This definitely beats a final exam.

This semester, I expected to learn a set of cookie-cutter rules on how to manage a corporate social media presence, which quite frankly, wasn’t on my list of immediate career plans. However, what actually happened in class was a series of in-depth, provocative discussions about how social media is changing the world we live in, both in our personal and professional lives. Having classmates with a wide range of experiences further enriched the class discussions, and brought often-unexpected topics to light. It’s extremely difficult to boil down an entire semester of readings, presentations, class discussions, and Twitter activity into a single blog post. However, if I had to choose three takeaways, they would be the following:

One: There are no “cookie-cutter” rules for social media marketing.

Sure, “know your audience” and “think before you speak” tend to apply across the board, but by and large, social media marketing can’t be mastered by following a generic checklist. Successful use of social media requires a great deal of finesse, judgment, and attention to detail. Marketing, in general, is both and art and a science, and the same is true for corporate social media use.

Two: Being a Social Media Manager is a real job.

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In my experience (even at a marketing technology company), Social Media Managers weren’t exactly high on the totem pole. I never really took our social media team seriously, and wondered how they really filled their days. There’s no way they actually spend 40 hours per week on Twitter and Facebook, right? WRONG. Between social listening, creating cohesive cross-channel campaigns, finding ways to engage with target consumers, and looking for the perfect real-time marketing opportunities, I now have no doubt that social media marketers have plenty of work on their plates and deserve a lot more recognition than they typically receive. Add in the pressure to stay up-to-date with new platforms and be fully aware of corporate messaging, and social media teams have a lot to worry about. It’s starting to look like I owe some former coworkers an apology…

Three: Traditional media is being impacted by social media.

If there’s one thing that’s surprised me this semester, it is undoubtedly the constantly-evolving relationship between traditional media and social media. Prior to this semester, I never really thought about how social media and traditional media interact. Instead, I viewed the two as completely separate entities that operate independently. This semester, I’ve realized that I couldn’t have been more wrong. While traditional media had a substantial impact on social media in the early days of Facebook and Twitter, the balance has now shifted so that social media has a very substantial impact on traditional media. In times of crisis, like we saw in Paris just a few weeks ago, traditional media relies heavily on information from social media to inform news reports and online articles. Five years ago, it would have been completely unacceptable for CNN or the New York Times to cite a random user’s Twitter account as a source. Now, it’s almost expected that news organizations will rely on social content in breaking news situations. Even in less dramatic situations, viral content on social media tends to seep into traditional media, and social movements with a strong Facebook or Twitter following get further amplification from traditional news organizations.

At the end of the day, I can’t even begin to capture all of the topics we’ve covered this semester, but these were the takeaways that resonated most with me. Classmates, what did I miss? What lessons will impact you most as you enter (or re-enter) the workforce?

And, of course, feel free to add me on LinkedIn or any other social platform!

10 comments

  1. Thanks, Erin! This most definitely beats a final exam for a topic like social media! I completely agree with you in that traditional media will never need the same. Digital and traditional media can benefit from each other and reach their full potential when consumers can see the consistent personality, strategy and content across ALL touch points. The right split of traditional and digital I think depends on the size of the company and the industry, but more and more I think SM will stop being a “supplement” to traditional marketing efforts and will become a part of the core strategy. Thanks again!

  2. Erin awesome post! I absolutely love the picture you featured in your post. I think it sums up very nicely what most people perceive Social Media as. Clearly this class has taught us that it is SO much more. I believe that companies will have to take Social Media more seriously if they wish to remain competitive and it’s our jobs with this knowledge of how to utilize effectively to convince them that it is a priority. I am curious to see how in a few years this position will be perceived and see the difference between the players that took SM seriously and those that did not.

  3. I shared your skepticism for the social media manager role, Erin, and I think seeing how fast everything moves on social media in real time made me realize how important dedicated online brand ambassadors are. We were lucky enough to listen to a few people speak about this role over the course of the semester and it was interesting to hear how much crisis management happens and yet how much they love what they do. It kind of gets back to the idea of unparalleled connectivity, as social media managers are having personal conversations online, just through the lens of a brand name. @ngandia just posted on Twitter about new Facebook tools helping automate some of the reply processes and it now makes me wonder if doing that takes away from the personal connection you get with a brand. On the flip side, it answers basic questions in a controlled environment and helps social media managers prioritize their time on more meaningful deep conversations, so I could see both sides of the argument. Does this mean you are ready to hear offers for social media manager roles in Boston?

  4. Great post! I appreciate your insight and comparisons between traditional and social media. It is amazing to see how all these new options manage to find their place and coexist. Radio is still available, TV, the phone and now the internet/social. Even in publishing books are still being printed. The new media almost needs the traditional media in order to gain contrast and vice versa as you so eloquently pointed out. The biggest takeaway for me is that business owners who are more familiar with traditional media need to be shown the value of social. As a result of this course that prospect of adoption seems positive for social. Thank you for your post; Happy Holidays.

  5. I think my favorite single line of the blogs this week so far, “It’s starting to look like I owe some former coworkers an apology…” Nice post! Have really enjoyed having you in class!

  6. Erin, I used to think of social media as an “alternate” channel of communication, where in reality it is there to augment the traditional communications. This class has been a great discussion …more talk and less lecture is not always a bad thing (unless you have a terrific speaker like Prof. Kane up front!). Thanks for sharing your insights throughout the semester, and for your awesome presentation earlier in the class! Hope to see you “around the block” even if it is “just” via social media…

  7. Erin, this was a great post. I think a lot of our opinions of social media have changed for the better! It’s impressive to think of how many master the art of managing a social media account and this class has done everything to prove that. Utilizing social media, for both personal and corporate use, takes strategy and knowing your audience (if you care about your reputation) and I think you did a great job implying all the factors that go into having a great social media account. Your insight was great and I enjoyed having class with you…Thanks

  8. From someone who actually has been running companies’ official social media accounts for 5+ years, consider your apology accepted! Jokes aside, I can testify how demanding this job can be – and I wasn’t even actually a social media manager. I’ve always worked as a marketing /PR manager, but due the small company size, I also have social media covered among my responsibilities. Funny enough, as something that is not high up on my list, it takes a large part of my time, if not the most. Doing research, curating good content and producing high quality content on your own takes A LOT OF time, although they end up being presented as a 140 character tweet or a picture on Instagram. So yes, social media manager is definitely a real job, and sadly many times it is also an under-appreciated job. However, more and more companies realized this and if well aligned with strategy, their investment will be paid back and rewarded.

  9. Hey Erin, I think your takeaways from is6622 are real similar to mine in that expectations vs reality for this class really ended up shifting how we both view social media now. Of course, no one could discredit the value of it before taking this class, but now I look at social media companies as legit entities in media and tech, transcending just what we used to just deem “social media.” Your examples regarding what happened in Paris evidences this well. Seeing a report on a tragedy like that nowadays with no mention of social media posts would be incomplete.

  10. Awesome last post Erin. I’ve really enjoyed your posts and participation in class, it’s always been insightful and valuable. Thanks for always being on the ball.

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