Social media pros are no strangers to controversy. Every week seems to bring new discussions and (sometimes heated) debate among those who use social networks to promote brands, businesses and organizations.
The Hornet’s Nest du Jour is buzzing around a blog post by a recent university grad and aspiring writer, Cathryn Sloan, and her belief that all social media managers should be under the age of 25. After all, only the kids know how to handle these newfangled tools, right?
Predictably, the responses divided into three main camps:
So true! Digital natives make the best social media managers. Those under age 25 don’t know a world without digital technology, so it’s not much of a leap to assume they’d use social media platforms more naturally and intuitively than folks who still remember looking up information (alphabetically, mind you) in the Yellow Pages.
So NOT true! Social media managers need experience, missy! This viewpoint was delivered with both biting snark AND wary patience, depending on the author, but the gist was this: Even if you can Tweet up a storm, you might not be ready to be a communications professional. Knowing how to make a phone call isn’t the same thing as knowing how to carry on a conversation.
Hey, hey…. She’s just a kid! Remember when you thought you knew everything? Can’t we all just get along? Of course we can —once the controversy dies down. These benevolent folks credited Sloan with the classic twenty-something combo of both gumption and naïveté… and requested a little grace in response.
Everybody has a point here – even the third crowd. It’s not as though Sloan advocated putting social media managers over the age of 25 on an ice floe to drift away until spring. But in my opinion, she put too much emphasis on tools, rather than key skills and experiences.
Social media isn’t just “one more communication channel.” It requires some tech savvy, plus a bit of patience to understand how platforms differ, overlap and connect –and the ability to find folks on social media who are having the conversations that matter to you.
Not to mention that social media marketing requires skills in just that: marketing. And business. And service.
You might know how to put up a post all your friends “like” on Facebook, but creating compelling content for potential and existing customers is a decidedly different proposition.
So, without further ado, here’s my wish list of traits for the ideal social media manager:
Balanced experience: Knowing the technology is a start, but knowing the technology AND the industry AND the basics of marketing is what makes your contribution invaluable. And knowing something about how business actually works, well, that’s definitely a plus.
Agility: Whether you’re older or younger, your capacity to keep up with change and evolution is incredibly valuable in the social media space.
People person: At its core, social media is people connecting with other people. If being truly social isn’t something you enjoy, then being social on behalf of a business won’t be either.
Common sense: Every marketer needs it, but not every marketer has it. Common sense is essential to dealing properly with concerns, challenges and hiccups in your social media program.
A love of data: Big data, little data, long-term data, project-based data –you name it, a social media manager should embrace it. Carefully gathered and analyzed data gives you a solid sense of what’s working and what isn’t, and it provides insight into where your challenges and opportunities lie.
There’s no age requirement in my list for a reason: It doesn’t matter how old you are. It only matters how well you do the job.
What attributes do you think a social media manager should have?