Dear Social Media Managers: It’s Time To Grow Up

Written by and published

Listen. We need to talk. I wasn’t going to say anything, but it’s time. Birds, bees, etc.

Don’t be embarrassed – everyone goes through this. Yes, you’re totally normal. I know social media puberty is uncomfortable and awkward, but it’s gonna be OK.

All the good professions have gone through this. It’s a natural cycle: pioneering, growth, maturity and finally, stabilization. It gets better.

Tell me, does this sound familiar?

In the Beginning…

The social media world was brand-new, and you were discovering everything for the first time, like a baby discovering its fingers.

You were pioneering. Platform creators. Bloggers. Rule makers. One part rogue and two parts revolutionary. You were success kid.

Grow up like a success kid in Social Media

Social has been “a thing” as long as the Internet has been around, but you took to it like you took to your Big Wheel and ran with it. You made it cool.

Pioneers in social helped create awareness and pushed for growth and evolution.

This pioneering phase had a fairly long on-ramp between technology and adoption – there were a lot of moving parts that needed to align.

The Awkward Adolescence

You had to grow up really fast. It’s gotten a little messy – and it’s all been in the public eye, Olsen twins-style.

Staring John Stamos

Suddenly, you had to share the cool kids’ table as the masses and businesses started playing, too. Everything was in flux as a huge and dramatic influx of investors, players and “professionals” joined the scene.

But you stayed on top. The struggle to prove value and worth was all anyone could talk about. As the “social media expert,” you were Tracy Flick raising your hand in class while your job and your field shone in the limelight.

Tracy Flick for President

No pressure, though – right?

Which Leads Us to Today

You’re growing up, our little social media rock star. You may have noticed that your metrics and tools are changing, and that other industries like SEO, Content Marketing and PR are starting to pay you more attention. Don’t be afraid – this is all natural.

Innovation and disruption is still happening, and new players are catching your eye all the time. Hey there mobile, how are you?

The jobs are plentiful. You have a seat at the table. You’re confident. Maybe even too confident? You’re still not grown up yet, although I know it feels like you are.

What’s Next For You?

Listen, you may be Social Media Prom Queen right now, but the real world is coming for you.

Measurement and process standards are becoming the norm. We’re moving towards stabilization. The industry is growing up around you.

The world of marketing is bigger than you, and social isn’t seen as the isolated panacea it once was.

Things are changing, and you should want them to. It means greater opportunity and professional growth for you. It means a chance to be part of crafting a dynamic profession while driving the future of business forward by focusing on customers, content and even having some fun.

But here’s the thing. If the profession is going to grow up, you need to make some changes. I can’t promise it will be easy, but I can promise … well, just do it.

Here’s the Plan

Drop the Bullshit Titles

You are not a guru, ninja, Jedi, wizard, rock star or legend. You don’t get to call yourself an expert or maven.

Drop the Bullshit Titles in Social Media

Conduct yourself professionally, and build a brand that garners the respect it deserves. Grown-up titles and all.

Build your brand and let others anoint you with these titles. (Unless you are actually a ninja, Jedi or wizard. In which case – hit me up. Let’s hang out!)

Change the Conversation

If you’re going to carry the social media crown, you’ve got to be prepared for its responsibilities.

That means turning the tide away from shiny objects and toward driving stakeholder value.

Stop reporting likes. Stop reporting followers, circlers, or whatever other locker-room metrics you’re using. Just stop.

Now, I know, these might be the things you’re being asked about: change the conversation. Consider it a critical imperative for the good of all social practitioners.

Tie your work to solid and meaningful business metrics.

Measure and report on what matters to executives and shareholders. Grab that seat at the table by showing just how beneficial social engagement can be for customers and business.

Look Ahead

Finally I implore you to think about your future.

As social matures, sure, there will still be roles for specialists. But it’s becoming clear that engagement is the job of teams from across the entire organization – from product, to risk, to service, to HR, to marketing, PR and legal. Everyone will have skin in the game.

That’s how it needs to be if businesses are going to mature and become fully engaged, with customer experience as the focus.

Foresee the challenges your organization will face, and work with all of these teams to fully realize the opportunities ahead of them. Empower them. Help them drive value for their teams and the company as a whole.

I know it might be a little scary to grow up, but it’s time.

I mean, seriously. You didn’t think you could call yourself a guru forever…. did you?

16 Responses to “Dear Social Media Managers: It’s Time To Grow Up”

  1. Thank goodness someone has finally said this. Social is becoming a part of all marketing plans, not just an add-on or small experiment. There’s a big gap between those who clearly know what they’re doing and show it, and those that still have a cowboy attitude and treat it like a free for all.

    tl;dr act like you’ve been there.

  2. Eric Bryant

    This was really good, Kristy. And it’s long overdue. Someone has needed to say this for some time now. The prob. I see with social media managers is we continue to ignore the C-Suite’s demand for ROI. Bad idea. Do this at your peril. The C-Suite, in my experience, needs to know: If I spend $2K/mo on that social media software, how much ROI will it get me? That it. That’s the ballgame for them. Now, we as community managers/SM managers, we know that isn’t the whole ballgame. But last time I checked: I don’t sign my own paycheck. So, I’ve learned that we have to start paying closer attention to what the C-Suite wants, else find ourselves out of a job.

    On the flip side, at the company I work for, the chief execs are somehow convinced of the value of social (despite the fact that I as the social media manager, have never had to really persuade them). These uninitiated CxOs believe that SoMe will be/is the chief driver of online revenue. However, as someone who does it all: SEO, PPC, SEM and Social, I know it isn’t.

    So the other side of that coin is to set reasonable and clear expectations as a social media person. Make sure the C-Suite understands that social is really more about PR, brand-building, and assisted-conversion-value, and less about hard, cold ROI or revenue generation.

    My previous GM I think said it best: “Social doesn’t generate a whole lot of revenue for us, but we have to sort of be there.”

    That’s what the C-Suite understands. It is our job to explain to them why that statement is true. Why we need to “be there”. And in order to do that, we need to drop the BS, understand business metrics, understand KPIs, and and, as the author states, “Grow up.”

    • You bring up a very good point that I only slightly touched on in the post. And that’s the change of the conversation. Yes, like you said, there are indeed times when it’s the SM managers responsibility to change their reporting to align with the business – but there are times when the C-suite is pushing for the wrong measurement and the conversation needs to be the thing the SM Manager works to change. It’s definitely a two way street. And working from a ‘we need to be there’ to a ‘this is why we’re there’ is a shift that needs to happen. Luckily….that’s a bit easier of a road so congratulations on the good work you’re clearly doing over there 🙂

      • Eric Bryant

        Also, we really need to quit the whole “ROI = Return on Influence/Impact/” or trying to divert the conversation to “ROE = Return on Engagement”, or some other such nonsense. I mean, I get it. I really do. But the Dir. of Sales and Marketing, he doesn’t. And the GM, she sure doesn’t. Don’t go messing with the ROI formula these baby-boomers learned in their sophomore business class; they get really angsty when you do that, lol!

        • LOL well and to be honest, the bottom line of the business depends on true Return on Investment. Sure, you can tie influence/impact/engagement, as meaningful KPI’s to the bottom line, but they aren’t directly related. Gotta level up that conversation 🙂

  3. Nearly 100% right. The one thing to consider is in reference to the Jedi/ninja/guru/rock star titles you reference. Yes, they’re everything you point out and should immediately disqualify anyone who uses any of these in reference to themselves. However, I’ve noticed that many times these monikers are often used by scared shitless “traditional” comms/marketing/PR types when referencing those of us storming their broken, sad castle. You may ignore any digital strategist who doesn’t immediately reject these titles.

    • That’s certainly one situation I’ve seen them. I’m not super quick to discount traditional marketers however. There is a lot of foundational marketing that the newcomers have simply skipped over. Because you can tweet does not make you a social marketing expert and it definitely does not make you a marketing expert.

  4. Donna Prior

    I’m not giving up my self-appointed silly title, “Sparkly Princess of Social Media”. Of course, I made it up when people kept introducing me as “guru”, “Maven”, and “ninja”. I am none of these things; I am a princess. Sparkly one. Ironically, it’s turned into my own brand. DAMMIT, I’M A COMMUNITY MANAGER NOT A MARKETER.

    Okay, I know. I’ll be over here in my corner. *checks Twitter relentlessly*

  5. Great post. It feels like a shame that we have to grow up, but the people that innovated and pushed for social to be taken seriously, well, have what they wished for now. So it’s time to put on that suit and prove its worth a damn.