What some social media professionals don't want you to know

Teddy Craig • 21st Nov 2016

Social Media might make you nervous.

You’re not alone.

At one particular job I started, I was very nervous.

They had high profile clients, more staff than I was used to, bigger offices – the works.

Everything that could make you walk into a role and doubt yourself.

Then I had to take over a client from another, more established member of the team who was moving on.

I was supplied with their ‘social media strategy’ and a monthly report.

I couldn’t even understand what I was looking at.

My eyes swam as a selection of different coloured dots appeared across more forms of graph and chart than I even knew existed.

Gulping with nerves, I turned to the account manager and said, “Is this what you need me to do?”

What happened next would make or break whether I had a career working in social media.

“No, man, I don’t know what the **** this means!”

And breathe.

Social Media should be simple. If it isn’t – there’s a problem.

There is a trend among some social media professionals to make things seems as complex and other-worldly as possible.

It’s probably not just a trend limited to people working in that field though.

I imagine that whatever sector you’re in, you’re aware of a few people determined to create a cloud of confusion around what they do.

As if not even being able to explain it makes them more rather than less valuable.

There are times when I feel guilty about the impression that the whole social media industry has given to Marketing and PR people from a traditional background.

Seeing people with years of experience say that they “just don’t get” social media doesn’t make me jump for joy and wonder how much of their previous role I can snap up.

It makes me want to sit them down and point out that they were already doing what I’m doing while I was still trying to push toy dinosaurs into electrical sockets.

(Last week.)

What can and should Social Media actually do for a brand?

What am I trying to do?

Firstly, I’m trying to work out who the client’s target market is and what it is that the client actually wants them to do.

Dead simple.

Something people probably once set out to consider with ink and quill.

Then I need to work out where I can actually reach those people.

Where are they going?

What are they doing?

What are they interested in?

Just like people once had to work out which tavern to put up a poster in, I need to work out where people can actually be reached by what I want to say.

And I need to work out what tone and format of message is most likely to bring about the effect I desire.

Of course, the groundbreaking, amazing, never-happened-before aspect to social media is that it lends itself to conversation.

It’s never happened before… so long as you don’t count salespeople.

You know.

The ones that would go to where they knew the right people would be.

And would engage them in discussion.

Striking up a conversation in a friendly but professional tone.

Establishing some rapport.

Getting a sense of what the person they were talking to actually responded to, what they wanted and what they needed.

Not trying to start that conversation in an overtly sales-driven manner because it would only lose trust and actually damage the chances of a sale.

Instead, focusing on making a positive impression that might lead to a transaction there and then, or may lead to one further down the line.

A transaction that, either way, might not have come about without that initial contact being made.

Now tell me – am I describing a traditional salesperson or am I describing a social media community manager?

You do understand social media. Somebody just made you feel that you didn’t.

When I meet people from traditional sales backgrounds who feel like the world has changed and that they’re out of place now, that’s not a myth I want to perpetuate.

Instead, I want to learn from them.

If they’re older than me then they’ve got more experience of life than me.

More experience of human reactions.

More experience of establishing relationships.

More experience of doing what I’m actually meant to be doing.

Here’s something that a lot of people in my line of work don’t want to admit.

Social media is just a group of channels.

Channels come and go.

“But we’ve got YouTube!”

You mean TV/Cinema?

“You can draw things on your face on Snapchat!”

Give a teenage boy from any stage of the last 100 years a pen and a picture of someone’s face – even their own – then await the inevitable.

“But, but… Instagram!”

Cave paintings.

Now get over your own sense of generational superiority.

There will always be ‘the next big thing’.

The audience/market are the constant.

Humans are the constant.

I work in social media.

I enjoy working in social media.

But my core skill is reaching people.

Before social media, I’d already done that via TV, Radio, newspaper and magazine.

I was once asked in a job interview if I was a fan of tech.

I said that I was if it was something that helped me to reach people.

But that I wasn’t a fan of tech for tech’s sake.

That’s true.

I don’t find “the next big thing” exciting.

Because “the next big thing” only exists in the eye of the person calling it that.

What I find exciting is the “the most useful thing for reaching people”.

But that doesn’t sound quite so sexy, does it?

The Social Media secret.

What some of us don’t want anyone else to know is that our job is very simple.

That it should be simple.

And that we should be encouraged to keep it simple.

I love the work and thinking of Dave Trott, a legendary copywriter who is both hugely talented and experienced, yet always stresses the importance of keeping things simple.

He often quotes the great Bill Bernbach in relation to this.

What’s important are “Simple, timeless, human truths.”

I don’t think any channel will ever supersede those.

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.

Photo by Jason Howie and used under Creative Commons licence.

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