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Social Media Management and the Myth that "Anyone Can Do It"

The Social media industry is still rapidly growing and as a result, over the last couple of years there has been an explosion in demand for social media managers.  Now widely accepted as a highly effective communications tool, the growth trend shows no signs of stopping any time soon.

Whilst awareness is at an all time high, many businesses wrongly regard social media as 'easy' to do, after all, what skill does it take to make a status update?  When businesses try and fail to execute social media activities effectively however, they begin to appreciate the fact that there is actually much more to it.

Get paid to post on Facebook - what could be easier?
Get paid to post on Facebook - what could be easier right?


The 'anyone can do it' approach is being perpetuated by a slew of get-rich-quick websites, reporting social media management as being the easy way ordinary people with no related training or experience can get rich doing.

This positive can-do approach is something i'm all for - whilst I have an academic background in Management and Marketing, everything I know relating to social media is self taught or has been learned over many years of working with a vast number of different clients.  This 'anyone can do it' ethos is meant to empower people, encouraging them to get into social media management, usually after they part with sums of money for a webinair claiming to teach them all the secrets they need in just half an hour.  This approach however devalues the social media industry and leads to unskilled individuals being put in charge of marketing activities they are ill equipped to carry out.

Whilst no one is infallible and we all make mistakes, doing a job you don't fully understand and have no past experience of can be a recipe for disaster.  Any mistakes a social media manager makes are highly public and often can't be ignored or swept under the carpet.  In this industry where an individuals name is their reputation; make costly mistakes early on and you may find it hard to distance yourself from them.  Don't kid yourself that just because you have a Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr account that you have the skills necessary to run activities for a business.content_marketing

Businesses also need to understand that they get what they pay for.  If they are only offering intern money, that's what they will get and the results are very likely to reflect that.  Chasing Likes and community growth is all well and good but if you are considering social media management as a career choice you really shouldn't be pitching your services until you understand that Likes don't mean squat.

Managing and growing a community is senseless if it's done independently of other marketing activity and isn't strategically driven

Clients consistently underestimate just what it takes to deliver social media activities successfully. Once educated or once they try it for themselves and fail, most soon realise that they simply don't have the time or expertise to handle activities in-house and look to outsource instead.  There is no denying there is a market for social media managers and whilst i'm always happy to knowledge share, discuss best practice, techniques and encourage those wanting to work in this area, I am increasingly unnerved by the gung-ho 'anyone can do it it' mentality which stands to devalue this incredibly important, diverse and often misunderstood role.

I don't agree that 'anyone' can be a social media manager, I think it is a complex role that demands a lot of different skills and experience to carry out.

If you aren't already a prolific user of social media, how can you hope to use a social network effectively for a business? Without a strong grounding in marketing communications, how can you effectively engage people and fulfill business objectives that are more diverse and challenging than simply growing fans or followers? If you don't know your CTR from ROI how can you analyse and understand the data that is critical in gauging the effectiveness of your activities? If you don't have customer facing skills or don't have the ability to resolve problems, how will you deal with irate customers posting on a clients Facebook wall? If you're written communications aren't great, how will you create compelling content and great headlines?  I'm sure you get my point.

Just some of the skills a social media manager needs to have

  • Strong interpersonal and networking skills
  • A good understanding of planning and strategy
  • Customer-centric approach
  • Clear understanding of Google Analytics (or similar) and the ability to set up effective campaign tracking
  • The ability to interpret data and gain insights
  • Lots of  creativity and personality (even the stuffiest brand needs to show some personality to succeed on social media)
  • Up to date knowledge of guidelines for all the platforms you are active on
  • Excellent copy writing skills, in particular the ability to write good headlines
  • A good understanding of business objectives and the ability to craft effective calls to action
  • The ability to create custom graphics to accompany posts
  • Excellent time management skills and high level of focus

If you don't have all of the above, of course there are things that you can pick up or learn along the way, but personally, I wouldn't trust something as important as my businesses social media activity to an inexperienced trainee.

The fact remains that social media is the current, hip thing to be involved in and for very obvious reasons, has massive appeal as a career.  Get paid to surf the net and post on Facebook all day?  What could be easier! My advice however is not to be blinded by all of the companies making money off your naivety, offering training that will turn you pretty much over-night, into a wealthy social media professional. If you don't have the experience to back up your claims, knowing a bit of marketing theory isn't enough and before you've even got properly started, you may find your reputation damaged.

Theory means nothing, you'll build a reputation based on the results you get and the knowledge and insights that you share

Spend all of your time and efforts into branding yourself as a social media expert now and what happens in a few years time when social media has come of age?  Demand won't always remain as high as it currently is - how appealing will your CV look in a few years time when all you can boast is social media management when it is no longer quite so shiny and new a skill to have?

To survive and prosper in this industry you will need many more strings to your bow than simply being able to use any given social network. Social media is just one part of the marketing mix and just one of the communication methods open to businesses. Invent yourself as a specialist in social media and in a very short time you might find that as the industry matures and moves on, you get left behind with narrowly defined, outdated skills.

An individual who can grow a Facebook community is valuable right now and yes, many people are making careers out of doing just that.  Keep in mind though that it won't be long before businesses realise they need to turn not to social media managers, but to marketing strategists who understand the bigger picture and will be the real driving force behind successful, sustainable social media activities. Don't risk staking your career on social media alone, which when taken in isolation will become obsolete faster than you can say "Friendster".

What do you think?  Is it something you believe anyone can do?  Are you a scial media marketer who doesn't feel that your expertise is sufficiently valued?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Join The Conversation

  • Warren Whitlock's picture
    Jul 12 Posted 3 years ago Warren Whitlock

    Everyone does need to become expert at social media, just as we've become expert at using a phone or making a sandwich.

    Most of the consulting work I do as a social media expert winds up being more focused on business goals and meeting them. When someone asks about getting someone to "do social media" I know they aren't ready to compete in today's world

  • Apr 29 Posted 4 years ago theaLight

    My goodness, this is spot-on! I had a great time reading this article. I picked up a lot of things especially since I'm about to embark on a social media based business.

  • Apr 29 Posted 4 years ago Emily Schlotzer

    Great article! As a "social media strategist" myself, I often hear "So, you just play on Facebook all day?" Like you said, there's a lot more to it than that. 'Likes' and 'follows' don't mean much unless those people are actively engaging with your brand! Like the commenters above, I agree that businesses don't understand just how much goes into social media management, and that social media is not meant to be done independently. If you want success, other marketing activity and strategy needs to be done to deliver measurable and valuable results. Thanks for the great read!

    Hope you find some great articles about social media and analytics here at our blog from the Zig Marketing team: Social on the Rocks. Enjoy!

  • elranas's picture
    Apr 27 Posted 4 years ago elranas

    I agree, most tools available today are providing management at the basic level. Crating network buzz and to experience actual return, creativity and out of the box thinking is more than necessary. Grabbing the attention of your prospect is not easy and the best will win. SMM is not for everybody, period. 

    Here is a great SMM cheat sheet you might find helpful to simplify the process. Although very beasic, it still give the idea of the right approach :)

    Cheers and happy socializing…

    Btw, great post!

  • ubersocialmedia's picture
    Apr 26 Posted 4 years ago ubersocialmedia

    Thanks for your comments Mieke.

    I'm uncomfortable with the 'expert' label too - I don't see how anyone can really be a true expert in an industry that is moving on and evolving all the time.  I'm happy to refer to social media as a specialism however and I do agree that too much focus on social is dangerous, especially if it's not being used as a strategic marketing tool and is just being used in total isolation.

  • miekehartkamp's picture
    Apr 25 Posted 4 years ago miekehartkamp

    Great article! I understand the frustration. After working as Internet Marketing Manager for a travel company, I recently started providing online community management services to travel businesses. I know from experience how important it is to include social media as a part of your overall marketing strategy, not as something on the side. A lot of business owners don't understand how much is involved in the entire process, including market research, customer service and of course measuring the real results (and I don't mean 'likes', 'fans' and 'retweets'). I don't like calling myself an expert; I know social media but I'm always learning. It's a fast changing environment and if you're not willing to keep up and critically look at new opportunities instead of jumping in blindly, social media can become a drain on resources and can hurt your brand rather than help it get stronger.

  • ubersocialmedia's picture
    Apr 25 Posted 4 years ago ubersocialmedia

    Thanks for your comments Brett. 

    I recently set up a new Twitter account for myself and selected a number of social media professionals, experts & thought leaders to follow.  A surprising number of these however have been endlessly Tweeting links to websites promising to teach novices all they need to know to be social media managers. I've also noticed a lot of old hat techniques being used too, like you point out, the spamming of Twitter feeds and i've also noticed lots of websites that have endless popups and prompts to try and keep you on the site and make closing the window difficult.  Super annoying and a real worry, as small businesses who are often on a tight budget, will be tempted to outsource to cheap, unskilled so called 'experts.'

    With such low barriers to entry i'm not sure what the answer is, educating business owners is probably the best thing we can do.

  • Brett Heitz's picture
    Apr 25 Posted 4 years ago Brett Heitz

    This is a very refreshing article that echoes our frustration with many companies being in the social media management business, but that do it poorly. For example, we just came across a company in our area (I refuse to refer to them as a "competitor") that added social media management to their service offering. How did we find this out? Well, they were spamming some of the Twitter accounts we manage for our clients in attempt to sell their services. They clearly don't understand what social media is all about, but they're promoting the fact that they'll manage accounts for businesses. This problem is widespread.

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