What My Career Has Taught Me About Social Media (and What I Still Need to Work On)

Having spent the last several years of my career working for marketing technology vendors, I’ve been able to watch the evolution of corporate social media use from the front row. My employers have always encouraged me to stay current on digital trends, so I have paid a great deal of attention to other firms’ social media efforts. I’ve watched firms like UnderArmour, Dollar Shave Club, and even The ALS Association embrace social media to maximize brand awareness and establish themselves as social leaders. At the same time, I’ve witnessed some painful social flops (DiGiorno Pizza, I’m looking at you). Here’s what I’ve learned about social media so far:

  1. Don’t let the intern manage your social strategy.
    • As the former intern, I’ll be the first to admit that this is a terrible idea. It’s only natural to assume that the undergraduate on the team is the most in-touch with new trends and how to harness the power of emerging social platforms. However, your intern may not fully understand your firm’s brand strategy, competitive landscape, or partner ecosystem, particularly in B2B companies. Interns and entry-level employees can be valuable assets in managing day-to-day social activity, but management should define and implement a broader strategy to ensure consistent messaging across channels.
  2. Keep your personal and corporate social accounts separate.
    • We’ve all seen it. Someone thinks they’re logged into a personal account, tweets, and before they’ve realized it, thousands of their company’s Twitter followers have seen their mistake. While this may sound like the simplest of my recommendations, it is one of the most difficult in practice. Employees with access to corporate social accounts must absolutely find a way to manage the separation between work and personal personas. I have found it helpful to use different devices, browsers, and social management tools (Hootsuite, CoTweet, etc.) for different accounts. For instance, at my last job, I only tweeted for work from my company cell phone or laptop, and I only sent personal tweets from my own devices. This is easier said than done, especially if a company is less generous with corporate cell phones, but social media managers need to find practical methods to prevent errors. At the end of the day, proofreading also goes a long way.
  3. Understand trending topics.
    • As we saw with DiGiorno infamously trying to latch onto the #WhyIStayed hashtag (which was intended for victims of domestic violence), it is crucial for marketers to understand what trending topics mean before harnessing them for more visibility. As a general rule, if you don’t understand what a hashtag means, do more research. If you still don’t have a clear picture after digging deeper, perhaps this isn’t the right hashtag for you to use. Even if you fully understand a trending topic, think twice about whether your message fits the topic. Many popular hashtags are politically- or emotionally-charged, and you risk offending target customers with your tweets. Ultimately, if you’re unsure whether your next tweet is a smart move, ask around your office as a sanity check or save the tweet for another time.

This semester, I want to focus on preparing for the next stage of my career. As I work toward a management role, I want to gain the skills necessary to develop a comprehensive social media strategy that contributes to brand success across both online and offline channels. I want to ultimately lead a success story like those mentioned above, so understanding the strategy and culture elements required for social media innovation will be crucial. In this course, I am most excited to watch presentations from my peers in order to understand what other students feel are the most important discussion topics for social media managers today.

What advice do you have for me as I enter this next phase of my career?

5 comments

  1. Great post! I can definitely relate to your first point the most. As a PR intern, I was constantly responsible for social media and social strategy. While they assumed that since I was younger and growing up in our digitally obsessed society I would know exactly how to handle it, this was no the case. I was often left with little to no guidance because they just assumed I understand the task and plan they were trying to implement. Especially when I first started, I knew little to nothing about the clients that the agency was working with. I didn’t understand their position in the market and how it related to their competitors–or who their competitors even were for that matter. I appreciated the opportunity to take on such an important an relevant task, but definitely can relate to your points. Also, I really liked your 3rd point of understand hashtags. Not only do I find it incredibly frustrating when other people do not do their research and respond inappropriately, but I have also found myself fall victim to this as well. Sometime I assume I know what they are talking about and try to engage in the conversation, only to realize I had it completely wrong and should have done some research myself. I think this goes for a lot of things on social media these days. Thin-slicing always us to basically take snap shots of bits and pieces of information we find and since social media is often so brief and sometimes even incorrect, we often get misled. It is important to do your research before trying to comment on a particular topic. This was a great read!

  2. Hi Erin – your first point had me shaking my head because it’s so true! When I was working in agency-side advertising I saw this time and time again. In addition to companies thinking that their youngest employees are the most digital-savvy, many are still grappling with how to staff these roles. Specifically, in an area where no money was previously spent, how must they now carve up their marketing budget and allocate real money to the social media manager role. While not a valid excuse, and totally backwards, using an intern has acted as a stop gap for companies to figure out their social media strategy.

    Instead, once companies have identified social media as an important part of their digital strategy they should determine appropriate staffing and a digital content calendar to keep their content fresh/relevant throughout the year. Companies (and I’m specifically thinking B2C) need to quickly determine how to create social streams where they’re talking with – and not at – their audience. This is a significant undertaking and is best staffed by a professional. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Hey Erin. Great post. I know there has already been enough said about your first point, but I want to jump in as well. Good news, if companies are handing off the social media responsibility to the youngest employee/intern, then you should easily be able to make the case that (insert really smart company you wish to work for here) will be ahead of the curve by hiring you! MBA 2016 success story!

    I feel we both might be looking for similar advice. I think along with building a social media strategy comes the need to show that you have already done it. The “it” might not be a social media strategy from the ground up, but it could certainly be all the traction you make in the world of social media, the insight you gain from testing and experimenting with content across platforms, the tools and knowledge from this class, and much more.

    I look forward to discussing more in this class and figuring out how these goals can be achieved!

  4. The first point, as others have mentioned, is an important one. I would reword it to be, “let your intern EXECUTE your social media strategy, but not DEVELOP it.”

    Young people might be conversant with technology, but if they’re new to the organization and/or industry, they won’t know the best way to use digital media tools to accomplish the organization’s business goals. That’s the bottom line. Get their input, get fresh ideas, but develop a strategy at higher levels of the company, then push it back down to the young hip people to execute. Hiring a 22-year-old and then saying, “I don’t get this social media stuff, you take care of it,” is a recipe for complete failure.

    I was encouraged by how seriously people seemed to take the need for a digital strategy during the discussion in our last class. I think both the undergrads and MBAs in CSOM get it. Now to educate the rest of the business world…

  5. Nicely written! It has been very interesting to see how businesses have adapted their advertising and marketing schemes to social media over the years. There have been some great winners (Oreo during the Superbowl blackout) and some losers (DiGiorno). As simple as it is to Tweet, businesses have a huge community of followers–so every single word matters. On sites like Twitter where you only have 140 characters, mistakes matter! Nothing is worse for a brand than to be sloppy with their social media presence. To be a strong competitors on social media, related to your points, companies must:

    1. Absolutely not rely on more technologically savvy interns to run the face of your brand. Just because I am better with a computer than my older boss does not mean that I have any clue about the image that my company wants to portray. There has to be a proper balance between those who know the strategy of the company and those who know how to get that strategy onto social media.

    2. Be careful in posting so quickly. People today are so used to typing up a tweet in 15 seconds and hitting send that no one proofreads. This is how personal tweets get posted on company accounts and entire messages are changed when you type “fat” instead of “flat”.

    3. Keep up with the fast paced world of social media. There are always going to be new hashtags that are trending. These present a great opportunity for companies to capitalize on, but also can result in awful mistakes. DiGiorno could learn a thing or two about taking the time to understand why something is trending.

    Thanks for your post.

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