Your Social Media Manager Needs to Know Your Business

We all know by now that social media is important for business success. It plays a role in sales, marketing and support.

Then there’s the idea of social CRM — on a basic level, the inclusion of social media-generated data in the customer record — which can help shift the way a business interacts with customers to a more intimate and effective level.

That’s common knowledge.

So, who do you have working to make this transition?

Choosing these people isn’t easy, if only because businesses have never had to hire them before. That puts managers who are in the dark about social media into the position of trying to choose the right people to manage something they themselves know little about. In many cases, it results in a default behavior: They hire young people, assuming that having grown up with social media, they’re the ones who know how to use it.

A Little Experience Goes a Short Way

Truthfully, they do, sort of. They know how to use social media to enhance and connect in their own lives. Do they know how to use it to build customer relationships and communicate effectively as a business? Usually, the answer is no.

There’s a big difference between running the Facebook page for your dorm’s broom hockey team and coordinating the use of multiple social media channels to communicate with customers, potential customers and peers in a way that furthers the goals of a business.

If the people hiring for this job haven’t thought about what those efforts would look like — at least a general way — then it’s impossible to make an informed hire. Uncertainty and indecisiveness creep in, and poor decisions are made.

As I’ve written in the past, the most egregious effect of this is the hiring of a “social media intern” and the dumping of all social media tasks on that person. That prompts the question: Why would you turn over control of the channel that reaches the largest number of potential customers to the lowest-paid person in your organization?

Not a Passing Fad

The answer is obvious. It’s because some businesses still don’t appreciate the power of social media as a catalyst for success — or failure. Those that do choose their people more carefully and fashion their roles to be collaborative with other key roles in sales, marketing and support.

What this means is that you shouldn’t simply be on the hunt for a digital native to manage your social media initiatives. If you’re serious about making social media and social CRM pay, the person you choose to manage it must have some savvy about the business, its goals, and the way it operates. That person must possess an understanding of who your customer audience is and know the right messages to reach that audience.

That person must have the knowledge to track the success of social media efforts by monitoring the right metrics. On top of that, the social media manager needs to have the skills to work with leaders in other parts of the business to make sure they understand the value of social media and how to use the data it provides to help their efforts.

Does that sound like something an intern can handle?

So, when the question is asked, “Do we hire someone who understands social media and teach them about the business, or do we hire someone who has a strong grip on the business side and train them on social media?” I tend to come down on the side of the latter.

The Right Stuff

An experienced manager brings some abilities that young employees may not: an understanding of how to phrase things in social media that sets the right tone; an instinctive feel for data that should go into customer records or into lead-scoring measurements; an assertiveness that makes it possible to come back at managers disdainful of social CRM with business arguments that keep progress moving.

The trick, then, becomes finding those people. They may already be inside your organization. Don’t assume that a valued employee can’t be spared from a traditional marketing or sales support position if that person could be the ideal candidate for the critical social CRM role.

If you’re looking outside your company, keep in mind the idea that the right person needs to know both social media and your business. Further, that person needs to be an internal evangelist at times to make sure that sales, marketing and support understand how critical social media is to their success.

CRM Buyer columnist Chris Bucholtz is a speaker, writer and consultant on topics surrounding buyer-seller relationships. He has been a technology journalist for 17 years and has immersed himself in the world of CRM since 2006. When he's not wearing his business and technology geek hat, he's wearing his airplane geek hat; he's written three books on World War II aviation.

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