The Social Media Manager Grows Up

This is the final story of a series examining how marketers are building the socially connected brand. It is brought to you by Turn, the cloud marketing platform that transforms the way leading advertising agencies and marketers make decisions. 

During superstorm Sandy, Dipayan Gupta, head of social media at New York Life Insurance Company, mobilized his team to use Twitter and Facebook to reach out to policy holders. Gupta wanted first to make sure they were OK and then to let them know that they could use social to find out about their policies if their homes were damaged during the storm. He also made the quick call to turn off all of the company’s advertising.

The social media manager has come a long way.

Not long ago, the mention of a “social media manager” would evoke a 20-something fresh out of school, always connected to the social Web. She was handed the job because she grew up immersed in all things digital, was vaguely hip and the management rarely took that Twitter stuff all that seriously anyway. But times have changed.

The role of the social media manager has necessarily evolved along with the increasingly complex digital media world. Now that most brands and companies have realized that social is a necessary part of business, the role of the social media manager has by necessity matured.

“Twenty-something social butterflies with always-on creative minds, mobile connections and a knack for copywriting and Photoshop are still great assets but no longer represent the typical community manager,” said Nathaniel Perez, global head of social at agency SapientNitro.

“Instead, we are seeing more seasoned, multi-disciplinary professionals, who have embraced digital media from many angles, have a few communication crises or trophies under their belt and work well as true managers across the business disciplines social touches.”

Jeff Dachis, CEO of the Dachis Group, a social marketing software company, sees the complexity of the media buying landscape as having played a large part of this evolution.

“Even a couple years ago, social media ad units didn’t exist,” said Dacihs. “Every single social network has its own native monetization scheme – you have a much more complex media buy across all platforms, and fluency in the platforms and currencies on those platforms is a crucial component to what a good social media manager is going to have.”

To meet the intensifying demands of the role, social media managers themselves seem more serious than their counterparts from five years ago. Joe Barbagallo, social media manager at Volvo, came to the automaker from the agency side. At 28, he oversees two community managers with a mandate to increase brand awareness and promote advocacy for Volvo. Barbagallo sees his role as more than “just looking to get likes, or other superficial metrics.”

“You have to come into the role with a maturity and understanding of the business,” said Barbagallo. “Unless you have an understanding of SEO and paid media, how those marketing mechanisms work, you will be very deficient in your ability to do your job.”

New York Life’s Gupta does not have an agency background but instead came from online journalism. Thirty years old, Gupta thinks the most important qualities in a good social media manager are collaborative skills, the ability to work under pressure and react in real time (the industry’s favorite buzzword), and an excellent understanding of the brand’s business and its processes within the company.

“You can’t think about social media in a silo anymore,” he said. “A social media manager has to bridge the gaps and discover new efficiencies so that each department in a company can communicate with consumers and other businesses.”

Gupta explained that he organizes weekly insight meetings with New York Life’s social team, content team and folks from marketing, legal and PR to go over what content is doing well for them on social, any trends in social they are noticing and any important online conversations that New York Life should get involved in. Gupta also explained that he regularly works with people from across the organization to deal with customer service questions quickly and properly.

Clearly, it’s not just about sending out promotional tweets anymore. Social media managers must have nimble judgement while carefully monitoring social platforms and delivering on-brand and human customer service and content creation. The rise of the bots will have to wait for another day.

Image via Shutterstock