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  • Jay Adams

For the Love of All Internet Cats, Just Trust Your Social Media People!

I'm guessing there are two types of people who could read this post: 1. The tired, run-down social media manager who is constantly told how to do his/her job by the higher-ups; 2. The higher-ups.

Man, am I hoping I can get through to the second group with this.

Social media isn't new anymore. It's hard to believe just seven or eight years ago, we were on the cusp of businesses noticing that they could achieve a lot of marketing goals through these channels people were spending hours upon hours of their time on. Here we are in 2016 and most of those businesses have invested in social media resources at some level.

Every business has handled the addition of those resources differently. Some have really stocked up on personnel and are providing exemplary customer service and 1-to-1 marketing to their fans/followers; Others have merely dipped a toe in the water, putting the burden on existing employees or adding one entry-level position to run the biggest touchpoint with consumers the company has.

Regardless of how social media is being staffed, there's one thing I'm willing to bet is universal at all companies these days: Everyone — from the chairman of the board to ol' Tommy in the mail room — is a social media expert.

That's right. It's 2016, baby. Your CEO or his/her executive assistant has a Facebook now, so they know all about how to do this social media thing — and they're going to tell you exactly how to do it, hapless social media manager person, and you better consider yourself lucky for such direction from on high!

I'm betting many of the social media folks who are reading this have experienced some level of the following scenario: You're at your desk interacting with your customers, posting wildly compelling content, pouring over Facebook Insights for opportunities, all while your Darth Maul bobblehead nods at you in approval.

You get a notification on your desktop that a new email has arrived. Being a creature riddled with FOMO — that's Fear Of Missing Out, for you newbs — you immediately hop to your inbox to see what's going on.

It's an email from a mid-level manager of a department you hardly know exists, let alone would ever take many orders from. Inside the body of the email, Mid-Level Manager tells you that this awesome thing just happened in his department and here, he even attached a grainy cell phone photo of the thing happening. You know what he says you should do with this?

That's right, lowly Social Media Manager. You see, Mid-Level Manager has three kids that spend all day Snapfacing and he knows a lot about social media now. Your fans WANT that photo of that thing that just happened in his department and he knows it — AND YOU KNOW IT, TOO! So, get that big, broad brush out of the closet and let's broad-brush the company's entire social media presence with the photo of the thing!

You only wish at this point you could make Darth Maul into a real, live boy and have him go lightsaber Mid-Level Manager's Dell into 20,000 pieces.

Let's play out another common scenario: Brand Manager knows all about #brands. Brand Manager has extensive experience in brand managing in all its traditional forms. Certainly — I mean, really, there's no doubt in her mind — those same tactics she's been putting into use when you were an acne-faced high school freshman will apply and be successful on the social media. So, here comes another email with a print ad attached to it and a few lines in the message about how important this marketing initiative is to the company and she suggests — nay, demands! — what you need to do with this print ad...

Darth, please stop the madness!

At this point, there are social media managers slapping their foreheads, nodding in agreement, laughing because it keeps them from crying, or weeping gently because laughing isn't an option.

Scenarios like these are all too common in companies trying to make their mark in the social media space in 2016. Here we are with said business devoting potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not much more, to knowledgeable, experienced, professional social media resources only to have employees from other departments or, worse, executive team members bombard those resources with their suggestions for how things should get posted, when they should be posting, what should be posted, and of course, where they should be posted. (Answer: everywhere!!!).

If you fall into the second category mentioned above and you have no actual training in social media best practices for businesses, please, I beg you — the entire community of social media professionals begs you — let your social media people do what they've been trained to do, what they know how to do at an expert level, and what they believe is in the best interest of the company. Just because you know how to share an article from The Onion to tell all your Facebook friends that you've been right all along about Unnamed Politician being of the reptilian race doesn't mean you should be demanding your ideas about your company's social media practices be adhered to.

Let's take a look at some very real truths that should serve as wake-up calls for anyone who has been overstepping their bounds with their company's social media department:

  • Your personal use of social media has very little crossover regarding what your company should be doing with its social media presence.

  • If you're lucky enough to have resources devoted to social media within your company, they are likely seasoned professionals with impressive resumes in their field — just like you are within your area of expertise. If you like people to stay in their lane, let me tell you, so do your social media folks.

  • Social media managers love ideas and inspiration from the outside. That's not facetious; It's true. What we don't like is being told that the idea coming in absolutely, 100 percent has to be executed. If you have an idea or you saw something really cool that another company did on social, by all means, your social media folks will really appreciate you sending it along. What will make them Google spells to bring Desktop Darth Maul to life is any demand that they mimic that idea or post that article everywhere. Let them evaluate what you've sent them and determine, with their years of experience and knowledge, what the best way to handle it would be.

  • Speaking of that, for the love of all Internet cat videos, please understand: Not everything goes everywhere. Social media managers want to tell you this so badly if they haven't already. Blanketing your social properties with the same content is just really bad form. Here's why: 1. Your social media manager spends tireless hours going over numbers, testing content performance on different channels, and has a great sense of what works best on which platforms.; 2. You give your fans/followers/customers zero incentive to follow all your social properties if you're constantly posting the same content on every channel you have a place in. Sometimes photos work way better on Facebook than they do Twitter. Sometimes blog posts get much better traction on Twitter than on Facebook. This is called strategy, and believe me, your social resources have one. Let them put all content through that filter and do what they believe is best to get the most out of that content. Expecting all your content to be placed everywhere is something Desktop Darth is going to lightsaber out of your head if you're not careful.

  • Traditional marketing and advertising tactics rarely are effective on social platforms. If you come from a background of traditional marketing and advertising, please, above all, know this, remember this, understand this. That great print ad is just that — It's a print ad. That means it should be used for print and nothing else. If you wouldn't take that same print ad and put it on a billboard, why do you demand that the print ad go on social platforms? Social media requires a soft touch. If your social media request is basically a sledgehammer call-to-action to BUY, BUY, BUY, then you need to take that sledgehammer back to your cubicle, Thor, because that's not going to work on Facebook unless your goal is to set new company records for page unlikes in a day. Involve your social media folks in your campaign discussions from the start, tell them your goals, and share with them your ideas for traditional marketing. Then, shut up. Let them tell you what they think is the best approach for creating an extension of that campaign on social media. It might be a series of paid Facebook ads. It might be some well-timed tweets that include compelling graphics to capture the attention of followers. It might be a million things and it might be only one thing. Whatever it is, do not — and I repeat: DO NOT — ask, "Well, what about [insert trendy social platform here]?" If they didn't mention it as a place this campaign should be executed, then it's likely not the right platform for that campaign. If you're in charge of selling pocket catheters — and bless your little heart if you are — Snapchat is not the platform for your campaign. (Also, if you really are in charge of selling pocket catheters, your TV ads are a bit much and I don't appreciate them. Do with that feedback what you will.).

I know I've covered a lot here, and I realize I've done so in a very snarky way, but in my experience, these are important points for anyone working in a company with any sort of social media presence to understand. As we continue down this path, social media platforms will more and more prove themselves as your most important, most direct touchpoint to reach and service your customers (if you're not treating that area of your business like that already, consider this your notification that you should). You have people who are experienced, knowledgeable, and, I guarantee, passionate in this area.

Trust them.

Trust them as if your company's future depended on it, because it just might. It takes one gaffe or one poorly executed campaign idea to ruin a reputation on social media these days. Your social media people know that, and they know what those danger areas are. If you don't know them, research them. There's plenty of information out there from reputed bloggers and social media experts that can fill you in on the latest best practices, examples of social media done correctly, and areas where you can really hurt your company. Heck, schedule some time with your social media folks to sit down with them and understand how their world is different from yours. I have yet to meet a social media professional who wouldn't love the opportunity to give more people in their company an understanding of what they do and why they do it.

In the meantime, it is critical that you put your faith in your local, friendly social media manager and let them spread their Twittery wings so your company can soar.

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