Saturday, July 19, 2014

What Does a Social Media Strategist Do?

Most of my friends, hell, even my wife, have no real clue what I do for a living. “It’s something to do with Facebook, right?” I’m not surprised. Social media is a disciple with a crop of specific roles with specialist responsibilities, and a lot of ‘made-up-titles’. From now on, this is the post I’ll be referring people to when they ask.

There’s a difference between being a Social Media Manager, an Assistant, a Social Media Executive/Coordinator/Editor or whatever, and a Social Media Strategist.  I’m basically the latter, though my work does also spill into other areas like content marketing and campaign management.

"Here's the plan."

Ninjas, Divas, Gurus, Rockstars, Wizards and other made-up titles be damned. I’m talking about the real job. Real qualifications, responsibilities and experience.

In the trenches, day-to-day, talking in the channels and being the brand, this tends to be the job of the Social Media Manager. These are the people who follow the strategy, monitor what’s going on, and stimulate the conversation. Often they build the accounts, and sometimes they set-up the apps and do the graphics etc. They make custom content and liaise with clients on a daily basis. They often conduct in-house training. They collate reports, based on whatever’s required for measurement. It’s hard work, because there’s no room for error when you’re the voice of someone’s company. It needs great writing skills and a good eye for an opportunity. You need to be a customer-services rep, a salesman, an obsessive, and it needs a degree of accuracy and of flexibility bordering on insanity. On the whole it’s paid pretty well, but don’t expect a lot of time off.

Social Media Executive/Coordinator/Editor are titles that are oftern found in larger teams and may have specific responsibilities from the list above, but are usually just aspects of Social Media Manager with another title.

A Social Media Strategist does all of the above, though doing so is more common in agencies or small departments. It’s good practice to stay hands-on, but it depends on the size of the team or how many people are needed to support a specific brand and it's efforts.

The Strategist is the one who creates a road map for a client, based on their goals and objective, and decides how those objectives will be measured to prove ROI and to show what’s working and what's not. We research the market, the competition, the brand, the ‘target demographic’ etc. and rationalise the best place for the brand to engage with it’s target audience.

We create sample messaging for each proposed channel and set standards, based on brands traits and identity. We also create editorial calendars for writers or artists to produce synchronised content. We identify who the audience is, and what they want from a brand in order to hang around and to get the most out of the experience. We identify the stories. We do all of this on time, within resources, and under budget.

We develop campaigns, competitions, and work out what other media needs to tie in to raise awareness – from packaging placement and web, to social ads or raising in-house knowledge. We write a lot of documentation to make all of this clear – sometimes with graphical mock-ups, brand personas if they don’t already exist, mood boards, or whatever it takes. It's advantageous to have a broad knowledge of everything from video production to brand journalism, and from web development to PPC - the wider your experience the more ammunition you have to draw on, obviously. I'm lucky, I've been doing this nearly 20 years. Even still I spend a lot of time keeping abreast of what’s new, current, and experimenting to achieve maximum reach and maximum effect.

We review measurement, and tweak the overall approach to achieve the core objectives. We keep an eye on things and, in my case, Social Media Managers report to me and we revisit strategy weekly to make sure things are working and that the road map still holds true. Any problems, we fix them tactically. Any room for improvement, we do so strategically.

there's worse jobs, and trust me I've done my share

I also train and lecture. Usually to corporate board members, to my own staff to foster best practices, or to staff in other agencies where specialist knowledge is what they're paying for.

Social Strategists, in an agency environment, are far more involved with the pitching process. We listen to the client from day one and we’re part of the overall PR mix. It’s a management position, mixed with the work of the Social Media Manager.

So there you are. If you asked, now you know. That’s what I do, for the agency I work for and for brands large and small.

It’s a living, and I'm lucky. I enjoy it, and it's never boring. If you fancy stepping up and giving the job ago I'll save my advice on how to start for another post ;)