Back in 1997, fresh from quitting uni’ and joining a local start-up, Social Media wasn't a thing. I remember that light-bulb moment when we started to refer to the extranets we were building as Social Engines and everything is a blur from there. Flash forward to the last days of 2018 and the role of Social Media Manager is one of the most in-demand jobs on the planet. It’s hugely rewarding, often misunderstood and totally unique. If you’re thinking of joining our ranks, here are the seven career secrets I wish someone shared back then…
1. Be prepared to give up your social life; ironically it's not a very social job.
The best Social Media Managers have a tendency towards over-caring. It’s a blessing in disguise. When you represent a brand on the front-line, in real-time, it’s hard to ignore notifications that arrive 24/7. Be it a customer issue or a piece of content you’ve placed going viral, you’re going to be jumping out of bed every time that familiar ping echoes from your screen. Oh and never drink and tweet. Believe me, folks, it doesn’t end well. Sleep and the pub are for those who choose a different career, not us digital heroes.
2. You have the hardest job in marketing, but it will always look easy to others
When you tell your mates you work on Facebook all day, a look of envy might appear in their smirk. Even colleagues in marketing and PR might imagine you do nothing more than sharing pictures of puppies. The truth is, you need the creativity of a wordsmith, the thick skin of a diplomat, number crunching skills of a mathematician and a familiarity with global publishing laws to even make your first real step in this world. Still, there will be days when you are indeed deciding which of the bunnies has just the right fluff. Those are excellent days.
3. It’s not easy to replace yourself, even for the weekend
Vacation time is essential for everyone who works an intensive role. However, unless your wider team is super-organized, it's tough to hand over the reins. Social media decisions have to be made quickly, and the pros often get a "feel" for the voice that’s hard to pass forward. Again this is why I like to link all of my content to pre-agreed personas and set story styles. A good tip for my peers, take your next vacation on a cruise ship. Forcing a break because your mobile doesn’t work at sea is a positive thing.
4. Your best office is a sofa
It’s great to have bright minds around you and different personalities contributing to campaigns. But when your screen is full of trending content, it’s also really easy to become a magnet for everyone else in the office, keen to see what the latest celebrity is up to or what the world is giggling at today. I usually spend a couple of weeks on-site with a client or their team and then retreat to my geek-cave to avoid disrupting the pace. You'd be amazed how many of those scruffy laptop-people in Starbucks are building $Bn brands.
5. You need the best tools to do your job well
A plumber, an electrician, an artist, they all rely on the tools of their trade, and so do you. Despite your role being digitally focussed, the choice of computer isn’t important. I’ve managed serious accounts on a Chromebook without any hiccups. It’s the cloudware that matters. Where would I be without Buffer for scheduling or Canva for graphics? When it comes to content, I created my own magic for that, PostDiva.com. Set a persona in seconds and it suggests the right content in real-time. The days of research saved every week are a critical win. Even if building it took four years of my nights.
6. Everyone will think they can do your job
Because your job inevitably involves the same systems used by countless others, everyone and their kid will claim to be able to do what you do. To some extent, they are absolutely right. There’s no reason why anyone can’t launch a successful Fan Page or blog. It’s easy to get conversations going on Social; you divide, shock or giggle. What makes the true Social Media Manager such a unique species is being able to do those things while concurrently growing the customer base, altering opinion, getting their vote or putting bums on seats. You start things through stories on screens, but the impact should be seen and measured on the street.
7. You’ll start to think the world’s a bit fake, but you're changing it too
Social Media does little things well, like helping to boost SEO or gauge public opinion on a product release. But it can also literally spark wars and get strange people elected. It’s easy to believe the news and think that Social is evil. Having worked with the giants for years, I know Google, Facebook and Twitter are not malevolent firms. I’ve seen their maths. I’ve met their people. Yes, they make lots of money, but it’s a geek-driven system, and exploration and innovation are honestly more important within that history. It’s what we do with them that counts. That’s why I still love my job after 20 years. Helping the world share their voice is a miraculous thing.
Alex Sass is a leading Social Media Manager and the Managing Director of Oregon Technology. His Social Media Content Curation Tool, PostDiva.com, launched in December 2018 following a four-year study of 90 million datasets. The IBM Watson driven, AI system offers an instant free demo and costs £20/$25/month for unlimited Social Media content.