The Fourth Skill

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Back in 1997, a colleague of mine at the firm I worked for at the time wrote a report called The Third Skill. The premise of the report was that, while there were people in firms with marketing skills, and other people with IT skills, what firms needed in order to capitalize on the emerging New Media opportunities were people with a third skill: The ability to combine marketing and IT.

Roll to clock forward to 2010, and while the term new media might not be commonly used, interactive or online marketing skills — while not quite a science — are commonly found in many organizations.

What we now need is a fourth skill. The ability to combine marketing, IT, new media, and……and what? I’m struggling to find the right word to capture the needed skill set. I’m tempted to just plug in the word “social.” But that’s too broad a term.

What firms need now are people who can combine an understanding of marketing, technology, the online channel and things like customer service and community building. I’m struggling to come up with a label because customer service and community building are separate skills in and of themselves.

The new skill boils down to knowing how to talk to people and how to get people to talk with each other.

If you think marketers have this skill today, you’re wrong. Marketers  (if they’re good) know how to craft marketing messages. That’s not a conversation.

Customer service people (if they’re good) know how to talk to people, but that doesn’t mean they’re good at building community, at marketing, or at understanding technology.

There’s a fourth skill that’s needed in firms today, and while some (if not many) firms are experimenting with — or even committing whole hog to — social media, the fact that they’re using social media doesn’t mean they have the skills internally to capitalize on the promise of social media.

What I’m hoping to do with this post is shift the discussion. Personally, I’m really tired of hearing all the preaching that firms need to adopt social media, create social CRM strategies, or whatever. I’m also seen enough links to stories that tell me that YadaYada Corporation launched a Facebook page or is on Twitter.

I want to know how firms are driving bottom line results. I want to know how they’re changing their organizational structures, position descriptions and staffing levels. I want to know how firms are creating the fourth skill.

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