I am surprised by the amount of ageism going on when it comes to hiring a Social Media Manager. Between Cathryn Sloan’s, Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25, and Hollis Thomas’ 11 Reasons a 23-Year-Old Shouldn’t Run Your Social Media, I am left asking myself, “What does age have to do with it?” Since when did age become solely indicative of professional skills? Sure, some companies want and require 5 + years of professional experience, but for those that cannot afford a more senior social media manager, you would be wrong to dismiss all recent graduates, just as you would be wrong to dismiss someone who is 50+ years old. As a twenty-three year old social media manager I suggest we stop talking about how old a social media associate should or should not be, and start exploring, defining, and re-defining traits of successful social media managers so we can identify and hire individuals who will get the job done right.
The Five Habits of Highly Effective Social Media Managers
Habit 1: Be knowledgeable of social media platforms.
Cathryn Sloan suggests that us twenty-somethings should run social media programs because we have lived through the Facebook and Twitter era. While it is true that most of us young adults know Facebook like the back of our hands, I would venture to say that older people were quicker to adopt Twitter. In fact, just this week I explained to both my 23-year old roommate and my 24-year old boyfriend what Twitter was. I myself did not get active on Twitter until this year because it is hard to get into a social network that none of my peers are using.
Fighting over which age group runs which platform is missing the point. All that matters as a social media manager is that you have a thorough understanding of the online communities where your audience is hanging out. If you do not already have a strong social media presence then at least have the ability to learn the platforms quickly.
This is the age of the Internet, people. Just because a candidate does not have their own YouTube channel or Quora account does not mean they cannot pick up on it quickly. Look for knowledge of the basics, enthusiasm, and resourcefulness. The right individual should be proactive enough to research and understand the dos and don’ts of each respective social media platform.
Habit 2: Be Curious
There are an insane amount of communities, white papers, bloggers, and other resources for social media marketers. Go find them! A successful social media manager should find genuine joy in reading publications like Mashable, TechCrunch, ReadWriteWeb, and SocialMediaToday. Be eager to hear about awesome campaigns other companies are doing dig around for up-and-coming social media platforms and tools. Social media is evolving and you must possess the curiosity to stay ahead of the curve or risk getting left behind.
Habit 3: Be Efficient
Social media can be distracting. However, when on company time, it is important to stay focused on furthering business goals instead of your own social media agenda. So let’s say you are already good about not updating your personal Tumblr on the job or pinning your favorite cupcakes to Pinterest, how can you possibly engage with everyone?
Sometimes it is not possible to respond to every single comment regarding your brand. However, there are many social tools out there like HootSuite, TweetDeck, FollowerWonk, Buffer,Google Alerts, and IFTTT which can help you work smarter. With the right tools you will be well equipped as a social listener, curator of content, community advocate, and brand evangelist. For more information regarding social media tools, check out this article by John Paul, 12 Best Social Media Tools You Should Be Using. And don’t stop there; there are new tools developing each day, from paid premium products to awesome free hacks made my tech savvy social media marketers.
Habit 4: Be Empathetic
Social media is a two-way street. It is no longer about advertising at people but listening, engaging, and building relationships with your community. An effective social media manager should be tuned in to customer experiences and should be the biggest advocate for what users are saying about the brand.
Take this example of a Twitter engagement I had with a user:
While I must confess that I do not always respond to every single negative brand mention, I do make it a point to engage whenever some progress or learnings are within reach. In this case, the user is complaining about our free edition sign up, a form vital to our marketing goals. This man seems angry, but maybe something good can come of this. Although the tone is hostile, this tweet tells me that the individual was interested enough in our product to try to sign up. I perceive frustration but I also see that this man was on the verge of completing an important marketing milestone.
I took it upon myself to email the man behind the tweet and asked for feedback regarding our form. Take a look at the actual email I sent below:
By managing my emotions effectively I was able to respond with empathy rather than hostility. The result was very long, detailed feedback with actionable tips for improving our sign-up flow (free market research from a real-life user) and a consolation tweet:
A social media manager is both a marketer and a customer service representative. You must possess the social skills to grow, expand, and connect with your online community.
Habit 5: Be Sensitive to Business Goals
Even if you have mastered Social Media 101, that does not mean you have the technical and quantitative skills required to track social media ROI. Company executives don’t care about your followers or the number of views on SlideShare. They care about how social media is performing as part of the overall marketing strategy. An effective social media manager knows how to track everything from clicks, to leads, to revenue.
When hiring, don’t just look for a “creative type,” look for an individual that is an analytical, data-driven marketer. He or she should be well-versed in Google Analytics, Excel, or other tracking and measurement tools. Knowing how to tweet just doesn’t cut it; one must be able to share and articulate the overall business story.
While I agree that companies should not place their brand in the hands of just anyone, I don’t like these blanket statements regarding social media management and age. I am fortunate to work at an organization that does not make social media an afterthought and I am lucky that they are willing to trust me to manage our voice. I urge you all to look at skill set, because when it comes to hiring a social media manager, age ain’t nothing but a number.