As a social media strategist and marketing consultant I often have to defend the merits of social media. At first glimpse, those who are unfamiliar with the medium are put off by Tweets that talk about what someone ate for breakfast or Facebook updates with photos of kids and pets. Why should they join in and how can it help them develop their brand? While I am guilty of posting too many photos of my dog on Facebook and have tweeted the occasional nom nom nom post about my food, overall I maintain that Twitter and Facebook, among others, are great for sharing news and information, which can lead to brand authority and recognition. I read three online newspapers a day and there is still information gleaned from Twitter that I would have otherwise missed. I love it when I am able to identify new categories and tags for a client’s product based off the Pin boards that customers have created on Pinterest. And still, there are times, when even I get a little annoyed that some social media platforms are being used as an external instant messenger. Social media is about being social and creating conversations around topics and interests are welcome, but when it becomes an inside joke, it can become a bit awkward for the rest of us.
Working with social media professionally demands that managers take an active role in curating information and contributing to conversations that are both meaningful for the audience and its participants, and more importantly serve to advance the customer experience. Of course, there are many ways to do this and depending on your audience, different types of engagement will work best. And while social media is in fact like a giant external instant messager, it’s role in marketing and brand engagement extend far beyond inside jokes and snarky one liners.
An effective community manager doesn’t insert herself into every conversation, instead she listens to what customers are saying and helps to guide them in the right direction and provide relevant information that adds value to their experience, while sharing insights about customers back to the company so they can integrate those experiences into their deliverables.
Of course if you’re on social media recreationally, it doesn’t really matter how you spend your time — though we do know that current and prospective employers often turn to social media to get a sense of who you are. But if you want a career that uses social media to help develop and promote organizations, you may want to think about what your current use of social media says about you and how it can be leveraged to help (or hurt) you professionally.
It’s not just about being on social media anymore. It’s about what you’re saying and doing on social media that matters. Even if you’re having mundane conversations with your friends, think about how your responses speak to your level of awareness and ability to represent yourself appropriately. Remember, for good or for bad, we’re living in a time when individuals are as much their own brand as Nike. For aspiring social media and community managers, it’s not the years in your social media life that matters, it’s the life in your social media presence.