Debunking the Myth that “Anyone” can manage social media
Let’s talk about social media.
More poignantly, let’s talk about deconstructing the antiquated perception that social media management in a professional capacity is “something the receptionist can do” (or the lazy, sexist trope of “the owner’s niece”).
As with most things these days, I was inspired to have this conversation because of a TikTok rabbit hole. My FYP is filled to the brim with all sides of TikTok (iykyk), but the VA side of TikTok has been dominating the feed.
The “you don’t have to have any experience at all to make money as a social media manager” side of TikTok.
I agree with this…to a point. But I also vehemently disagree with it for the rest of the points.
Yes. It’s true. Anyone can post on social media. Have you seen your uncle’s posts lately?!
No. It’s not true. Everyone cannot post on social media effectively. Even people with personal brand careers on social media. (Yes. I said it.)
How to be an effective social media manager for a company or brand requires knowledge of so many overlooked components that someone with “no experience” will fail to grasp.
It’s not inflammatory to claim that social media is the mouthpiece of the brand. It is.
Social media establishes itself, and is most interpreted as, the “person” of the brand through the content that a social media manager publishes to the platform(s) of choice. It feels less cold and sterile for someone to slide into the DMs than it does to fill out a contact form or respond to a newsletter. Tell me I’m wrong. I’ll wait.
Having built and managed integrated marketing efforts in both capacities (personal brand + brand-brands) for nearly fifteen years, I can tell you, for certain, without a wink, blink or hesitation, that customers are the most boldly responsive, outspoken and empowered on social media.
Here’s an unlikely example:
In an ecosystem I managed at a CPE provider for CPAs (that’s continued professional education for accountants…target demo….accountants), our MarCom distribution channels were primarily email and traditional snail mail (90%) with the introduction of a social media experience (10%).
Guess which channel garnered the highest response rate? Social media. An industry whose average age is 44 was most receptive on Twitter and Instagram once those channels were introduced as options. This was a legacy company, in business for 25+ years when I joined the team, with very high customer retention. The new and especially returning customers found the brand accessible and approachable. Despite the extensive infrastructure we had in place to handle customer care, the DMs were the avenue of choice for a good number of customers to receive assistance in registering for online courses or multi-day resort conferences. This called for an intrinsic synchronicity between the customer care team and the marketing team to maintain continuity in messaging, support, and to avoid confusion. If the social media manager missed a DM, before responding, it was important to connect with the customer care manager to determine if that customer had been taken care of and vice versa.
Which leads pretty nicely into the next point about effectiveness in managing social media: response time.
The beauty of social media is that everyone uses it in ways that best fit with their lifestyle and schedule.
The beast of social media is that everyone uses it in ways that best fit with their lifestyle and schedule.
This can become a real challenge if you’re not prepared for it internally.
Let’s walk through a support scenario that happens more often than you think:
A customer has made an error while placing their late night, weekend order. The customer expects the brand account to respond first. Their job is just “hanging out on social” right? Surprise! They’ll actually DM the brand account, wait a few minutes/an hour for a response. When they do not get one, they simultaneously DM the founder, publicly tweet and send individual emails to every email address they can find on the contact page of the website. They unknowingly (and sometimes willingly) start The Fire™️.
The Fire™️ is the sense of urgency that makes everyone in the organization’s stomachs drop when it shouldn’t. Customers usually don’t know the ripple effect of this approach, but there are ways to fail-safe it internally. The key? Comms visibility and curiosity. In a 2017 report, it was determined that 72% of consumers expect the person contacting them to know who they are, what they’ve purchased and have insight on previous interactions. Check where you keep track of customer support notes and ask around to your team before diving in to save the day. We all know that if someone ordered the shirt in green instead of blue that they are not in a realm of danger that requires a first-responder grade reaction, right?
It’s also important to establish a proper expectation with customers when it comes to communication. I advise clients often to understand what that looks like on an internal level so no one department or function is sabotaging the success of another. I also advise that once lightning fast, realtime, within seconds replies are established, it’s very hard to condition it to be anything else.
Quick, timely, and informed is always the goal but does not equate to THESECONDTHEMESSAGECOMESTHROUGHSOHELPMEGOD.
Marketing, in every form, is rooted in psychology. To be truly effective at reaching customers or building communities or encouraging the purchase of products on social media, it’s imperative to understand people as people. Not as archetypes or personas, but as individual people with unique factors that contribute to how they experience content and what moves them to action.
A major oversight I see often is the dismissal of the psychosocial effects of social media on people. It has intrinsically and significantly altered the ways in which we conduct ourselves, perceive information, respond to content, and interact with brands. Even ten years ago, you never had a “direct line” to engage with Nike. Now you do in the palm of your hand. There is a biological shift that has taken place in our brains that has reestablished a baseline understanding of what accessibility is to these previously untouchable, consumer monoliths.
The reality is that I can see an adorable picture of my niece who lives in another state, double tap it, and leave an adoring comment, littered with emojis, scroll to the next and have the ability to do the exact same thing to a piece of content from my favorite brand. There’s no major separation happening here like we’ve seen in traditional media. You expect commercials while watching network television. You know that looking at a billboard along the highway means you’ll see which exit to take for the world’s largest ball of yarn. You get the Sunday paper knowing you’ll see the weekly ad for Target. Social media has blurred that line of expectation. It’s happening inline and alongside updates from the people you know and love. Which stands to prove that our subconscious, in regard to brands on (and off) social media, has a greater alignment to how personably we interact with our friends and family and the expectations and emotional responses we have to them than not.
And so, it’s important to differentiate that posting to social media is very different than managing social media.
Truly anyone can post something on social media.
As a brand, you should be intimately connected to what it means to incorporate your voice, product, or service onto a social platform. It has a powerful impact on your brand as a whole and the experience that customers and prospective customers have with your brand.
We are far, far, far past the age of forgiveness because “the intern running our social accounts didn’t know”. People are hip. They’re with it. Big brands have brought in highly skilled, talented, and ever-learning leaders to guide their social media strategies and content experiences. These good eggs have set the standard for the rest of us.
Having an exceptional social media experience isn’t reserved for brands at scale, but for small businesses, it certainly needs to be firmly rooted in a foundation of scalability.
Wear the Chipotle social suit as a startup and I promise you’ll grow into it.