In the earlier days of my social media marketing career, I worked with a local restaurant as their social media manager.
I drove by one day and looked this business up online, only to discover they were completely inactive on their social networks. I reached out and they agreed to take me on as a social media manager. While I was hired mainly to do their social media marketing, there was an added bonus of social media strategy work.
We soon discovered that what they needed was so much more than social media marketing. This business was struggling as they had no long term strategy and declining customer service due to high turnover. It was a daily struggle to survive.
I then discovered that in their minds, I was the lifeline to stay afloat. This made me realize that to do them justice, I had to be more than a social media manager. I had to act like a strategy consultant.
Social Media Management Starts With Social Media Strategy
Being thrown into the role of strategist was an extremely difficult undertaking in the beginning. I confess I only took on this project for the money.
To get started, I tried to relate everything back to their social media.
- Customer service could be a tool to improve following
- Refreshing menus, or rebranding, could ensure a strong long term plan.
- Strategic planning for the future could provide a framework for the social media strategy.
The list was endless, but so was the challenge.
Business Processes Help Social Media Execution
This is where I discovered a winning strategic position for social media managers in an age where roles and requirements are blended is to be both a social media strategist and growth consultant.
Social media relies on strong business processes, which managers are in the perfect position to recognize. Businesses can also do well when they learn from social media through social listening and tracking analytics.
Business Owners and Common Goals
Let’s start by going back to basics. We social media managers serve businesses in the achievement of their goals and elimination of their problems.
What are the most common goals and problems businesses face?
The most common problems businesses face is well documented, but chief concerns include
- Increasing profits
- Decreasing costs
- Saving time
- Staying top of mind
By their very nature, social media managers help with three of these things.
Most of the time however, social media managers are not privy to the strategic business plan, long term vision or the business model of success. What a shame!
Social media managers are often the best positioned people to support a business and its goals and success, if only in unconventional ways. This fact is often overlooked to the detriment of struggling businesses.
Social Media Managers Wear Many Hats
Social media marketing is still a relatively new discipline when compared to other segments of a business.
Remember that social media is multidisciplinary: the platforms are so large and so powerful and require input from so many people at any given time in any given situation.
To this end, it is no wonder that social media marketers are used to wearing many hats. It is well known with the social media marketing industry that social media specialists usually have skills in strategic planning, marketing strategy, community management, sales and customer service, general marketing and PR: on top of social media marketing itself.
By the very nature that we are well versed, and most likely know more than the average lay person in many businesses processes, it then lends itself to the fact that social media specialists make excellent strategy consultants for businesses.
Big Business Goals In the Twenty-First Century
An important step to take is backwards: to examine context in businesses.
There is a reason that business growth and business process can be studied and modelled at scale: it is because challenges and opportunities are the exact same for businesses of all sizes, but with their unique challenges at each stage.
To meet those goals, strategic consultants must be well positioned with the most in demand skills in business. These skills are well studied, and among the top skills are
- Business Analysis
- Communication (both verbal and written)
- Analytical reasoning
What’s most ironic about this list is that these skills and abilities are commonly listed as required for social media specialists in the first place.
As a social media manager, you are expected to understand sales to generate leads, communicate the perfect copy for every social media post to reach a target audience and overall , apply analytical reasoning to explain all marketing efforts.
A seasoned social media professional is only one step away from a strategic position and the bigger picture. The awareness that they are in essence a consultant, a social media professional well equipped to assist in the overall growth of the business.
Blending Social Media Marketing With Business Growth
What are some tangible ways social media marketers can go beyond posting schedules, creating visual content, managing Twitter accounts or researching social media management tools?
They need to look up from their work and position themselves as a core part of any long term strategy.
Here are three ideas to get you started, gained from research and experience:
- Onboard Your Client With the Bigger Picture In Mind.
While there’s many recommendations and how-to’s when it comes to onboarding new clients, look at the bigger picture and ask bigger questions. For example, I always ask my prospective clients to “Tell me about everything that has gotten you to this moment here with me.” Now here’s a pro tip: 99% of the time, they try to tell me about the social media because they think that’s what I want to hear. But what I do is cut them off early if they’re doing this and ask them to tell me about the whole business, because I care about the whole business. This lets me get to know their long term or strategic plan, business model, social media, operations and more.
- Meet With Your Client on a Regular Basis.
If you have to build this into your pricing model: do. Meet with your clients often to dialogue about the social media. When I say dialogue here, I really do mean two ways. Talk about what you’re seeing and hearing in your community management, talk about how the social media strategy is going and, most importantly, how it’s aligning with the bigger picture. This is also the space to make suggestions beyond social media for the long term vision of the business. Remember, social media serves many functions in the business. It can allow you to speak to the sales, customer service, operations, strategic position of the business.
- Report to your client what you’re learning from social media.
Social listening is a key part of community management, but this idea is often very foreign to business owners. Social listening is how you demonstrate you represent all sides and can see the bigger picture. A famous case study of this was #BlackOutTuesday in 2020. Social media specialists around the world know all about this: because it’s our job to pay attention to these moments. This was when we all had to go back to our clients and explain how important, what was going on and how to respond. This is an example of how we share with our clients what we are learning from social media and apply it to business.
From Social Media Marketer to Chief Marketing Officer
There is no denying that businesses are growing rapidly, and social media managers serve social media platforms that change just as quickly as business does.
We social media specialists are used to wearing many hats because social media can serve so many functions. In that environment and under increased pressure, social media managers are best positioned to move into strategic management consultants that support the bigger picture – if we want to, of course. This change from social media manager to chief marketing officer, requires us to look up from our work and see the bigger picture in the businesses we serve. It takes business acumen, which cannot be taught but must be learned.
Connecting The Dots
A final tip: find the connection between social media and the business. In my recent studies of adult education, I’ve learned that adults are fiercely relevancy focused. We look for connections and patterns, and if something isn’t relevant, we dismiss it.
Therefore I urge you to find the connections between what you do as a social media specialist i.e. what you’re asked to do by your client, and what this business needs. To get a handle on their social media, look to the bigger picture.
Moving into a role of both social media strategist and manager, business consultant and confidant is something clients will appreciate and value.
I’m a social media consultant and expert based out of Guelph, Ontario and serving North America – and loving every second of my career.
I love working with small (and I mean small) to medium sized businesses, social enterprises and impact driven small business. I do this because digital marketing can be extremely expensive, and means smaller organizations are left behind because they can’t afford an expert.
My specialty is holistic care. Whereas many others JUST focus on social, or a part of social, I see social media as a series of opportunities in the whole portfolio that is your business.