One of the first things my Social Media MBA students come to realize within the first 2 weeks of class is that the world of social moves at a rapid pace, changes often, and is constantly being evaluated and re-evaluated. You, the social media professional, carry the responsibility of ensuring you stay current with technology, methods, and strategy.
With this responsibility also comes the need to represent yourself in a realistic light. Resist the urge to describe yourself as a social media Jedi, social media rock star, social media guru or the like. However, ‘social media professional’ is quite descriptive in itself. As the name implies, you specialize in social media, you are proficient, qualified, practiced, and this is your career.
Specifically, to be effective in this role, you must be:
Open to trying new things
In the quest to find the right methods, the right apps, the most effective platforms, the newest technology and the like, one must be open to experimentation and trying new things. Just as constructive criticism is difficult for some to take, trying “new” ways to perform traditional marketing duties is also difficult for some to accept. Social media and technology are working symbiotically to drive business by not only making it possible to communicate with others over a variety of channels in real time, but also allowing it to be done in a way that fosters an atmosphere of collaboration.
Anyone working in business knows the importance of remaining flexible. Inevitably unexpected obstacles will abound, and it is necessary to have the ability to be flexible. Meaning, having the ability to react, adapt, and prosper. Being flexible means different things in different contexts, and different things to different people. To me, it means bending a little, but not breaking; adapting, but not losing focus. It also means knowing where you are going but not ignoring opportunities that present themselves along the way that could benefit business. This applies not only to your career as a social media professional, but also to your business and its social media marketing strategy.
An avid reader
The social media professional must commit to reading daily. Whether it be blogs, books, trade magazines, etc. you must read constantly. I suggest my students set up a blog reader like NetVibes to curate valuable reading material surrounding social media, analytics, measurement, ROI, careers, and other industry specific topics. As Dr. Seuss said, ” The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go”.
An avid researcher
This point goes long with reading. Not only should you be reading, you should be keeping relevant information as it pertains to your social media goals and specific objectives. Let me repeat, specific objectives. Research case studies similar to your brand, search aggressively for the latest trends and best practices. This is a must to keep you current in this ever-changing social landscape.
I have definitely over simplified these four traits. But, over the next four weeks focus on one trait a week. As with any new regimen (like working out), start off with small goals. For example, week one you may decide to focus on finding some blogs you find interesting and adding them to a reader. Then, begin to read and absorb the wealth of knowledge available. Then, week two you may decide to continue reading and also make a conscious effort to be open to new things. I am not saying to go sky-diving, I am strictly speaking about business and social. Something ‘new’ could be investigating BufferApp or another social media focused application.
Do not forget to be aware of your flexibility, moments when you need to give a little, and moments you do not. And of course, don’t forget to pick a week to do a little in-depth research (possibly over an application you read about).
By the end of week four you should have assessed your level of flexibility, found what interests you in regards to research, tried a few new things, and done a lot of reading! These suggestions are not only useful to the new social media professional, but for the seasoned one as well. We all need a reminder (and the motivation) to stay in touch with our industry and in touch with ourselves.