For such an important role, which has been around for a long time now, it’s surprising how little training some people have received.
by Michelle Jones
I’ve worked in social media marketing since it started circa 2009. I was a marketing manager at the time for a local council.
I reported to a Head of Comms and Marketing who was a media/pr specialist. As I’d come from an agency project managing clients’ websites amongst their offline marketing (I call it the brochure years), I led the web side of things. She was extremely happy about this!
Teaching myself Google Analytics was one of the hardest things I ever did and there were no courses or YouTube videos about it back then. But I needed to explain to the board (of suited and booted men all a lot older than me), why our website was so important and why we needed to invest time and money in it. I quickly learned performance data was the thing that got their attention. Blinding them with a bit of digital science seemed to work too.
Alongside that, social media marketing was growing at a speed that was hard to keep up with. There were no courses on it and you often had to learn from your very visible mistakes. Local trolls loved picking me up on when I did a tweet about an event and tagged a few local companies who were attending. I didn’t know to put the full stop before the @. Which meant that only they saw the tweet. This was troll heaven from a local government Twitter account!
Why did I do this wrong? Purely because I didn’t know!
I’ve been telling people for ten years now, when you manage social media platforms, you ‘usually’ don’t get trained in how to use them. They are not SalesForce type systems that you pay for. You don’t have an account manager who will phone you or even visit, to present to you and the team about the changes and improvements.
I worked for a few years at a local hospice as a Digital Media Marketing Specialist (a job title that made some people not talk to me out of fear. #truestory). Someone there asked me to "speak to Facebook to get a change made" I said in jest "OK- I’ll go WhatsApp Mark now". She said "thanks" and walked off!!
You have to teach yourself all the new social media changes, tools and rules. Not only that, they appear unexpectedly (the other day it was the new Interaction tab on the Facebook Business Manager App).
I’m closer to 50 than I am 40, and there was no one before me to train me on all this.
I’ve trained and mentored many marketing/Comms executives/officers/managers even CEOs since, but I am not passing down knowledge through the ranks. I am 100% self-taught and have done most of my learning through error.
And I still sometimes make mistakes.
I currently manage six social media accounts, over two profiles for my paid job. I’m also a digital volunteer running my own campaign promoting my town (Swindon) positively. This means I manage another six accounts on top of my paid work accounts.
I make mistakes all the time. The beauty of digital marketing is that you can change errors pretty quickly. But the downside is the last person in the organisation that you’d want to see it, will be the first to see it. It’s like a #DSL (Digital Sods Law).
With the platforms constantly changing, (sometimes it feels like daily!) we can’t beat ourselves up about not knowing everything and often feeling overwhelmed. I do and I’ve been doing it for years.
In previous years I’ve sat in meetings and pretended that I know something when asked about a new social media tool or functionality. Now, I quite happily reply "I don’t know. I’ve not seen it/read up on it/used it/taught myself it".
Sometimes new social media functions are introduced (remember Twitter Fleets?) You teach yourself how to use them, you incorporate them into your content strategy, and then they disappear as quickly as they appeared.
I’ve seen a few posts recently of people asking for help about social media marketing and most of these are to do with the functionality of the platforms (and, again the changes).
I think most confusion and headaches (‘Facebook Headaches’ are actually a thing), are because people aren’t accessing the platforms correctly. Mainly Facebook.
To do the things we need to (block people, set disclaimers to run social issue/political ads, view and reply to ad comments) you need to be using Facebook Business Suite (next level up from Facebook Business Manager).
But don’t worry if you didn’t know this. It’s probably not like you’ve been given training, or even told. No one can hand you a training guide because it’ll be out of date when it’s still warm on the printer.
A Director I worked for once asked me about our Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn activity and whether we could "just get a work experience kid in to do it". Me being someone who doesn’t suffers from holding back, said: "No. But we could get some kid in to do yours!"
Anyone heard this one, or similar: "But my niece said…." I’d like to put a laughing emoji here. But I can’t! (I’ve added it for you, Michelle – Darren )
I guess it makes it even harder if you’ve got a line manager who doesn’t understand how complex it all is.
None of my line managers have been digital specialists. Thankfully, this has made them even more understanding. Including my current line manager. Who is not only extremely supportive but also understands how complex my digital world of work is and often calms me with words of encouragement when it all gets too much. Which is so often does.
So, to everyone who works in social media – don’t feel like you need to know it all, I understand your pain, I respect you and I’m here for you.
From someone whose been doing #socialmediamarketing for a long time but is still learning.
Michelle Jones is digital engagement manager at the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Swindon. You can say hello on Twitter at @MarketingJones_
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