A new year shouldn’t only mean a look back at what you accomplished; you also need to look forward to what you hope to achieve. As businesses break down their social media plans for 2016, they’re inevitably going to take a hard look at the social media leaders within the company.
As social media professionals (existing, or hopeful), we need to know more about where social media is heading in 2016 than anyone else in our businesses. We need to be able to offer insight on new trends, provide plans on how our brands can capitalize on them, and then actually be able to execute. There are certain skills that social media managers need in order to make that happen. The thing is, since social media is always evolving, our skills need to be evolving at the same rate.
Below we look at the skills social media managers will need in 2016 based on where the industry is heading.
Television, radio, newspapers, email…. these are channels. Every single social network that you have a presence on, well those are also channels. Knowing how to manage each channel— taking into consideration the audience, the style and tone, and the successes and failures of your previously posted content—is undeniably a skill needed of every social media manager. Really, it always has been.
But in 2016, channel management skills will gain new importance, for a variety of reasons.
First, social networks are expanding their scope. New features and functionality means a need for a fresh look at every network. You should start off the year with an audit of each account, how you’re using it and what content is working for each. You should also consider new features and how they might fit in your strategy. You really need to take a deep dive into each network individually before you can approach your strategy on the whole.
Second, and this might seem counterintuitive, but social networks are starting to meet in the middle. Twitter is beginning to look a little more like Facebook. Facebook is introducing a live-streaming tool similar to Periscope and a publishing tool similar to LinkedIn publisher. Every network is focusing on video. With so much overlap, you might think you can revert to a one-size-fits-all approach. Actually, this should push you in the opposite direction. Spend time really working out the differences between all of these networks. Find the intricacies and speak to them. That’s how you’ll stand out on social.
Finally, you can absolutely bet that some new social network is going to emerge and require your attention next year. A lot of brands turned to Snapchat in 2015. What new channel will 2016 hold? Whatever it is, it’s going to require research and experimentation on the part of social media managers in order to get it right.
Channel management has always been core to social media management. But, with the social media space in constant evolution, it’s absolutely a skill worth honing.
In an ideal world, all businesses would recognize just how important social media is as a customer service channel (like “over 72 percent of customers who complain to a brand on Twitter expect a response within one hour” important). In an ideal world, these customer service issues would also be fielded by a customer support team that has been trained on social media.
We don’t work in an ideal world.
Many businesses are lagging behind when it comes to social media customer support. Brandwatch found that only 11.2 percent of retail brands respond to questions within an hour. Even those that use social networks as a support channel often expect their social media managers to field the questions and respond—even if that means asking someone else at the company, waiting for a response, and repeating the process for any follow-up questions. It’s not an ideal scenario, but it’s one that can be made manageable by a social media manager with customer service know-how.
Social media professionals with customer service skills will know what tone and tact to use when addressing these complaints. They’ll understand how to use social media management tools to assign these issues to the right team members or create tickets for them. They’ll always be listening through dedicated streams in order to ensure that issues are taken care of promptly. And, they’ll have canned answers for common questions prepared, so they can tackle any simple questions or complaints without needing to involve other teams or employees.
As more and more people turn to social media to resolve their issues, customer service skills, especially in small businesses without full support teams, will become vital for social media managers.
Curation has always been a part of social media marketing, especially for businesses that don’t have the time or resources to create a steady flow of original content. If you see a great piece of content relevant to your audience, you’ll share or retweet it. If you receive great feedback, or a client does something awesome, you’ll want to share that too.
Content curation is an essential skill for a social media manager, as you need to know what to share and what not to share. This isn’t as simple as it sounds, since even curated content needs to be tailored to your audience, containing information they’re interested in, in a style, tone and format they’ll respond to. Plus, when you’re trying to break through all that social media noise, it isn’t always easy to make someone else’s content stand out.
In 2016, curation will become an even more essential skill for social media managers in light of a new trend: employee amplification. More businesses are starting to realize that their most powerful social media advocates are probably people they share a lunch room with. Employees can take your latest piece of content and blow it up in their own networks, greatly expanding your reach right from the get-go.
The thing is, you can’t ask them to share everything. You also can’t make it hard for them to share, or they probably won’t do it. Social media managers will therefore need to be able to curate the most relevant content to the most relevant segments of the organization, and do so in a way that makes it easy for them to share. This includes creating copy and imagery that they’ll find compelling and actually want to put in front of their own audiences.
Curation isn’t as simple as plugging in an RSS feed. In 2016, you’ll likely find out just how much skill it takes.
Image by Gadgetmac//Nest Photo via Flickr CC by NC ND 2.0
If you thought 2015 was a big year for video, just wait until 2016. Last year, Facebook more than doubled its daily video views to 8 billion while Snapchat now reports 6 billion daily video views. That’s on top of existing video powerhouse YouTube, and social networks like Twitter, Vine and Instagram earning video views in their own right.
Seventy percent of companies now say video is their most effective marketing tool and two out of three businesses expect it to dominate their strategy going forward. A social media manager needs to have an understanding of videography if they’re going to fit into that strategy.
Now don’t misunderstand us: Your social media manager isn’t going to be able to shoot professional quality video. To get commercial-quality video, you’re going to want to pay someone who specializes in this. Your social media manager, on the other hand, should be able to know great video when they see it, and most importantly have a firm grasp of social video trends and how they fit into each major network. Certain networks, like Vine and live-streaming tools Meerkat and Periscope, also have a far lower expectation of quality, so the average smartphone user can become a video content creator for your brand.
What are brands seeing success with on Vine these days? How can you replicate it, with your own style and voice? Can you tell your video team how a Facebook video CTA should differ from a YouTube video CTA? What counts as a “video view” on those two networks? These are questions a social media manager will need to answer in 2016.
The social media ads… they’re coming. After being all the rage in 2015, social media ad spend is only expected to grow through next year. Ideally, you want some of these ads will come from you and your business. Why? From three times higher ad recall on Instagram than the online norms, to promoted Tweets earning exponentially greater engagement than banner ads, social media advertising simply works. You want your business to be using the tools that work.
So a social media manager should know how to use social media advertising tools. That’s almost a given, and the networks themselves make it fairly simple to use their ad tools anyways. What isn’t a given is how to budget, and that’s what makes this a vital skill for social media managers moving forward.
Haven’t noticed the exponential increase in ads on your social media feeds? That probably means they’re working. In contrast to old-fashioned banner ads, the new generation of “native” social media ads like sponsored posts on Facebook and Instagram and promoted tweets on Twitter look and act a lot like normal updates from friends and followers. They’re also targeted with increasing precision. Advertisers are now able to drill down not just by age and gender, but by interests, location, company affiliation, role, and more. So the ads you get are probably the ones you actually want to see.
Analytics. Everybody knows they’re important, and yet a firm grasp of analytics is still somehow underappreciated as far as social media skills go. Analytics allow you to justify every decision you make in your role. What should you post, when should you post it, where should you post it, how much should you spend on it, how much did it make for your business—all of these questions can be answered, but only by someone who understands how to use social media analytics.
Social media is no longer about likes and follows. Leads and revenue tracking are a growing part of social media management. But how exactly do you do that? Here’s just one example. Using a tool like Salesforce, social media professionals can tag all the links they share on Twitter, Facebook or any other social network. These tags act as a starting off point which will later allow you to attribute the leads or revenue gained from anyone who filled out your form, downloaded your app, or bought something from your online store. When you can attribute revenue back to individual social media messages, you gain valuable insight into what content works for sales purposes. You also have data which proves your value to your business or organization.
Learning the ins and out of popular analytics tools like Hootsuite Analytics, and supporting tools like Salesforce, will make all the difference as you start a new social media job or ramp up the tracking at your existing one. Dedicate yourself to the data!
Image via zoutedrop under CC by 2.0
Budgeting, channel management, video, storytelling, customer service, analytics and content curation? That’s a lot. Which is what makes this final skill so essential for social media managers: project management.
The very fact that you’ll need this smorgasbord of skills means you’re going to be pretty busy on a day-to-day basis. Everything you do will have a multitude of elements that require a lot of oversight. A typical day in the life of a social media manager will probably look something like this:
- Review the day’s content
- Read up on industry news
- Provide social media strategy insight to major marketing campaign
- Curate content for your staff to share
- Engage users on five social networks
- Field customer service questions
- Shoot a live-streamed Q&A with your CEO on Periscope
- Schedule the next day’s social content
- Go home and browse Facebook for a few hours before passing out to the latest season of Master of None on Netflix
To make it through a week on this kind of schedule, social media managers will need to be master project managers. They need to be able to prioritize tasks, so that they’re flexible to jump on social media trends or customer service issues as they happen. They’ll need to be able to understand to what degree they can automate, and where they need to maintain full control. They’ll need to be able to juggle their work while constantly justifying their efforts, managing up and explaining how social media contributes to the bottom line.
If you’re not a multi-tasker extraordinaire, the social media manager role might not be for you.
Akin is the author of the book "THE INTERNET: a town square for the global village.
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