Sunday, January 19, 2014

5 Things I Learned as a Social Media Manager

Unless you're one of those people who avoid social media like a toothless hooker, you're probably on Facebook or Twitter everyday. You've probably even liked a few fan pages or followed some corporate accounts for one reason or another.

Most people don't realize that a lot of work goes behind managing these pages. Depending on the brand's influence, it can be anywhere from 1 person to an entire creative team. For the better part of last year up to now, I've been one of them.

In that short time, I've noticed a few things. Some of them are interesting, while others make me want to slap someone's parents for producing annoyingly ignorant offspring.

Here are 5 things I've learned as a social media manager.

5. Some people don't understand social media

Social media gives a lot of stupid people a wider stage to showcase their ignorance. Anyone who's ever managed a page that reached a sizable audience from using promoted posts knows this. The most random selection of people will like your page, and they'll leave the most random comments, too.

Trust me, it gets tiring replying to idiots all day. I can't recall how many times I've had to say, "I'm just sharing, this isn't for sale," "our contact info is in the page description" or "the price is in the picture." Some will leave vague comments that have seem to have no relation whatsoever to your posts (often done in broken English).

Sometimes, I think these people aren't just new to social media, but to the internet as well. How else can you explain their complete lack of common sense to use Google? How can they have the money (which is dubious too) to buy an expensive gadget, but not the knowledge of its benefits over the previous model? It's blind, lazy consumerism at it's worst.

What's most annoying tough, is the fact that some turd sacks expect you to be online at all times. We need to rest too, so don't expect a reply to your dumb inquiry at 2:00 in the morning on a weekend. I'd much rather lose IQ points drinking myself into a stupor than with your brain cell-destroying questions.

4. Some brands don't understand social media, either

Ignorance goes both ways. It's not just fans who are guilty of dumb posts, brands do it too. If you're familiar with how the best pages operate, you know they don't spam their fans with product posts. Why? Because doing so is the online equivalent of those pesky insurance sales reps that lurk like predators at the mall.

And yet, it happens way too often online. I've un-liked a lot of pages that did nothing but sell me their crap. These brands forget that social media isn't an online billboard. People go online to connect, to be entertained, or to simply waste time. They aren't there to shop.

What's more amusing are the brands that know the value of putting unrelated content on their page. It's a very effective way to humanize and diversify the brand when done well, but it gets hilarious when they post stuff that just doesn't match the brand's image. The latter is what happens when brands (or the social media manager) try to be hip and forget their target audiences' tastes or average intellect.

3. It's not as easy as you think (but it's also not rocket science)

Going online for your personal pleasure doesn't require much thought. You usually just log in, check what's happening, post a few stuff, reply to notifications, go to a few links, laugh at your contacts' failures at using the internet, then sign off.

Going online as a page/account manager is a whole different matter with a few key similarities. The first being that all interactions are incredibly important. Failure to reply to a complaint within a reasonable amount of time (around 12 hours) could spell trouble for you. Not knowing the right way to defuse an angry customer's ticking time bomb of a complaint will also make your brand appear incompetent, arrogant, or worse, uncompassionate. A carelessly written reply can make your brand sound like a jerk.

Second, everything you post reaches far more people than you think. Obviously, a lot more thought should go into it, which is easier said than done if you're handling multiple accounts and your work is more than just managing social media pages (I'm also a copywriter and brand strategist).

I've had the misfortune of posting on the wrong account (several times, in fact), and it's just embarrassing. But it also taught me the value of making sure everything is correct before sharing. There might be a typo, or a wrong tag that can change the context of your post entirely. You just can't afford to be as careless as with your personal accounts.

Third, creating good original content demands a lot of time, effort, and creativity. What worked last month might not work the next. Fans can get tired of the same stuff, so mixing it up is a must. Add the fact that Facebook's newsfeed algorithms (it's what determines who can see your posts in their feed) change constantly, and you'll get an idea of why this isn't as easy as using Facebook to call your friends butt-ugly monkeys.

Finally, there's a lot of analytics going on behind the scenes. We have to track our pages' progress to find out if we're improving our reach, just maintaining it, or if we should be looking for other jobs. We can see which sex, age group, and areas our followers belong to, allowing us to make adjustments with the content. Hell, we even know which hours are the best time to post for maximum reach (obviously not the hours that people open an incognito window).

2. We can see what you're saying about our brands

Another thing most people forget is how visible their activity is to anyone, especially if they have an unprotected account. Various social media tools alert us whenever our targeted keyword is mentioned. It's similar to how Voldemort knows you're talking about him whenever you mention his name.

If you've ever mentioned a brand on Twitter or Instagram, (even without tagging them or writing them as a hashtag), don't be surprised to get a reply from them. Every company needs to know what people are saying about them, both good or bad. That's easier now than it has ever been, especially with people's addiction to these sites.

A bored social media manager might even browse the blog you've linked to your social media account. I've done that many times (since it's fun and not exactly illegal), and it usually has me shaking my head at how bad some of these people write. Some of their posts make my high school essays read like Shakespeare. And the worst part is, they have more followers than I do (yes, I'm envious that such poor work gets more attention than mine).

Another slightly creepy feature we have at our disposal is an easily available history of all your interactions with the brands we handle. We know at once if you're one of our most loyal customers, or an insufferable troll we shouldn't waste time on. We see at a glance how influential you are (according to Klout score), which could affect the way we interact with you compared to other followers.

I've seen a lot of unpleasant things said about the brands I handle (and love). It takes quite a bit of restraint to not engage these people, especially if what they said is based on wrong facts, obvious bias, or just plain poor taste (although that's subjective). So the next time you're in the mood to thrash a company online, remember that we might be able to see who you are and might retaliate by leaving nasty comments on your artsy-fartsy hipster blog.

1. Yes, it's a real full-time job

Brands being active on social media is still a fairly new practice. Add the fact that people mostly go online to just derp around with their friends and it's easy to see why I  get a funny look whenever I mention what I do for a living. And that's okay, since I would've been even more critical of such a preposterous sounding job just a few years ago (you get paid to Facebook? What a bum!).

Depending on the brand's reach and requirements, you'll be doing numerous brand-building strategies, thinking of promos, monitoring your online reputation, providing customer service, creating content plans, maintaining and improving the brand image, and many more. There's plenty to do, and a lot of them go unnoticed and unappreciated by the unsuspecting fan. 

Also, social media managers may develop an attachment to their brand if they love it and what it stands for. We can't leave our pages unchecked for too long, as it can cause anxiety. Being the paranoid guy I am, I always tell myself to check them at least every 3 hours, as you never know when someone will leave a vitriol laden complaint, or share a dick pic on your company wall (which has thankfully never happened).

With how fast technology develops, I don't know whether this job will still be around in the next decade. Despite how much I've come to enjoy it, it's just not a long-term career. That's why I'm thankful it's only part of what I really do, since I want to be real writer some day (with well-received books and goth groupies). When that day comes, I'll be sure to promote my work shamelessly on my social media accounts. Like it and share, please?

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