What Makes an Exceptional Social Media Manager?

March 3, 2011 •

As more and more companies entrust us with their content marketing and social media efforts, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the types of people we’re going to need to hire in the near and long-term future. While certain positions are up for debate, there is no escaping the fact that we’re going to need more folks who can manage the social media aspects of a content marketing engagement. (If you’re wondering why I include social media as a piece of content marketing, read this before continuing.)

I’ve seen enough well-managed and poorly-managed social media efforts (and blog posts about them) to be able to narrow this down into the must-haves, nice-to-haves, and bonus points that I find particularly valuable.

The Must Haves

  • You are a marketer first, social media marketer second.

Social media marketing is just another marketing tactic in a pool of lots of marketing tactics. If you don’t understand how social media works with content marketing, SEO or email marketing, you’re simply not as qualified as the next candidate who does.

  • You are a very good writer.

Some argue that writing has become less important in a world of scanners, skimmers and tweeters. On the contrary, writing is more important than ever.

  • You understand that content drives social media marketing.

Social media conversations can be very fruitful, but conversations plus engaging content is the formula that takes your social media efforts to the next level.

  • You embrace the “social” aspect of social media marketing.

You have to like reaching out to people and engaging in conversations, albeit conversations that are a bit different than the ones you might have in your living room. I don’t care if you know how to use every Twitter application in the universe; if you don’t start with a passion for learning about people, you’ll eventually grow tired of this position.

  • You know or want to learn the ins and outs of social media properties.

You have to possess a natural curiosity and penchant for exploring the nooks and crannies that others simply don’t pay attention to, because with social media, you never know where your audience is lurking.

The Nice-to-Haves

  • You move quickly but with a defined purpose.

Social media is a fast-moving game, but fast cannot turn into sloppy.

  • You are a real self-starter.

I hear the phrase “self-starter” at least once a day, and I only know a handful of true self-starters. If you are one of the real ones, you may have a place in social media marketing. In any industry or category that is still being defined, self-starters can secure an immediate advantage.

  • You are not a diva (or the male equivalent).

Social media marketing is a team sport. Everyone has an ego, but if you want to play this role you’d better find a way to suppress it.

  • You think strategically.

If you are able to articulate how social media fits into a broader marketing strategy and how it contributes to even broader corporate goals, you are golden.

Bonus Points

  • You never call yourself a social media maven or guru.

Most social media mavens or gurus could never actually manage a social media campaign; they just play the super hero role in meetings.

  • You come with a social media audience.

If you’re joining an organization and already have a social media following, you have a head start. That alone should not get you the job though.

For those of you who consider yourselves exceptional social media managers, what is missing from this list? For those of you who have hired social media managers, what separates the good candidates from the poor ones?

About the Author

As managing partner and chief strategy officer for Right Source, Mike Sweeney is responsible for all content marketing initiatives, including growing the company’s content marketing practice, guiding all client content marketing strategy, and recruiting and growing a team of modern marketers. Mike received a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a major in marketing from the University of Notre Dame. You can find Mike on Twitter and Google+, connect with him on LinkedIn, or read his other posts.

  • “You are a marketer first, social media marketer second.”

    I would like to add to this. I would drill down even further and say you are an Internet marketer first. Internet marketing and traditional marketing can be entirely different beasts. Traditional marketing from an organizational level is much more high-level. Including things like brand image, brand messaging, print & media advertising. So your social media person should be versed on the traditional side of the house, but should be an expert in SEO, email, affiliate and online advertising as well as how those tie into social media and how to use those tools to build a targeted following.

    That to me is the single most important aspect and one of the largely missing aspect from many self proclaimed social media guru’s. Sure they may be great social butterflies: tons of their own Twitter followers, tons of Facebook likes, and Tweet faster than Charlie Scheen can say “winning” after a crack binge. However, if they can’t build a targeted following online for their clients without spamming their friends (we all have those don’t we?) or translate their efforts into real sales for the organization, then they are completely useless.

  • Mike Sweeney

    Andrew – Actually, based on your comment maybe I would revise my statement to:

    “You are a marketer first, and internet marketer second, and a social media marketer third.”

    I want a broad base, but with skills in specific areas.

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