This is a fun article for me to write; I’m making fun of not only myself and what I’ve mainly been doing for the last half-decade, but also of the people that regularly work with social business folk. There are a lot of different titles that involve social media for a job, and none is more vague than “social media manager.” This could mean so many different things: community manager, social strategist, content marketing, social advertising, analytics and insights, creative services, media marketing, channel discovery, campaign development, and many, many more things.
The “social media manager” typically curates all of these things into one bucket, or at least wears a lot of different, rapidly changing, hats. The title in and of itself will most likely be dying off in the next few years in favor of new-media or content marketing managers and/or strategists, or something totally different. The people shall remain with their important experience and knowledge, but the titles will be in a state of flux.
“Social” media is just the norm now, and an essential part of marketing, so including it in titles moving forward into the future will just be kind of silly.
On top of all of that, there are plenty of misconceptions about what the SMM does, what they can do, or what they should do. I know this from personal experience over the years, and from seeing what colleagues in similar situations have run in to. It can be frustrating at times to have so many know so little about what you do, but sometimes it’s very healthy to just sit back and laugh about it. This is meant to be light-hearted and not negative whatsoever. But, everything in this list is true (from my real experiences). I love what I do, and it’s fine that others’ minds wander when I try to explain my job. I’ve come to realize, it’s part of the job.
So here’s my list of assumptions about social media managers…(Did I miss anything? Let me know!)
You just tweet and ‘Facebook’ all day
Technically, if we’re getting… technical, this is somewhat accurate sometimes. However, when it’s typically mentioned in our direction it’s more of a “You do what my 16-year-old daughter does all day” kind of way. It’s usually not flattering. Yes, we utilize these platforms as part of the overall social media and content strategy, but for me, most of my day is involved with developing content plans, forward-looking strategies, integrating with marketing and PR messaging, and how we can formulate effective tactics that relate back to the over-arching business goals. Meanwhile, your 16-year-old daughter is creeping on Bobby Teenager’s photos from that trip he just took with his buddies. Not the same.
And, everyone always has an opinion about social. It’s so public, and anyone can go create these free accounts, or see what their kids are doing on there. And when you spend 20 minutes understanding what your kid does that totally gives you credibility and expertise to suggest the social media team try something. Because, it’s a great assumption to assume if they aren’t doing something that it’s not strategic at all, and that they must not know about it and need your thoughts.
You know how to code
If you are a social media manager and you do know how to code, more power to you – that’s a very important and valuable skill to have. I do know how to sort-of code (I’m not fast, but I can typically hold my own behind the scenes), but it’s typically not a requirement or expectation of the social media manager. SMM’s nowadays are more-so marketing managers than anything else. Just like the email, direct mail, or display ad marketing managers, social is another arm of that. Simply because you’re well-versed in the art of these social and digital platforms and how to best utilize them to generate meaningful conversations with customers and loyalists that matter to the brand does not mean you know how to develop a new website from scratch. It’s not a wild assumption, but I’ve run into it many times and I’m always just like “Say whaaaa??”
You are also an IT professional
This one always makes me smile. I used to get annoyed but now I think it’s just funny. Yes, we use computers, tablets, and smart phones to execute our strategies, tactics, and content plans. Somewhere in there an assumption was created that because we’re commonly on the younger side of the workforce, use computers, and are arguably maybe more tech-savvy than most…that we can fix hard drives, bring back a crashed Outlook, or improve a wireless signal by going in the room with all of the cords for 30 minutes. Seriously, I’ve received this assumption maybe more than any others.
You’re 22 years old
There is absolutely nothing wrong with being 22 years old. There are plenty of very smart 22-year-olds working in the social media space. So, this is not a knock on them at all. However, it’s an assumption about me I’ve gotten many times before even getting to know me or work with me. And, when you do actually have almost 10 years of work experience it’s a little disgruntling to have someone assume you’re entry level because of what you do. It tells me they just know nothing about how this all works, the value of social media, and the deep strategy that’s behind it (for brands doing it well). Many companies do stick social media with their interns or entry-level people, which is a big reason for this assumption. But, as many companies and brands have found out, this is all actually pretty important. And more and more we’re seeing much more experienced people leading social, content, and the strategy behind it.
You know nothing about business or marketing
This goes back to the “You just Facebook all day” assumption. It’s frustrating. It’s belittling. I’ve said this many times, but if your social media lead doesn’t have marketing or branding experience, and doesn’t understand how marketing works, than they’re just adding to the noise in the social space. Hire someone with true business and marketing experience to drive social. You’ll get so much more value out of the product being put out, the explanation and strategy behind it, and insights for optimization and ideas moving forward, as well as much more integration with the greater marketing team.
You are obsessed with using social media for personal use
Many social media managers probably are, and that’s great. I’m just referring to the assumption I’ve had thrown my way that I must just stare at social networks of my own, all the time, because I must be obsessed. A lot of social managers probably are obsessed. But me, I’m not. I’m always got my eye on trends and what’s happening and changing, but I’m not taking time away from my weekends and family to stare at that screen all the time. As you’ll see, I hardly tweet on the weekends. Yes, it’s a “24-7” type of job, but it’s still a job.
Your job is super easy because it’s not measured by any real goals
Oh boy. I would argue that because of the questions that surround what success looks like from social media and content, that the social media manager actually can get more pressure to establish meaningful KPIs, metrics, and ROI evaluations…and then prove them. I’ve been there. This can mean a lot of different things. For me, it centers around the conversation, perception, loyalty, and relationships with users. For others it might be different, but it has to have goals established.
Anyone can do your job because everyone already uses social media
I think I’ve made my argument against this above, but yeah, STOP IT. In all seriousness, developing a strategy to provide the most value for your brand audience, executing content that delivers that value, and keeping a consistent flow of engagement with users is not easy. There’s tons of trial and error, tests, optimization, analysis and measurement, and studying to be done. Also, when dealing with crazy customers or trolls – it takes a specific skill set to lock down the brand voice and also get them what they need (or get them to beat it) in a positive way. It’s the front lines of audience relations. And, one of the first touch points of the overall customer journey and sales funnel with brands and a very important part of the marketing arm. It should be treated as such.
You work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
I always enjoy the feedback from folks in a company that have zero involvement or expertise whatsoever in social media for a business, that give recommendations like, “maybe we should be posting all the time, all week.” This recommendation while well-intended assumes the social media team has no life outside of work, and is just available at the ready, always. Working in social does bring with it an expectation that there will be some crazy hours, evening, and weekends, but to think we just sit around waiting for that photo on Saturday while spending time with our family is nuts. I’ve learned that most people that suggest things like that, from my experience, typically get to enjoy their weekends, work free.