public ignorance with "education" programs based on narrow experience they gathered in a few months in order to sell training products. To those of us leading the industry, we feel bad for the suckers duped into thinking these "training materials" were developed by someone who knows what he/she is doing.
There are few people that even have experience deploying a social media program. Of those who do, there's an even smaller number that have been successful. Social media is in high demand and anyone with decent skills is getting paid highly to consult in the private sector. The best people in the industry know that no one has even pulled off a comprehensive social media program that spans multiple online communities with participants across the entire organization. If it hasn't even been done once fully anywhere, so how are there supposed to be training programs? We're at best a year away from a *credible* education program, and likely 2 to 3 years away from one that is accessible to the general public.
This is just hard for the general public to wrap their minds around. They just hear news tidbits about successes companies have had with social media and think that means the industry is mature now. This story is more about a lack of public knowledge of how the modern media landscape works than whether or not the County is making the right choice.
Mostly, it's fascinating to watch the County government outpace the local population in social media savvy.
And, let's not forget about the importance of the position here. Social media is the medium that got Obama elected. It's the media that dethroned the record label kings. It's the force that is pushing newspapers and magazines around the country online or out of business. Social media and PR are seeing increased spending around the world while marketing and advertising budgets are slashed. The media landscape has shifted. And media is more powerful than ever. Our government *needs* to leverage media to stay in touch with its constituents and to keep the people informed if it wants to remain relevant. That's what 21st Century democracy is. Massive participation made possible by highly accessible and scalable social media. I applaud our government for acknowledging the reality of what's going on and not burying their head in the sand like the record labels and publications have done.
Honestly, I bet they wish they could pay even more. They'll need a talented person at the helm of that job. As Carri and Betsy have put it, this is for a senior communication strategist with strong social media experience, a combo that is extremely rare to find. In Portland's private sector, they'd get paid up to twice that salary. If you're "get Obama elected" good, don't even think about paying less than $250K and be ready for more. So, hopefully they find someone who has a passion to make a difference in their local government.