Hey, I don’t want to shock you here…but this social media fad might be sticking around.
I mean, seriously. I don’t think it’s going away guys.
Here’s the facts: after years of entrusting the corporate FB page to the youngest intern, smart companies have finally woken up. These days, more people follow brands online than follow celebrities. Now that’s clout. And brands that do the social thing well aren’t just accumlating fake internet points…they’re seeing massive, unprecedented success IRL (just ask Slim Jim’s).
So, what’s the upshot? Social Media pros are suddenly the hotshots of the creative world. That comes with some obvious benefits (big paychecks, for one)…but also some serious competition. All of a sudden, it’s not enough just to be the only millennial in the office, or the only employee who can google “social media plan”.
These days, the prospective social wizard needs their head glued on a little straighter. And it helps if they’ve mastered a few key skills.
1. Separating Strategy From Tactics
“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”
— Sun Tzu
What’s the difference?
A strategy is an overview: the things you’d like to achieve, the goals you’d like to reach. Tactics are concrete actions and steps—the things you’ll do to make that strategy come to pass.
Look at the example of a typical brand’s social presence:
The strategy might entail improving reach through improved outreach and content, with the specific aim of increasing IG followers by 50% over the next year. An admirable goal…but it’s not a plan, yet. The team needs tactics to help them make it a reality. Think clear, actionable steps: like crafting a specific number of posts per week, or engaging with influencers possessing a certain number of followers themselves.
A good social professional values both strategy and tactics…and has a handle on how the two complement one another. Always remember: it’s not enough to have one without the other. It’s not enough to say you’ll climb Everest—you need equipment, maps, a guide…but the goal itself is important too. You don’t plan a trip without knowing where you’re headed.
2. Building a Community
“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
At a basic level, this is what social media has promised: bringing the social life of human society online.
Of course, in practice, things get more complicated. Trolls and bots and the like…it’s not uncommon for someone to wonder if this whole thing is actually setting us backward.
The social media manager can’t give into that sort of pessimism. For them, the premise of social media should always be rooted in connecting like-minded people.
If you looking online, you’ll find there’s no shortage of companies and organizations doing that extremely well. And behind the scenes, it’s all the work of social professionals—using inside-jokes and genuine rewards, heartfelt DMs and influencer take-overs, to cultivate a unique experience for their audience.
It’s hard to overstate just how important this is. Nurturing genuine connections between your fans and your brand is the difference between a drunk karaoke singer lambasting the audience with noise, and a participatory crowd doing the wave at a stadium concert. Make your audience a part of your show…the results will be magnificent.
3. Doing The Memes
“Generally, the view that I’ve had on Twitter is if you’re on Twitter, you’re in, like, the meme – you’re in meme war land.”
— Elon Musk
OK, let’s take a look at it.
What I really want to talk about here goes beyond the memes themselves—it’s about meeting your audience where they are. And it’s a delicate goddamn tightrope. Most companies will want to steer clear of stale corporate jargon, for fear of boring their audience into a coma. But a similar danger lies down the other path: the dreaded land of “Fellow Kids”
Which is worse: to be perceived as inhumanly corporate, or accused of false posturing (a suit in sheep’s clothing, if you will)?
It’s tough to say. But an adept social pro should be able to dance along that fine line. They should feel comfortable even playing with it—acknowledging their own capitalistic intentions without losing their integrity. Again, we can look to Slim Jim’s for some guidance:
How can a meat stick company lay claim to one of the most devoted fan-bases of any company on the internet? By playing by (and with) the internet’s own rules.
Or to put it simply: you either own the meme, or become the meme. Choice is yours.
4. Agility and Flexibility
“Success today requires the agility and drive to constantly rethink, reinvigorate, react, and reinvent.”
— Bill Gates
Life moves fast in 2020. Life on a social site (if there even is a distinction) moves even faster.
Look at how quickly jokes come in and out of style. How quickly the social mores change. That stuff alone calls for the social media professional to have more than their fair share of flexibility. To keep up with what’s happening online, you best be ready to call some audibles on the fly.
But the need for adaptability goes beyond the content you’re putting out—it’s also about adjusting your ways of working. Your traditions and techniques. You might craft a carefully considered social calendar and find great success for a year…only to see the Facebook algorithm change, and have to reconsider everything you thought you knew about attracting an audience. It’s all part and parcel of the social game.
Those who are comfortable with change find life in social media suits them well. Those who don’t…?
Not so much.
5. Monitoring and Optimization
“You can have data without information, but you cannot have information without data”
— Daniel Keys Moran
Well, we all knew this would come up eventually.
If you’ve ever breathed in 2020, chances are you’ve heard about the importance of data. You know, Big Data.
Data, of course, is the answer to every business question you’ve ever had (and a few you’ve never thought of). In numbers, we find Truth and Wisdom, and a firm sense of just what exactly we should be doing at all times…
OK, not exactly. But it’s true that having a firm grasp on the power of analytics can help any social manager or strategist improve their outcomes. Just as important, though, is knowing the limitations of those numbers…and knowing when to use them. As with anything else, balance is key. And it’s worth remembering: whatever you measure tends to be what you aim for.
(That’s also known as Campbell’s Law: “The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.”)
Good social managers are careful with their data—and good at soliciting the advice of those with even more data-analytics expertise. Used properly, it can be the secret weapon you use to create incredibly strong online communities.
6. Organization (I Know, I Know…)
“For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.”
— Benjamin Franklin
Look, “organizational skills” have been touted in every job listing and every resume you’ve ever seen. I get it. People say it a lot.
That being said, if there were ever a job that benefits from a genuine commitment to organization, it has to be the role of a social expert.
The job is so flexible, so prone to constant change…a lack of organization can only spell a slow death.
Why? Because a social manager or social strategist can’t work purely alone. You’ll need to collaborate with creators, marketers, writers…the list goes on. The secret sauce of keeping it all together is a commitment to transparent communication and a detail-oriented attitude when it comes to keeping everyone on the same page.
For example, what happens when you decide that the entire posting schedule for Insta should change? If posts have been pre-scheduled (and please, tell me you’re prescheduling posts) you’ll now need someone to go into your platform of choice and edit the publishing times…or risk surprise double posts in the future.
That’s just one, relatively low-stakes, example. The world of social media is rife with moments of collaboration that can easily go haywire—if (and only if) the organization of the team is lax. For the pros who take organization seriously, the social world can be their oyster.