11 Qualities of an Effective Social Media Manager
Despite all the buzz about social media, the reality is that your social media campaigns are only as good as the human being(s) behind them. Going “viral” on social media sites is extremely rare, and instantaneous success is a myth. Being an effective social media manager is both an art and a skill. Some personalities are more inclined to be successful at managing and inspiring online communities, but the vast majority of practitioners will need months, if not years, to learn to produce social media success through a process of trial and error. For your nonprofit to succeed on social media sites, make sure that your social media manager (a.k.a. new media manager, digital marketing manager, etc.) has most of the following qualities:
1. Has a passion for the cause and for social media
You can hear it in his voice and read it in his tweets. A good social media manager has passion for his cause(s) and enjoys participating in social media. The best social media practitioners express their personalities with a dash of attitude and a bit of flair, and are comfortable articulating their opinions online. They don’t need to be brash or controversial in their opinions, but they do not shy away from asserting their viewpoints on behalf of your nonprofit, its mission, and its programs.
2. Is friendly, patient and responsive
Effective social media managers enjoy engaging with and responding to comments on social media sites. They relish discussing ideas and issues online, and they do it with patience and kindness. They are attentive to their communities on an almost daily basis. They express gratitude for support, and they acknowledge questions and concerns. They have the unique ability to defuse troublesome (and sometimes obnoxious and rude) personalities with kind, but firm commentary. It’s a real skill to navigate and guide the online commons and know how and when to react.
3. Is creative and detail-oriented
Creativity is what makes exceptional social media campaigns stand out from the rest. Doing something different with a set of tools that tens of thousands of other nonprofits also use is the trademark of an exceptional social media manager. Her brain is constantly at work dreaming up new campaigns, and rather than shying away from being different and taking risks, she embraces it. Creativity combined with the ability to multitask is the winning combination of skills for an effective social media manager.
4. Has experience in online communications
Just because someone is 19 and came of age using Facebook in his personal life does not mean that he can manage and implement your online communities on social media sites successfully. Untrained interns were fine two or three years ago, when the Social Web was still in its infancy and everyone was experimenting. But that era is over. The truth is, in terms of results in social media, you get what you pay for, and if you want the best person for the job, you need someone who has at least a year or two of professional experience in Web 1.0. He needs to have written content for the Web, published an e-newsletter, blogged, and experimented with various online fundraising campaigns. It’s rare that someone with no background in online communication or fundraising instinctively understands how to use social media to build an online brand.
5. Reads blogs about social media and mobile technology
A good social-media manager is a regular reader of Social Time, Mobile Marketing, and other such blogs. Social media moves very quickly, and your nonprofit will fall behind or miss opportunities to explore the “Next Big Thing” if your social media manager is not regularly browsing these blogs for breaking news about tools, upgrades, and emerging trends.
6. Is an early adopter
The nonprofits that are the most successful in social media today were on Myspace and YouTube in 2005 and 2006. They have time on their side. Online communities grow in number over time, exponentially. The earlier you start, the more likely you are to be successful. Not only that, but online communities also tend to grow the fastest during the early adoption phase. They’re not interesting or buzz-worthy once thousands of other nonprofits are using them. In fact, in the era of the Social Web, and even more so on the Mobile Web, early adoption in and of itself is a strategy. Those who do it first tend to do it best.
7. Is not overly confident about her social media skills
Overconfidence about their social media skills prevents most social media managers from getting the necessary training. Every second of every day, nonprofits on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, WordPress, Foursquare and other social media make obvious mistakes that are counterproductive to their presence on these sites. Please get training! Take webinars, attend boot camps or workshops, or go to conferences that focus on the how-to of social media. The most valuable advice should be practical and come from someone who actually manages online communities and works with these tools every single day. Be skeptical of the self-proclaimed social media mavens, rock stars, or experts who have no practical experience running, maintaining, and building online communities around causes or nonprofit brands on social networking sites.
8. Thinks like a journalist
Well-written, timely content is what drives the Social Web. Old news is not share-, like- or retweet-worthy. Increasingly, nonprofit communicators and social media practitioners need to consider themselves reporters for their causes and nonprofits — always listening, responding rapidly, and sometimes even “Live! On location!” This is why blogging has become so central to a successful social media strategy. It allows social media managers to respond to breaking news by quickly and easily creating content that can be posted and shared by others on the Social Web.
9. Is mobile
Social media managers should be comfortable with the idea of posting status updates and tweets from any location at any time, when necessary. Whether we like it or not, the news cycle is now 24/7, and as a journalist for your cause, you need to be, too. Mobile technology enables that. Increasingly laptops are becoming cumbersome in comparison to smartphones and tablets, and as the Mobile Web continues to expand, so will the tools that have been uniquely designed for smartphones and tablets. The best social media and mobile technology practitioners embrace these new tools, experiment with them and are willing to sacrifice some of their free time outside of traditional office hours in order to be available to their communities 24/7.
10. Is willing to mesh his personal life with his professional life online
It’s a whole new Web. It’s social. It’s mobile. It’s public. You have to be willing to be on Facebook personally or LinkedIn professionally. You have to be willing to merge some of your personal life with your professional life online. For a good social media manager, privacy is a concern, but it is not a crippling one. He takes responsibility for his own privacy and takes steps to protect it where and when he wants to. He is educated about privacy settings on various social networking sites. He doesn’t post anything he doesn’t want his boss or his parents to see, but beyond that, mixing his personal and professional lives online is something that he is willing to do in order to be the best advocate he can be for his cause and his nonprofit.
11. Takes steps to prevent social media burnout
For all the social good it can do, social media does have a downside. Nonprofit practitioners are bombarded with messages all day long on social media sites. It can be too much for the brain to process sometimes, especially since much of the content coming out of the nonprofit communities is related to sad, depressing news (war, rape, poverty, depletion of environmental resources, animal cruelty and extinction, and so on). A good social media manager knows when to draw the line and takes time away from her communities when necessary.