Amybeth Hale – Research Goddess

The “Chief Networking Officer” Function Is Real
January 27, 2009, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Networking/Social Media, Public Relations, Recruiting, Technology, Thoughts

Back in March of 2007, I wrote a post discussing the emergence of a new job function within companies – the Chief Networking Officer. I predicted that in the next 2-5 years there would be a drastically increased need to find individuals who specialize in the development and management of the social capital of a company. While the precise duties of such a position differ a little from where I believed they’d be, I don’t think there is any argument that since March of ’07 (nearly 2 years ago), there has been a humongous increase in the need for companies to hire someone to keep an eye on their digital presence. I think this is the first time I’ve engaged in business trend predictions and actually been right! Woo hoo…

While “Chief Networking Officer” isn’t typically the title of choice for what this function does, the basic concept of the function is seen in titles such as:

Some people believed that this function should belong to HR or Marketing. Some people who left comments on the original post even believed that some form of a CNO was a silly idea. But many companies are now creating separate divisions specifically designed to monitor their online presence and engage in their clients and customers digitally (i.e. – managing relationships).

My belief is that people in these positions are combining the roles of recruiting, marketing, PR, web development, and business development.

  • Recruiting: your online presence is a beacon to community members, customers, and visitors and representative of your company culture. These days, a company’s online presence is the first place a person learns about the company. Recruiting has traditionally been on the frontline for corporate representation, and many employees’ first contact with a company was from a recruiter. The person in charge of your online presence needs to know how to leverage that to draw the attention of people that would fit well into your organization.
  • Marketing: anyone who took Marketing 101 in college knows the Four P’s of marketing: product, price, place (distribution), and promotion. The person in charge of your company’s online presence needs to know how to execute each of these in order to provide a positive online user experience, which leads to…
  • PR: many people say that if you don’t manage your online presence, someone else will do it for you and probably not so nicely. Companies that don’t engage in good PR digitally are taking the risk that someone else is going to do it. It’s important for the person in charge of your digital strategy to understand how to manage the flow of information between your organization and its public.
  • Web Development: let’s face it, if you have an antiquated website, it’s a big detriment to your company’s image as a forward thinking organization. Your digital strategist needs to know at least the very basics on how to optimize your websites with SEO strategy and up-to-date design so that visitors enjoy their time using your applications, visiting your communities, and browsing your sites.
  • Business Development: driving new business is important when you’re talking about online strategy. Continually bringing new traffic to a site and showing potential customers what you’re capable of are important functions of a digital strategist’s role. Without new business, there’s really no purpose of having an online presence. (translation: if no one is visiting, why bother?)

Having read through these bullets, do you know people who possess these skills? I will tell you now – the folks out there who get this, and who execute these skills for their companies successfully, are few and far between. If this is you – you are a highly valuable asset to your company. Keep up the good work!

In closing I’d like to pose a question: from this point, where do you think a job function like this will be in the next 5-10 years? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts on the matter!


5 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I agree with your prediction. I see a big role to manage the social capital of companies. I would love to know your thoughts on how to manage it. (If you post it, please do send me a notification at chaitanya dot sagar at


Comment by Chaitanya Sagar

Amybeth as usual I think you make some terrific points. Companies that ‘get it’ (like Southwest Airlines) have already created teams with catchy names like ’emerging media’ to address this exact issue.

The really exciting part for me is when I stumble on a small team that naturally made this progression because it made sense and they saw where the business was going long before they were told it was the right thing to do.

It’s those companies that I think will really leverage their presence in the ‘social’ market as more and more followers buy in after ground is broken and long term success is found.

If you’re familiar at all with the Hype Cycle you know that Twitter, as well as various other social media apps, are beginning to really push through that Slope of Enlightenment and into true productivity (plateau) as they are mastered.

Exciting times for the recruiting industry, in my opinion. With major labor shortages around the corner and a generation that is almost plugged in to a point of ridiculousness ready to make their mark, I feel it’s crazy for any company that is serious about it’s growth and natural evolution to “wait it out” much longer.

Great post, thanks!


Comment by RecruiterGuy

Amybeth, I think that you’re right that most larger consumer-focused companies and brands will have a “community Manager” or “Social Media Manager” in 5-10 years just a few leading edge companies already do. If it isn’t a full-time position it has to be at least a defined task for one or a couple of people in the marketing and/or customer service department.

In 5-10 years the shear volume of tweets, posts or IMs from customers and other stakeholders will be so great that it will be impossible to ignore. As we continue to do more with our cell phones and other portable devices companies will need to communicate with us consumers in the format we choose, in the past that has been phone, mail and email and in the future that will include blogs, Twitter, Facebook and whatever else comes down the pike.

Comment by Rob Bunting

[…] I wrote a post last year discussing the different hats that we recruiting professionals wear in our daily duties, not the least of which is Marketing. We are front-line representatives of our respective companies. Don’t you feel it’s important to know a thing or two about generating interest in a product (employment with our company)? […]

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[…] have mentioned the PR job description in a couple of blog postings, discussing the similarities between its and recruiting’s job duties. English, […]

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