Guest

Three Critical Traits Of a Social Media Grown-Up

By: Guest | August 13, 2012 | 
24

Today’s guest post is written by Mark Story.

Cathryn Sloane’s article “Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25” caused a bit of firestorm last month.

The debate surrounds how experienced – and old – someone should be to succeed as a social media practitioner.

I weighed in, as did the Huffington Post. and most people took Cathryn to task for suggesting young people “get” social media and are the ones who are best suited to incorporate it in a business setting.

I’d argue there is a bigger point here: You have be a social media grown-up; and that may or may not be tied to years of experience.

Being a social media grown-up means you have the essential skills to be a really good practitioner. Most of these skills are gained with time and with experience, but just like “you can’t fix stupid,” you can’t teach smarts. When seeking to fill social media positions, I would rather hire someone junior with less experience who is bright, because I can’t teach someone to “get it.”

So what is “it?”

Three Critical Traits

1. Excellent verbal and written communications skillsTwitter and Pinterest may have lulled some people into thinking words don’t matter anymore. Wrong. They matter in social media more than ever. You must have good verbal communications skills because you will be engaging in conversation, teaching, and evangelizing. In order to do so, you must be articulate and clear.

As for written communications skills, you cannot be successful at social media without being a good writer. Almost every aspect of online communication (more so in client-driven work, which makes up a large part of the social media world) involves informing and persuading people via the written word. You will need to reply upon your writing skills to tell a complex and compelling story; and sometimes you’ll have to do it less than 140 characters.

2. Tolerance for change and intellectual curiosity. In social media, the only constant is change. Today’s successful Pinterest was yesterday’s much-discussed Quora or Empire Avenue (read: #fail). New tools and tactics come along monthly.

If you want to have a career in social media and be a grown-up, you need to stay on top of what is out there, if for nothing else to make a recommendation to your boss or your client on adopting a social media platform.

Way too many organizations become entranced by the latest shiny object. The social media grown-up knows what’s new, how it works, and if it might add value to the company or clients’ social media efforts.

3. You must provide sound advice. Cathryn Sloane’s controversial statements stemmed from this: She referred to her generation of digital natives as those who are most comfortable with, and fluent with, tools such as Facebook and Twitter because they grew up with them.

True as this might be, knowing how to post status updates in Facebook is vastly different than offering social media advice to a Fortune 500 company, a government agency, or even a  shop down the street. Each client has differing communications objectives, constraints, and sometimes legal requirements.

Experience helps to inform the counsel you give. This is not to say that someone who is in their 20s is not as seasoned as someone in their 40s, but let’s not confuse being fluent with the tools with getting paid to give strategic advice and execute tactics on a very large scale.

I could continue, but I’ll stop at these three core competencies to be successful in social media. These are the “must-haves.” You can be a social media grown-up in your 20s or in your 40s, but don’t forget that good communication, intellectual curiosity, and sound advice are all at the heart of being a good practitioner – and a social media grown-up.

Mark Story is the author of “Starting Your Career as a Social Media Manager,” to be published on September 1, 2012.  He is a new media director, blogger, podcaster, professor and Social Media Old Guy. You can follow him on Twitter at mstory123.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Spin Sucks in Your Inbox

Leave a Reply

24 Comments on "Three Critical Traits Of a Social Media Grown-Up"

avatar

Sort by:   newest | oldest
thejoshuawilner
3 years 10 months ago
Number two really caught my eye. Shiny object syndrome causes all sorts of issues and one of the things a “social  media grownup” should be able to do is explain why some shiny objects have more/less value than others.   They also need to be able to help the company understand what sort of results are realistic and what aren’t. Sometimes I hear people pitching services that include “overnight, viral success.”   That might work for a cold but for the overwhelming number of social media campaigns it is unrealistic. A good campaign online still requires some time just as… Read more »
MarkStory
MarkStory
3 years 10 months ago

 @thejoshuawilner Good point.  00001% of campaigns are “overnight, viral successes.”

gchesman
gchesman
3 years 10 months ago

I really like this post, Mark (@mstory123). I’m 26 with a background in Communications and PR but I’m currently working as a social media strategist. Growing up with technology and using it correctly as a business tool are not the same. Also, most companies would prefer someone with experience instead of a young gun. However, universities have courses on utilizing social media for business and, since it’s such a constantly changing field, age and experience don’t necessarily mean the same thing. That being said, the 3 traits you pointed out are crucial for anyone working in social media. 

MarkStory
MarkStory
3 years 10 months ago

 @gchesman Thanks for your kind words.

Hajra
3 years 10 months ago
I just read an article titled “11 Reasons a 23 year old shouldn’t be handling your social media” http://www.inc.com/hollis-thomases/social-media-dont-put-intern-in-charge.html and yes, both the article for over 25 and under 23 are equally disturbing. I mean, when did age begin to matter so much. I am a shrink and I see confused and totally lost 20 year olds and I see some very confused 50 year olds too. And the 50 year old has a very “mature” 18 year old. See, numbers don’t mean anything as long as you have got your act right.    Yes, there are times when age will… Read more »
tla_bc
tla_bc
3 years 10 months ago

Great Post! via @familyLLB @ginidietrich @mstory123 Excellent communication skills & other traits of a soc med grown-up http://t.co/yMBH1tzH

danblu
3 years 10 months ago

Love the conversation. I’ll get attacked but here goes: young people know how to hit a button or one fact and they consider themselves to be geniuses. What’s troubling is there’s such a bigger picture out there that they don’t see and only time and experience will get it into focus.

magriebler
magriebler
3 years 10 months ago

Nice post, Mark. So sensible. So grown up!

MarkStory
MarkStory
3 years 10 months ago

 @magriebler Thank you!

FelicityFields
FelicityFields
3 years 10 months ago

@ginidietrich Just bought Marketing in the Round. Hoping it will bridge the gap with my “traditional” PR-trained clients.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
3 years 10 months ago

@FelicityFields I hope it will too!

mstory123
mstory123
3 years 10 months ago

@marshallk Thanks, Marshall!

ELR_RuthyLopez
ELR_RuthyLopez
3 years 10 months ago

@marshallk Thanks for posting this. Really excellent insight.

rdopping
rdopping
3 years 10 months ago

Mark. I agreement with your points but what bothers me about your post the preceding comments about fixing stupid and teaching smart. I come front a different school of thought. Im my mind if someone is willing to learn and put the work in they can grow into their own an excell in any forum.

Anyway off topic but I have a few young people that work for me that were given to ne branded as slackers or uninterested. They simply needed some coaching and mentoring to see the value of their potential.

Great post. Very sensible.

Liz
3 years 10 months ago
Mark – I appreciated your initial response to Cathryn’s post but I am starting to suffer fatigue from this story. I’m not sure what can be gained by continuing to coattail the ageism in social media thread. That being said, however, I do agree that sound advice and intellectual curiouristy are key job requirements. But as a seasoned, professional writer and journalist, I find myself questioning the ‘good writing and verbal skills’ advice. IMHO, there are a majority of SM practitioners who lack both or at the very least, are not experts in either. Writing is a skill that requires… Read more »
WhoWonTheWeek
WhoWonTheWeek
3 years 10 months ago

These are three great tips for anyone working in social media engagement, especially for many Facebook brand pages. If you visit http://whowontheweek.com/ you can get a FREE report of fan growth, interaction rate, and more compared to others in your category!

shonali
shonali
3 years 10 months ago

@howiegoldfarb @mstory123 @ginidietrich Heh!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
3 years 10 months ago

@theadclub No! Because it has nothing to do with age.

theadclub
theadclub
3 years 10 months ago

@ginidietrich As a 23 year old social media manager, I couldn’t agree more! Loving all the push back that article got!

cmtrapolino
cmtrapolino
3 years 10 months ago

Being a master of the tools is not how you provide the most value — the tools are one training series away from being accessible to anyone.  It’s the fundamentals that matter most, and that’s why your post is spot on (even if you’re baiting a bit with the ageism story references).  😉

IanHough
3 years 10 months ago
The most astonishing thing about this whole kerfuffle is the poor quality of Cathryn’s article. The syntax and vocabulary was especially bad, so I suppose this makes it even more of an achievement in a way. The article reads like a high school essay yet it garnered huge attention! That said, her premise matched her style (and I use the term loosely), as clearly marketing is more about personalities than it ever was about age. I’m currently reading “Social Marketology” by @RicDragon, and enjoying it immensely, as it goes into some considerable detail about what a social marketing strategy is… Read more »
trackback

[…] Three Critical Traits Of a Social Media Grown-Up (spinsucks.com) […]

trackback

[…] Sloan? She dropped a a Molotov cocktail into a volatile social web ripe for the picking and who knows, she’s probably more crafty than Kim Kardashian’s PR agent. […]

trackback

[…] It just might take more practice, though that might not be a bad thing. Guest writer for SpinSucks.com, Mark Story gives his take on what it means to be a “Social Media Grown-Up.” Being a social […]

wpDiscuz
[postmatic_subscribe_widget]