Has the social media manager evolved to the information caretaker?

Back in the old days when “integrated marketing” execution was decidedly weighted with more print, outdoor, TV, and direct than web portals or online advertisements, the full service agency I worked for had its own information group bundled under the IT department. It was the mid-90’s, and we still had budgets for employee training, annual raises, and early-out Fridays.

The information group consisted of two staff librarians and one support person. In retrospect, their roles may have seen a little extravagant (very “agency” like–you’ve read the rants about inflated professional rates) to some.  But my firsthand experience with the knowledgeable Jo Pearson all those years ago leads me to know otherwise. The work the librarian did was as much a tactical necessity as it was fundamental
knowledge development. And I think today’s social media managers and content planners/developers need to take lessons from yesterday’s staff librarians.

information caretaker social media manager

image courtesy IGN

Library science is an interdisciplinary field that applies the practices, perspectives, and tools of management, information technology and education. It focuses on the collection, organization, preservation, and dissemination of information resources, and the political economy of information. May also include how information resources are organized to serve the needs of select user groups.—Wikipedia

Jo saved my keister more than once when our big mobile phone client wanted detailed information about a market (she often worked in tandem with the staff media planners who helped create segments and profiles of customers). She also made sure we regularly fed our minds so that we could add insight to deliver greater value to our clients.

Sometimes that meant sending over an enlightening article from an obscure publication (the old-school version of the Share This button). Other times it meant culling data from several subscription-only databases to validate a proposed idea and “sell it in.” As an eager young account manager, it also meant getting smarter about business concepts and sharpening my competitive edge by checking out book after book at Jo’s recommendation.

The information caretaker

As the role of social media manager evolves, I think information – the acquisition, cataloging, funneling, and sharing of it – will play a more central role in the job, maybe looking something like this:

social media librarian

I imagine some social media managers, like community managers, are already doing some of the things outlined in the right hand column. But I suspect results would be stronger if methods were codified and people from cross-functional teams helped identify challenges, issues, and needs that often exist in pockets within an organization.

What do you think about this idea of an “information backbone” to the social media manager role? Does it exist already? Am I making it more complicated than it needs to be? Holla.

2 Comments for: Has the social media manager evolved to the information caretaker?

Jo Pearson

Actually, awesome ideas Heather. (Even without the cool part about me.) I’m struck by your understanding of the agency librarian’s job in those days — and your description makes me miss it some; working in an environment without particular budgetary constraints was way fun for an information professional! I love the comparisons with today’s social media manager. In fact, librarians today, at least in the public sector (where I am now) are doing a lot of that, so you are right on.


Heather Rast
Twitter: heatherrast

Hey there, Jo! It’s so awesome that you read and commented on the post (bet you have an alert set up for your name, eh?). I’m sure I skimmed over some very important details of your job but hopefully I illustrated how important your function was to a communications service company.

Someone on Twitter commented they preferred ‘curator’ to ‘caretaker’ but I think that trims away a good portion of where I see information management intersecting with social media. Curation is certainly a component of the job, but caretaking seems to cover the broader theme of sourcing, filtering, cataloging, storing/filing (tagging), distribution, and research.

So thrilled you stopped by. You made a mark on me and I’m certain many others at CMF&Z, and I thank you!


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