Social media has been hailed almost unanimously as a revolutionary tool for business, and for good reason.
But there’s one question that has hounded it since it first came into the picture: Does social media have any “real” worth, especially to businesses concerned with corporate growth and their bottom line?
“Although I think it’s true that many businesses still think that social media isn’t a true driver of key results, I’ve come to know many organizations that do embrace social media as an essential part of their marketing pillars.”
Social media’s results “speak for themselves”
The root cause of doubt, he says, is the common perception that social media is simply a short-term marketing strategy.
“Many companies are still testing the ideas of social media and haven’t come to a conclusion yet. They often give up too early on social media, or that they have unrealistic expectations of how long it takes for social media to reach ‘critical mass’,” he explains.
Still, whether or not naysayers believe social media management to be a “real” job, Toan believes the results speak for themselves.
Having had extensive experience in hiring for digital marketing positions, he says that in many companies, the social media team doesn’t merely consist of one manager, but a whole team of social media specialists executing campaigns on a daily basis. He notes, “When social media delivers results, it is one of the highest ROI strategies in the digital marketing portfolio.”
It also helps that social media metrics have progressed by leaps and bounds in recent years, giving a sense of tangibility to reports on its effectiveness.
Ryerson University Ted Rogers School of Management professor Donna Smith notes that while social media research isn’t really indicative of consumer purchase behavior, it is much more refined than it used to be.
“There are now sophisticated programs that have the ability to crawl the web for information. Marketers can monitor the strength of sentiment of a brand (on a scale of 1 to 5), consumer behavior, and other factors by analyzing social media chatter or channel usage,” she says.
When used in conjunction with survey data, customer social media data can provide reliable insight into the effectiveness of marketing campaigns.
Should social media management be Gen Y’s playground?
Social media campaigns are relatively new concepts for many businesses, with many still trying to gain a foothold into their audience’s news feeds.
And while corporate laws of hierarchy usually dictate that older, more experienced workers should lead new divisions, the advent of social media has pushed many Gen Y employees up the corporate ladder by way of their ease and familiarity with the medium.
The question is, can they handle such a big responsibility?
While young people are admittedly more familiar with new technology, it’s also true that impulsiveness and relative inexperience in marketing or public relations might make them more likely to commit a major blunder, which could cost a company a lot in terms of brand image.
On the other hand, employees with the tenure fit for higher marketing positions may not be as tech-savvy as their Gen Y counterparts, which could impact the brand’s social media strategy.
So does age really make a difference?
According to Toan, the fact that social media management roles are more likely to be filled by relatively wet-behind-the-ears Gen Y employees is a non-issue. “Age doesn’t matter. It really depends on the candidate’s ability to do the job. I don’t think age determines one’s ability to execute,” he stresses.
Patrick Tackney, Social Media Manager and Communications Co-ordinator for a retail clothing company, agrees. “Experience absolutely matters. I would never put someone in a social media role unless they have a strong PR or marketing background,” he says.
“This could mean either education in either of those fields, or work experience. Age isn’t relevant. We know enough about social media now that anyone can be educated in it, not just younger employees.”
What great Social Media Managers are made of
So what dictates the ideal candidate? Toan says it really depends on the business in question, since factors like industry knowledge, communication skills and experience are given different priorities in every organization.
Having been in charge of hiring digital marketing positions for the past five years, he says there are five qualities every aspiring Social Media Manager should have:
Effective communication skills
Social media is about people and communication. This goes for both verbal and written communication. More specifically, a communicator that can deliver an authentic message is essential to the role.
Organized and detail oriented
Social media execution can get chaotic without proper time management. Effective Social Media Managers understand that advanced planning is key to minimizing errors while delivering well-thought-out messages.
Passionate and knowledgeable
About their product, customer, industry and company goals.
Open minded and quick to learn
Social media tactics and technologies change frequently; often too quickly for those who don’t possess the ability to adapt, learn, and leverage the changes.
Social media is often a long-term strategy for businesses that builds brand recognition, customer loyalty and revenue. Because of this, it’s important to be persistent until success becomes a reality.
Do you think you have what it takes to hatch a career in social media?
Photo credit: Urs Steiner