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'If You Want This Choice Position…': Seven Virtues of the Perfect Social Media Leader

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In this article, you'll learn...

  • The seven virtues of a social-media leader
  • How important a social-media leader is to your company
  • How to find the perfect social-media leader for your company

If you're of a certain age, you likely have at least a dim memory of the difficulties involved in hiring the perfect nanny—and the dire consequences of choosing the wrong one: Remember... "If you want this choice position, have a cheery disposition"?

Well, you needn't fear that a social-media manager will ever feed you castor oil or gruel. But it's certainly possible that you might hire someone who doesn't have the qualities necessary to be successful in such a new field.

Social media is still the Wild West to some extent, and a lot of us are still figuring out the rules. One thing is clear: Social media is here to stay.

Therefore, your social-media manager or director is a critical and strategic hire who will be responsible for formulating and executing your strategy, as well as educating your whole organization and aligning it with that strategy.

But a lot of people who claim to be social-media experts are far from it. How can you sift the wheat from the chaff?


Below are the seven killer virtues of a social-media leader. There are certainly more, but not all are deal makers ("sing songs, bring sweets").

1. Passion

Passion for the job is an important characteristic of any employee, but it's fundamental for a social-media manager. Many public relations and marketing folks use social media, but they aren't passionate about it.

Social media goes 24/7, so you need someone who can live and breathe it without burning out. A good social-media manager will have the drive of a sales representative but has a light touch that influences people without appearing to "sell" to them.

2. Credibility

Social media is not a silo. You need to balance technical skill with business acumen. Research the candidate's professional credibility in your particular industry.

The social-media manager will become one of the "faces" of your company, so you need someone with a broad business background and a grasp of marketing, sales, operations, P&L, product management, business process, and customer relationship management.

3. Strategy

Because social media is fun, many people can get caught up in using it without a clear purpose. If a social-media program is implemented companywide, it can become a big time investment.

Therefore, it's vital that the social-media director provide leadership for senior management as well, ensuring that they buy in to the program and understand its goals. Strategic, big-picture thinking coupled with a willingness for shirtsleeves implementation is a must.

4. Service-orientation

Because social-media managers are the face of a company, they need to be relentlessly committed to helping people in social channels. Customer service should be part of that person's DNA. Customer interaction is not a bother; rather, it's something to enjoy, it's the new marketing.

Customers, partners, prospects, and analysts will need help and advice around the clock, which puts the social-media manager in a unique position of acting as an advocate for the company and brand, as well as the community.

As an advocate for the community, the social-media director helps the company design better products and services, leading to happier and more-loyal customers. And when the products and services are better, the social-media director can evangelize on the company's behalf in a more natural way.

5. Risk-tolerance

The social landscape is changing at breakneck speed. The social-media leader must be comfortable with constant change and course correction.

Because many social efforts are in uncharted territory, the perfect social-media manager will be the proverbial self-starter, a true pioneer, unafraid to head into the darkness.

The social-media leader can't wait for directions from the boss, since the boss may not know as much about social media. And if there's a failure, the social-media leader must dust off and start all over again.

6. Decisiveness

It seems as if there's a new social-media product every other day. Social-media practitioners must keep their tool set full of sharp new tools, but they need the wisdom and experience to recognize which trends have lasting power and which are ephemeral.

It's also crucial that they commit to social-media programs and stay with them long enough to evaluate their success or failure, yet be willing to jettison what isn't working.

7. Action hero(ine)

As noted earlier, change is the only constant in the social-media world. To say that the social populace expects real-time action is an obvious statement.

Although creating quality content is important, it's equally important to avoid "analysis paralysis" or get caught in an endless loop of approvals.

If you wait to publish a blog post or tweet, it will be yesterday's news tomorrow. The social-media director must strike the right balance between perfection and action, with action being paramount.

* * *

As you can see from the above list, the social-media leader wears many hats. Identifying the perfect candidate for your company requires time but is worth the effort. If only it were as easy as saying "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious"!


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Maria Ogneva is the director of social media at Attensity (www.attensity.com), a leader in customer experience management software applications. Contact her at mogneva@attensity.com or follow her on Twitter: @theMaria.

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