7 Social Media Skills Great Candidates Can’t Fake


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Who reading this remembers CompuServe, AOL and the Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs)? These 70s-, 80s- and 90s-era online meeting places allowed users to communicate through a central messaging system and post messages to other users. In many ways, American Online was the Internet before the Internet, with its member-created communities.

Businesses new to social media management may think social media began its steady rise to Internet ubiquity with the launches of Friendster (2002), LinkedIn and MySpace (2003) and Facebook (2004) when, in reality, social networks precede today’s social media “experts” by decades. (Source: The History of Social Networking)

This could be the greatest blind spot for employers hiring a social media manager.

Just because somebody grows up being a social media native, it doesn’t make them an expert in using social media at work. ~ William Ward, professor of social media at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

“That’s like saying, ‘I grew up with a fax machine, so that makes me an expert in business,’” Ward noted.

Complex Skills for a Complex Job

Social networks represent a communication channel that’s becoming increasingly complex, and there’s still a lot to learn.

With Google delivering 636,000 results for “social media job description,” it’s a safe bet that there’s no single description everyone in digital marketing can agree on. Every company requires skills that are unique to its culture.

I think we can all agree that there are two basic requirements: must have excellent verbal and written communication skills. Also, most job postings for a social media manager prefer that the individual hold a degree in marketing, communications, journalism or public relations.

These prerequisites allow you to weed out initial applicants who don’t meet your needs and represent “hard skills” for which you can test and verify.

But learning to recognize key “soft skills” will determine whether your next social media manager will become your hero.

7 Social Media Skills You Can’t Fake

The people who are most successful as social media managers possess those intangible qualities that fall under the umbrella of “emotional intelligence,” a term first coined by Daniel Goleman.

Following is a list of essential characteristics one must possess to thrive in the online social sphere. They may be hard to measure, but they’re impossible to fake.

1. Passion

Enthusiasm trumps everything in social media. Gary Vaynerchuck (@garyvee) and Hugh McLeod (@gapingvoid) possess two distinct personalities and brands, yet made their mark by embracing social media with drive and passion. Leveraging influencers was possible because of their strong belief in what they were doing; it was their persistent zeal that fueled their phenomenal online following and offline success.

2. Commitment

I’m reminded of this quote every time I hear the word commitment: “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back.” Although we have the tools and technology that place social media at our fingertips within seconds, I often tell people that social media requires certainty and a long-term strategy. With this in mind, a good social media manager will have the foresight to place contingencies in the plan in the event of a crisis, for example, but also have the maturity not to let petty criticisms cause him or her to stumble.

3. People skills

This overused term actually can be defined. According to BusinessDictionary.com, “people skills” represent a set of skills enabling a person to get along with others, to communicate ideas effectively, to resolve conflicts and to achieve personal or business goals.

4. Common sense

There’s a saying, “Common sense isn’t so common,” and it speaks to the challenge hiring managers may have in quantifying this intangible quality. Common sense requires the ability to think on your feet, good judgment, levelheadedness, discernment, astuteness, wisdom, perception and insight.

5. Time management

“Multitasker” should be your social media manager’s middle name. Juggling various instant message conversations and open browser tabs is not for the plodder. He/she must be prepared for a constant stream of online activity and handle each social platform with aplomb. The ability to master the Pareto Principle (also known as the 80-20 rule) will help increase posting efficiency.

6. Empathy

A common trait of good social media managers is their capacity to walk in someone else’s shoes. They understand the wants, needs, thoughts and emotions of their audience. They know how to draw the best out of their fans, whether it’s joining a contest or sharing stories and photos. To be a truly effective social media practitioner requires a service-oriented mindset.

7. Patience

The great irony of social is that it happens so fast, but results accrue slowly. Your wins come when you acknowledge comments, respond quickly, offer help and support consistently over time. True social media professionals recognize the need to build and nurture relationships and allow connections to unfold slowly. A slow, deliberate and patient approach to social media is key if you are going to become proficient.

Hiring managers can unearth these soft skills during interviews with “mini-stories.” Create a scenario and ask how the candidate would handle it, especially if you’re looking for a specific quality. Or ask relevant, open-ended questions that require candidates to tell a story.

One Social Media Skill You Have To Learn

While so-called “social media natives” often have an intuitive understanding of what resonates on social channels, quantifying what works and what doesn’t is another matter.

Learning to use social media management, monitoring and measurement tools is essential.

While social media is about human interaction, it’s also an arena where data can easily be collected and applied to improve results. Knowing what data to look for, where to find it and what to do with it separates real experts from mere enthusiastic social adopters.

Understanding the multiplying effects of integrating different networks is where data comes in handy. How should you measure the success of a Twitter campaign? What are the best days to post, and what is the optimum frequency?

Your answers will vary depending on the social network and your customers. The real talent lies in orchestrating different platforms to work together and in understanding the niche each fills.

You’re Hired!

Want an outstanding social media manager? Look for someone who has all of the skills above — plus experience with simple image and video editing tools, knowledge of basic HTML and familiarity with WordPress.

When you interview a candidate who possesses both soft and hard skills and can demonstrate an established online presence, you don’t want to delay in making an offer; you’re looking at the real deal!

Which of the above skills do you think are most essential for social media success?

Photo Credit: mark raheja via Compfight cc

Nicolette Beard
As a former publisher and editor, I'm passionate about the written word. I craft content to help drive the autonomous customer experience (CX) revolution. My goal is to show call center leaders how to reduce the increasing complexity of the customer journey.


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