It’s been a little over a month now since Cathryn Sloane opened Pandora’s box by positing that every social media manager should be under the age of 25. No doubt you noticed the firestorm that erupted in the aftermath of its publication. The backlash is still pretty strong, even a month later.
The thing is, being a great social media manager takes more than an ability to honestly say, essentially, “I was an early adopter.” It takes someone who can demonstrate pizzazz in a number of areas, and pizzazz knows no age limit. The person managing the social media community could be 92 for all I care. They just need to show that they’ve “got it.”
When I look at some of my favorite social media accounts and communities, I honestly have no idea how old the managers are. @MarsCuriosity has been absolutely brilliant, for example, but I have a hard time believing the face behind that account is one who is under the age of 25. @AmazonMP3 is another one of my favorite communities to follow, both on Twitter and Facebook, and their social media manager also does a fantastic job of inviting community participation.
I could go on, and you can certainly think about the brands you interact with each day. We like what we like. Who cares how old the social media manager is?
I’m telling you. Pizzazz. That’s where it’s at.
So what traits does one need to possess in order to achieve the level of pizzazz necessary for social media management?
#1: An understanding of the social media community.
Who are they? What do they want from the social media accounts? How old are they? What do they do for fun? What kinds of jobs do they have? Knowing as much as possible about the community and meeting them on their level helps a social media manager to engage and interact on a more personal level, thereby continually building upon that idea of community.
#2: The ability to write.
A good social media manager demonstrates a command of the language and knows how to use it specifically for this purpose. He understands the finer nuances of writing – how to create tone or develop a brand voice; how to pack a punch into 140 characters or infuse just enough humor into a Facebook status to catch readers’ eyes; how to personify. He knows how to use key terms and hash tags. He can write for the Web and his words will resonate.
#3: A knack for reading and interpreting people online.
Don’t forget that along with this ability to write often comes the ability to read well. Since social media so often involves people interacting through text, tone and intent can be easily lost, leading to misunderstandings and negative sentiment. Someone who writes well for social media has the ability to also read it, thereby helping to prevent those misreadings before they become full-blown.
He can read between the lines to determine what people want or need from the community and then deliver it in a way that will be well-received.
#4: The ability to adapt and project a brand’s personality.
If the social media manager is, in real life, the most boring person alive, it will never show online. She will have an almost chameleon-like ability to mesh with a community and inject personality into its accounts through various means, including humor, compelling brand storytelling, and community touch points and commonalities.
And please don’t think that “big, exciting companies” are the only ones who can have fun with their social media accounts. You can sell pet rocks and still find someone with a dynamic social media presence to manage your accounts and breathe new life into your community.
#5: A strong sense of respect and diplomacy.
As long as there are customers using social media, there will be complaints and criticisms, and the social media manager will often be the one fielding these correspondences. For that reason, part of the manager’s pizzazz is his ability to be respectful and diplomatic. He needs to be able to diffuse highly-charged situations while maintaining professionalism and the brand voice. This sounds easy on paper, but in practice, it’s much different. We want to defend ourselves and our brands. We want to tell people that they’re being silly and unreasonable. Sometimes we want to swear back at them.
And of course, we can do no such thing. Not really.
A good social media manager will deal with these occurrences effectively, all the while maintaining the brand voice and image that your community has come to know. A sudden shift, after all, could be jarring.
Pizzazz can be whatever you want it to be.
In my mind, those five traits give a social media manager pizzazz, and the ability to exhibit any of them isn’t at all dependent upon age. Whether they signed up for Facebook in 2004 or 2007 is irrelevant. In my mind, at least, it truly doesn’t matter how old the managers are. What matters to me is how they represent their brands on social media and that they do so in a way that keeps it interesting. I want to engage and interact. That’s difficult to do when the content falls flat. We need a strong social media manager to keep it going.
What do you think? What traits do you think give a social media manager pizzazz?
photo credit: nextgen journal