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I see a lot of job listings from digital agencies each week calling for a junior social media manager.

Understandably, if you’re going to look someone in the eye and tell them your agency is full service, you best have someone who keeps your Facebooks.

Now I’m not going to say that a junior staff member can’t fulfil the role of a social media manager. Nor am I going to generalise and say that the role needs to be a senior member of staff . If you have a twenty-year-old candidate who’s got the chops, then you’re best to place the reigns firmly in their hands.

However, before you give anyone the reigns of anything, it’s important to ensure that they are equipped to manage their responsibilities. I would also caution anyone who is considering offloading their social media presence to one staff member to consider the time commitment required before doing so. You need to monitor and support your social media presence’s  growth as required.

Below are a few of the most basic and fundamental concepts that you need arm your social media manager with before you get started.

Firstly, they need a solid comprehension of the audience/community that they will be talking to. 

This is perhaps one of the most problematic areas for agencies. Your “social guy/girl” will typically be tasked with managing a shopping list of presences representing a range of different brands, each with completely different audiences.

If your going to manage the social media presence of a hardware store, your going to be talking to a very different group of people than if you were communicating on behalf of, say, a chain of florist shops.

Every community is totally different. They are going to want different things, engage in different ways and respond differently to content. Understanding who your talking to is perhaps the most fundamental job of any social media manager. Often this will mean conducting an element of research.

Secondly, ensure that they have an understanding of social’s place within the broader communications strategy, its objectives and purpose.

If you get a junior employee to sit on your clients’ social media presences, that’s exactly what their going to do. Sit. But will the presence move in a productive direction? The odds are far more in your favour if they’re armed with strategy that will equip them do just that.

Often it may be the job of the employee to actually devise the strategy, however if this is indeed the case, ensure they understand what a social media strategy actually is or your going to go nowhere fast.

It’s quite common to see a Facebook Page for a brand that essentially treads water. Content is of little consequence and there’s note much in the way of quality conversation occurring between the brand and it’s followers. The lack of strategy is obvious, and without a bearing on where the presence is moving, all you’re really doing is ticking a box and wasting time.

Know what success looks like for each of the presences that your employee will manage and communicate that to them. Better yet, collaborate with them to devise this.

It’s important to add the post-script: If social media is intended to provide customer service support, ensure that the manager is equipped with the understanding of the customer service/ dispute resolution process. If the manager needs to consult the customer service team every time an enquiry or criticism arrives, you’re essentially creating a middleman in the customer support process and costing the organisation time and money.

Thirdly, they need a basic knowledge of how to identify and navigate the risks 

Most brand Pages aren’t going to be all sunshine and lollypops. Receiving a negative comment or dealing with an unhappy customer is not a matter of if, but rather of when. Ensure your manager knows the process of escalation and has the common sense to be able to handle basic negativity in a constructive way.

I’ve seen  numerous crises’ across brand presences in the social media space and eight times out of ten they crossed the border of “problematic” into “disaster” because the social media team was not prepared enough to manage the issue in an effective way. The result? Disastrously ill-considered shooting from the hip situation, or in many cases complete silence.

Ensure your manager can identify the risks when they see one. Ensure they know what constitutes and appropriate response, and ensure that they know when something falls outside of their jurisdiction.