Social Media is an odd beast and a complicated one – but if you’re thinking about focusing your career as a social guru or ninja or pterodactyl … or whatever it is people are calling themselves now, then think again.
At the time of writing 76 per cent of 18-30 year olds – Generation Y – owns a smartphone; while the internet, including social media, is seen as the best source of entertainment at 64 per cent. Meanwhile the current flurry of teenagers, who are even larger consumers of social media and seemingly early adopters of all new mediums, will soon be entering the employment market, bringing advanced social media know-how with them.
The dominant attitude of many companies seems to be that because these young employees and – in some cases interns – understand how social media works they are automatically the best candidates to broadcast their messages. The issue most often overlooked by management is that knowing how to use something doesn’t necessarily mean it translates to business. It’s all well and good to have someone who lives and breathes social media in your company, but that’s no use to you if they can’t set out how social media will benefit your business. A social champion might do fantastically in reaching out to your followers, but be all at sea the moment something goes wrong.
To illustrate how ridiculous the prevalent thinking is: would you let that same employee drive your car after having their assurances of their ability playing Mario Kart? I really hope not, anyway.
Yet, many companies, especially SMEs, (who know they should be ‘social’ but don’t have the foggiest as to how) leave their youngest, most inexperienced employee in charge of their very public, very direct-to-consumer communications channel, because ‘they get how it works’. Of course, this is a common route for those employees to becoming an experienced social media champion; after a great amount of trial and error.
The risk to a company’s reputation that this opens up is massively underestimated and the majority of senior management – roughly three-quarters – don’t understand the role social media plays in that.
Here are some great examples of social media gone wrong. This isn’t an exclusive list, and there are many more examples of misused or hijacked hashtags, and an abundance of failed messages, even from giants such as Qantas and McDonald’s.
Remember the HMV tweets from January 2013, exposing the Marketing Director’s ignorance? “How do I shut down Twitter?” he cried as his social media champion vented her frustration at the handling of the company’s head office lay-offs and lack of understanding as to the potential of social media. It was a great wake-up call for business everywhere, but added to HMV’s tarnished, out-dated reputation. It’s your business to know the reputation risks and have a plan of action in place should any campaign backfire.
So why did I open this post telling people to think again from becoming a social media guru?
It’s not because I don’t believe the role has value; far from it! Simply put, it’s because I don’t believe roles confined to social media will exist in a few years.
As senior management are forced to become more familiar with these channels, it will be increasingly factored into the greater communications strategy, with a specific role to play. Whether that’s to build brand awareness, generate sales, or just general PR social media will be used effectively to position your campaigns and brand identity. This means that your social activity will have to reflect your brand, tone of voice, and offer the best customer experience with objectives that can all be measured.
But this is a good thing! Anybody looking to specialise in Social now will eventually have to look at the bigger picture: measures and statistics, revenue targets, brand and product positioning, customer communications and so on …
That’s not something that can be achieved posting pictures of your lunch.