I have amazing friends. I just have to say this because I’ve recently been going through chemo and I cannot believe how my friends have stepped up. I am a very proud individual and rarely ask for help, but I’ve come to a point where I have to with what has been going on. At first I wanted to be more private about my journey but finally decided that my friends cannot be there for me unless they know what I am going through. So, now I provide regular updates via social media. I am a social media manager after all!
What’s incredible to me, though, is how my friends anticipate what I need before I even know I need it, and answer the phone no matter what time of night it is. They also are super real with me, instead of trying to pretend like we are living in Disney World as I go through this. I love that. I can have real conversations with them about the fear, instability and other various emotions I’ve experienced on this rollercoaster. I don’t need to pretend like I’m a picture perfect woman all of the time with them, and they don’t have to pretend back. They encourage me to keep going, no matter how sh*tty I feel, and call me until I absolutely have to answer my phone.
As I was reflecting on this today, during the most painful week so far of this experience, I could not help but think about the qualities that I’ve seen in my friends also are qualities that make social media pros successful. After all, we have to be friends to everyone in the company since we touch so many parts of the organization, AND we need to be friends to our online communities if they want to, well, be a part of the community.
Here are five specific things I thought about that aligned with being a stellar friend and incredible at social media:
I can see my pro-research and metrics colleagues out there rolling their eyes now. Might I remind you, though, that I actually studied public relations research and statistics AND my first job was in communications research. I am 100 percent behind research being a driving force behind effective social media. However, I have also seen the brightest research and analytics minds make some of the biggest mistakes on social media because they didn’t listen to what their gut was telling them. As much as any of us hate to admit it, a large part of social media is making a judgement call of whether or not to engage in certain conversations. The wrong judgement call could end up with a conversation blowing up in our face and a screenshot of our tweet on the front page of Mashable.
Social media professionals need to be able to trust their gut (and themselves) to make judgment calls (in sometimes seconds) on social media. Yes, metrics can help guide the call we make, but intuition often is the final decision maker.
Most of us are probably communication pros, so this seems like common sense. Notice the word HONEST. Public relations can sometimes turn into massaging facts in order to a protect a company’s reputation. While social media is some of that as well, consumers are way more likely to see beyond on the bull sh*t on social. It’s critical to always be as honest as possible, or you could end up with a social media crisis on your hands in minutes. You will be surprised at how receptive and forgiving fans are to honest communication versus trying to create the most perfect statement to go out on social. You can read more about a brand handled honest communication during a crisis perfectly here: How To Manage A Social Media Crisis In 7 Steps.
CONFIDENCE, not ego and not insecurity. Ego will leave a social media manager not thinking through their responses and decisions enough, while insecurity will leave a social media manager too scared to respond when they need to. Granted, confidence comes with time. I was scared to death to post my first comment as a brand on social media. Finally the VP pulled me into his office and said that he didn’t care what I posted, just take care of it. He trusted me. Once I saw that fans were responding to what I was writing, my confidence started to grow.
Confidence is also important to stand up for decisions that you will have to make A LOT as a social media pro. Our work is out there for everyone to see, and people will regularly have comments about what they would have done differently. Take constructive criticism, but also do not be afraid to stand up for why you made the decision. I’ve had many conversations go my way after I spent a few moments describing my thought process behind the decision.
I have had people on my team ask me before it was normal that they felt so much responsibility to the community management aspect of social media. Umm…YES! In fact, this is required in order to make someone a true social media pro. You have to feel invested in the brand and a responsibility to not letting one piece of bad content be published, and not letting one comment go missed. This loyalty to the brand and to the team is necessary because social media is 24/7. If someone does not possess this loyalty, they will turn off their phone once it’s 5PM. Unfortunately, that makes them a 50 percent social media pro.
I’m sorry, but if you are ONLY an expert in social media, you are already not an expert in social media. Social media touches so many different things >> customer service, writing, graphic design, public relations, data, analytics, metrics, leadership, communication, ongoing social media education. Social media actually was not a career when I was in college (I know, I’m old). I studied public relations, with a focus on research and statistics. When I left my research position in NYC to go back to Miami, all I could find were trendy social media roles. I lied (not recommended) about my awesome social media skills when I had my first interview. They gave me the job under the condition that I would be fired in a month if I didn’t meet their goals. If I did meet their goals, I would get a $10K raise and get to stay. I research the heck out of social media and found that my background in public relations, research and statistics paired well with what was needed to execute on a good social media plan. I met their goals within three weeks 🙂
Also, going back to my age, when I started out in social media there was no such thing as a ‘social media team.’ There was usually one social media person who was responsible for EVERYTHING. This meant planning the strategy, designing the graphics, writing the copy, etc. I know that some people are still filling all of these roles. The good thing about that is that I learned how to do graphic design, copywriting, community management. I learned how to create and analyze my own metrics reports. While now social media is more highly valued and teams are filling out, it’s still important that every member of the team can deliver on these skills. Social media moves fast, and you never know when you will need to create a graphic in under ten minutes or write a statement because the PR person is on leave. Learn these skills, and you will become a pro.
On that note, I see all of these things in my good friends that have stepped up over the past few months. If anything, it’s shown me where I need to be a better friend myself. I even am noticing some things on this crafty list I made that I could brush up on, like my graphic design skills. Social media pros do not play on Facebook and Twitter all day, but actually, have a highly stressful 24/7 responsibility to their company to be customer service experts and reputation management experts and content creation experts all within one day. Make sure you can deliver on all of those skillsets before you call yourself a social media pro.
What else do you think it takes to be a social media pro? Leave your answers in the comments below!
– Marji J. Sherman