New Media

The care and feeding of your social media staffer

These days, many businesses and companies are hiring staff specifically to run their social media, online marketing, and even their guerilla/non-traditional marketing efforts. It’s a great idea, but do these companies understand how to care for their social media staffers?

So you’ve adopted a social media staffer. Now what?

I see a lot of social media people these days that are working for places that are, in every other sense, pretty anti-social. I have colleagues who run social media channels for places that, say, manufacture tiny glass lenses for microscopes. Chances are, the new staffer’s working style will be a bit of a culture shock to those around her. The nuances of wielding new media like a skilled swordsman is something that does, indeed, require a specific skillset, interest level, and training background…but stop to consider that it may also require a certain personality. Here are some tips that may apply to your social media staffer.

Social media staffers need space to be weird

An SM Staffer is a creative soul. This is not a field where you can do something ‘by the book’, or in the same way every day, and meet with success. You’ve likely hired someone who is artistic, or creative in some other way. Respect that creativity and embrace it. I have blogged before about how much I hate wearing business clothes to my job—a job where I’m rarely seen by anyone other than my direct supervisor. It may sound silly, but your SM Staffer may do his best work when he’s wearing a Storm Trooper helmet and rubber boots. What’s the trade-off? You remind him to wear a suit on important days, and in exchange he thinks up geniusy new ideas while contemplating how the Empire could have beaten the Rebel Alliance, if only they’d built droids with more stable footwear.

Social media staffers need safety to take risks

If your SM Staffer is always afraid that she’ll get fired because a video doesn’t go viral, or because a campaign got some criticism from the local news channel, she won’t give you her craziest ideas—which are usually the best ones. Personally, I’d sooner hire an SM Staffer who’d messed up a couple times before. It means she takes chances, tries new things, and knows where the pitfalls are.

Social media staffers need flexibility

Creative souls may need to do things differently. If I had my choice, I wouldn’t have a desk at all; I’d write all day on a big fat armchair while Modern Family episodes played in the background. If you want your SM Staffer to pump out five blog posts a week, he may need to head out to Starbucks for an hour or two for a change of scene while he writes. Or maybe he wants to prepare all your scheduled tweets from home at 6:00am. Why not? Worried about reliability? Here’s a trick: the more engaged and understood your Staffer is feeling, the more likely he is to put 100% into his working day. Ruling with an iron fist is almost guaranteed to crush the very creativity you hired your SM Staffer for.

Social media staffers need to be trusted

This one is simple: if you hired an SM Staffer because you’re not a pro in social media yourself, consider trusting his judgement when he says yea or nay to an idea. If he spends 80% of his day explaining Hootsuite’s limitations to you because you won’t just trust what he’s telling you, he’s just a very expensive tutorial program. 

Social media staffers need to be social

Is your SM Staffer wandering around sometimes, or texting, or following trending topics on Twitter? Again, remember: you hired her for social media. If you suck all the social out of her day, she’s going to lose touch with the very culture she’s committed to working with. 

Social media staffers need training

Especially because social media is a creative field, there’s no one right way to get trained up on how to do the business. Support your Staffer in his quest to find new seminars, networking groups, and meetups (or tweetups) to attend. Most of the cool professionals I’ve used in my day job are people I’ve met at various social media learning or networking events. My socializing helps my social media. Seems obvious, I know; but many employers don’t get it.

These are just some starting tips on how to foster a happy, healthy social media staffer. Remember that you can hold someone accountable to goals and deadlines without strapping them to an office chair for eight hours at a time, and it’s okay if you don’t understand every nuance of social media, yourself. Be kind to your social media staffer, and you may have yourself a loyal, lifelong companion. 


Jordan Danger is a social media professional and the blogger of GIRL, CRAFTED—a lifestyle and DIY blog. She is a social media fanatic who works in marketing and communications, aspires to one day be a full-time writer. Jordan has a dream of one day being a really good cook…in the meantime, she keeps a frozen pizza on hand just in case. You can connect with Jordan via her blog, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

What's in a name? The "social media" debate

Image: Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot /

Last week, my friend Lara shared a description of social media as well as the benefits of using it. She encouraged those in her audience who are curious to go ahead and give it a try. But not everyone likes the use of the term "social media". Raise your hand if you've ever heard (or read) someone say something like, "I can't wait until we stop using the term 'social media'." By the end of this post, everyone should be raising their hands. When I read a piece by Mathew Ingram lamenting the use of the term "Cloud", it prompted me to look into the longstanding "social media" terminology debate.

Over the years, I've seen this come up countless times. Often, it's accompanied by really solid arguments about what social media tools really are in relation to communications and marketing. Here's the problem - everyone who has a valid reason for not calling this medium social media also has a different name they propose. Some are better than others. A few options for you to ponder:

There is good food for thought in each of these posts - particularly Ryan Anderson's which is the only one of the three that didn't try to put a new and improved buzz word out there for the world to use. But I haven't seen anyone come up with a good enough reason to try to stop people from calling it social media. Let's look at the primary reasons given in the posts above:

Tim Sanders (relaying challenges around getting buy-in with executives):
"Their biggest challenge is selling their senior leaders and CEOs on the concept.  To the average (older or non-tech) exec, social media is a fad that's led by propellerheads and amateur mavens.  In their view, it's a fad (like CB Radios) that they hope will soon pass.  Sure, they've heard the United Breaks Guitars story, but it likely doesn't apply to them - and when you use words like Twitter, they scrunch up their face in disbelief."

And "interactive media" solves this problem? Twitter is still a tool in the interactive media space - they'll accept it because it's "interactive media" and not "social media"? Think about the tools that are used in various industries and the names they have. There are plenty of silly names out there, but when users learn how to use the tool properly and see the value it adds to their work, do you think they quibble over what it's called?

Boardroom Metrics
"Tired of endless conversations with smart business owners about the irrelevance of social media, I’ve decided to stop calling it social media."

I think the author of this post may not feel as strongly about this whole terminology question as the others based on the tone of the message. They give a very simplistic line of reasoning for businesses to embrace social media - to gain better visibility on the Web. If that works for convincing their clients to move forward, that's great. After all, a business can't be social, but but social media gives businesses a medium to put a human "face" or personality on what they do and allows them to interact with individuals in a more personal way.

Ryan Anderson (talking about the evolution of work with a long-term client)
"What had started as a perceived need for blogs and Facebook had turned into something very different – and went from being an additional part of their marketing to a core part of their business strategy."


"The reality is, for all the talk about social media – there’s really no such thing.  There is only communication, and while our academic pursuit of what we call social media has certainly advanced the practice of communication as a whole, social media is nothing but a buzzword, a marketing ploy, a big ol’ bottle of snake oil that a slick-talking sideshow act is selling for a dollar to cure what ails you."

It must be incredibly gratifying to work with a client who wants to join "the Twitter" and see the real purpose click as they finally get it. Integrating social media into the overall business strategy is the ideal scenario - it's the end goal when you start working with someone. The part where Ryan loses me is in that italicized section that spouts "buzzword", "ploy", "snake oil" and other unflattering terms.

I don't agree with the sentiment, but I understand where it comes from. There is a mentality that social media will be a cure all to an ailing business. The way to take your business viral and make, billions. ("Let's make a viral video!" is a phrase I hear too often and it makes me cringe every time.)

Social media is a group of tools that marketers and communicators can use to make connections. We have traditional media tools and now social media tools that can be used together to create a cohesive and comprehensive communications plan. However, the tools themselves do not function the same, so classifying them differently is appropriate.

When all is said and done, if the tools are used in an effective way that fits with that overall business strategy, does it really matter what label we use to describe them?