One of the hardest jobs for any brand or business today is finding people who are genuinely talented when it comes to social media. And when I say talented, I don't mean someone who has the ability to use Facebook... My mother can do that (no offense mum).
Having worked with a significant number of social media professionals (and being one myself), I can honestly say that the fundamental skills required to excel in the social world are not necessarily skills that a person can be taught. Of course you can learn to use all of the social networking platforms that are currently out there, but understanding something and using it, are not the same thing.
Now I am going to be a little controversial. There are many people out there who claim to be social media experts, but the simple truth is that many of them are not. Personally, I have never sold myself as an expert. I would say that I am extremely knowledgeable when it comes to the world of social media but the fact is that social is still so very new and in many ways "under construction" that it would be impossible for anyone out there to be an absolute expert on the subject. Nobody knows everything about everything — not even me!
When stripped down to its bare essentials, the elements that underpin social media are the things that human beings have been doing for thousands of years. Listening to each other, talking to each other, and sharing with one another. We are by our very nature social creatures, therefore it is simply social evolution that has led to the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the countless other platforms becoming an integral part of our lives. With this in mind, it is in the best interest of all brands and businesses to invest the time in finding the people who are able to harness these essentials in the right way.
To be effective in the world of social media, you have to understand people and what makes them tick — be it in a negative or positive way. Psychology and emotional intelligence both play a huge role when it comes to the art of "being social." Being able to read a tweet and ascertain how unhappy a customer might be requires far more than the ability to simply respond. It requires empathy — being able to put yourself in the shoes of that person — and above all it requires intuition. There have been several occasions where I have relied on my intuition to deal with situations that have had the potential to be extremely negative. This is not something that I learned by attending a class or by reading a book. The ability to connect with someone (who most of the time will be a complete stranger to you) is a far more complex process than one would imagine and it is very easy to get this wrong.
I see countless examples on a daily basis of social interactions that display no level of emotional intelligence or thought process into how the human mind actually works. Also, as physical interaction is not an integral part of social communications, it is even more important that the right level of “humanity” is injected into the content that you are sharing. At the end of the day, before you are a brand or a business, you are a human being. Never make the mistake of underestimating the potential and power that a person’s humanity can have on your brand and business, especially in the social world.
Another trait that I have spotted in those with real social potential is that they tend to be a little different — more of an individual as opposed to someone who follows the crowd. While they are able to relate to those around them, they do not necessarily follow the same path. Personally, I think that this is an excellent quality and something that I always look for.
While social media is becoming more integral to businesses, it is still something that is very different to what the majority of people in many organizations actually do. Therefore, it is important that the person/people who are tasked with developing this area, are also a little different and are able (and allowed) to apply this to their work. As I have said in a previous post, there are a significant amount of brands and businesses out there who are all doing the same thing, so to have someone on your team who genuinely thinks outside of the box rather than just saying that they do will give you a serious competitive advantage and ensure that you always maintain point of difference in terms of what you share, no matter how subtle those differences might be. How will you ever make any real progress if you seek to surround yourself with people who lack the ability to be disruptive and introduce new ideas and ways of thinking. Nowhere is it more key to adopt this approach than in the world of social media. You cannot apply old ways of thinking to new ways of working, which is something that I see many brands and businesses doing when it comes to their social portfolio.
While I am not saying that a degree in psychology is required, I do believe that it is important that whoever you give the task of managing your social media to has the ability to wear their human hat alongside their business hat — the two must co-exist in order for you to forge that all-important emotional connection with your audience. So ask yourself a question: How socially intuitive are you as a social media professional or the social media professionals that you employ?