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11 Qualities of an Effective Social Media Manager

September 13, 2011

The following is an excerpt from the newly released Social Media for Social Good: A How-To Guide for Nonprofits and was published in the September 2011 edition of Fundraising Success Magazine (@frsuccess). However, do to word count constraints the content below is not in its full entirety. In the book, this section (taken from Chapter 2) is twice the length seen below.  Just a FYI. 🙂

11 Qualities of an Effective Social Media Manager

Despite all the buzz about social media, the reality is that your social media campaigns are only as good as the human being(s) behind them. Going “viral” on social media sites is extremely rare, and instantaneous success is a myth. Being an effective social media manager is both an art and a skill. Some personalities are more inclined to be successful at managing and inspiring online communities, but the vast majority of practitioners will need months, if not years, to learn to produce social media success through a process of trial and error. For your nonprofit to succeed on social media sites, make sure that your social media manager (a.k.a. new media manager, digital marketing manager, etc.) has most of the following qualities:

1. Has a passion for the cause and for social media

You can hear it in his voice and read it in his tweets. A good social media manager has passion for his cause(s) and enjoys participating in social media. The best social media practitioners express their personalities with a dash of attitude and a bit of flair, and are comfortable articulating their opinions online. They don’t need to be brash or controversial in their opinions, but they do not shy away from asserting their viewpoints on behalf of your nonprofit, its mission, and its programs.

2. Is friendly, patient and responsive

Effective social media managers enjoy engaging with and responding to comments on social media sites. They relish discussing ideas and issues online, and they do it with patience and kindness. They are attentive to their communities on an almost daily basis. They express gratitude for support, and they acknowledge questions and concerns. They have the unique ability to defuse troublesome (and sometimes obnoxious and rude) personalities with kind, but firm commentary. It’s a real skill to navigate and guide the online commons and know how and when to react.

3. Is creative and detail-oriented

Creativity is what makes exceptional social media campaigns stand out from the rest. Doing something different with a set of tools that tens of thousands of other nonprofits also use is the trademark of an exceptional social media manager. Her brain is constantly at work dreaming up new campaigns, and rather than shying away from being different and taking risks, she embraces it. Creativity combined with the ability to multitask is the winning combination of skills for an effective social media manager.

4. Has experience in online communications

Just because someone is 19 and came of age using Facebook in his personal life does not mean that he can manage and implement your online communities on social media sites successfully. Untrained interns were fine two or three years ago, when the Social Web was still in its infancy and everyone was experimenting. But that era is over. The truth is, in terms of results in social media, you get what you pay for, and if you want the best person for the job, you need someone who has at least a year or two of professional experience in Web 1.0. He needs to have written content for the Web, published an e-newsletter, blogged, and experimented with various online fundraising campaigns. It’s rare that someone with no background in online communication or fundraising instinctively understands how to use social media to build an online brand.

5. Reads blogs about social media and mobile technology

A good social-media manager is a regular reader of Mashable, TechCrunch, Social Media Today, Social Times, Mobile Marketing Watch, All Facebook, About Foursquare, Nonprofit Tech 2.0, Beth’s Blog, TechSoup, NTEN, and other such blogs. Social media moves very quickly, and your nonprofit will fall behind or miss opportunities to explore the “Next Big Thing” if your social media manager is not regularly browsing these blogs for breaking news about tools, upgrades, and emerging trends.

6. Is an early adopter

The nonprofits that are the most successful in social media today were on Myspace and YouTube in 2005 and 2006. They have time on their side. Online communities grow in number over time, exponentially. The earlier you start, the more likely you are to be successful. Not only that, but online communities also tend to grow the fastest during the early adoption phase. They’re not interesting or buzz-worthy once thousands of other nonprofits are using them. In fact, in the era of the Social Web, and even more so on the Mobile Web, early adoption in and of itself is a strategy. Those who do it first tend to do it best.

7. Is not overly confident about her social media skills

Overconfidence about their social media skills prevents most social media managers from getting the necessary training. Every second of every day, nonprofits on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, WordPress, Foursquare and other social media make obvious mistakes that are counterproductive to their presence on these sites. Please get training! Take webinars, attend boot camps or workshops, or go to conferences that focus on the how-to of social media. The most valuable advice should be practical and come from someone who actually manages online communities and works with these tools every single day. Be skeptical of the self-proclaimed social media mavens, rock stars, or experts who have no practical experience running, maintaining, and building online communities around causes or nonprofit brands on social networking sites.

8. Thinks like a journalist

Well-written, timely content is what drives the Social Web. Old news is not share-, like- or retweet-worthy. Increasingly, nonprofit communicators and social media practitioners need to consider themselves reporters for their causes and nonprofits — always listening, responding rapidly, and sometimes even “Live! On location!” This is why blogging has become so central to a successful social media strategy. It allows social media managers to respond to breaking news by quickly and easily creating content that can be posted and shared by others on the Social Web.

9. Is mobile

Social media managers should be comfortable with the idea of posting status updates and tweets from any location at any time, when necessary. Whether we like it or not, the news cycle is now 24/7, and as a journalist for your cause, you need to be, too. Mobile technology enables that. Increasingly laptops are becoming cumbersome in comparison to smartphones and tablets, and as the Mobile Web continues to expand, so will the tools that have been uniquely designed for smartphones and tablets. The best social media and mobile technology practitioners embrace these new tools, experiment with them and are willing to sacrifice some of their free time outside of traditional office hours in order to be available to their communities 24/7.

10. Is willing to mesh his personal life with his professional life online

It’s a whole new Web. It’s social. It’s mobile. It’s public. You have to be willing to be on Facebook personally or LinkedIn professionally. You have to be willing to merge some of your personal life with your professional life online. For a good social media manager, privacy is a concern, but it is not a crippling one. He takes responsibility for his own privacy and takes steps to protect it where and when he wants to. He is educated about privacy settings on various social networking sites. He doesn’t post anything he doesn’t want his boss or his parents to see, but beyond that, mixing his personal and professional lives online is something that he is willing to do in order to be the best advocate he can be for his cause and his nonprofit.

11. Takes steps to prevent social media burnout

For all the social good it can do, social media does have a downside. Nonprofit practitioners are bombarded with messages all day long on social media sites. It can be too much for the brain to process sometimes, especially since much of the content coming out of the nonprofit communities is related to sad, depressing news (war, rape, poverty, depletion of environmental resources, animal cruelty and extinction, and so on). A good social media manager knows when to draw the line and takes time away from her communities when necessary.

Related Links:
Social Media for Social Good: A How-To Guide for Nonprofits
Social Media and Mobile Technology Webinars for Nonprofits

54 Comments leave one →
  1. Jennifer permalink
    September 13, 2011 8:58 am

    Good post. I’d like to specifically respond to point #10 by saying that the social media/new media implementers/managers I know (I am one, also) understand that the advantage (and sometimes, disadvantage–see #11) are in 24/7 response cycle. However, it’s critical that managers of these folks understand that and allow these workers the flex schedules to avoid #11, burnout. We can’t realistically be expected to adhere to 8-5 lifestyle with 12-12 job duties.

    • scolleague permalink
      April 14, 2012 9:14 am

      Completely agree, it’s very difficult in our line of work to commit to a ‘normal’ schedule, but it’s also important to have a break from social media activities. This means that personally as opposed to professionally i’m not as active as some on social networks.

  2. September 14, 2011 1:59 am

    Thanks for this very valuable article you shared. This will help me manage my Facebook page.
    Sure I will apply these guidelines to become a better Facebook page owner.

  3. Alicia Marie Phillips permalink
    September 14, 2011 6:23 am

    i think this is applicable outside of the non-profit world as well..

  4. September 14, 2011 7:54 am

    “Her” brain!….really…..I am not going to pick you up on political correctness….;)… I do notice you return the favour later on and forget the ladies.

    Mashable, while huge and occasionally useful, is nowadays usually poor journalism by and large in my opinion, (150 word articles the norm and advertorials on average products, I can tweet more interesting content!)

    Much better looking at other sites suggested, Beth Kanter’s blog is fantastic for social media management tips and while I am here, why not try my own at:

    (social media + mobile technology = the future!)

    • scolleague permalink
      April 14, 2012 9:11 am

      A really nice mobile tech’ blog there, love the logo. Great work.

    • scolleague permalink
      April 14, 2012 9:12 am

      Very nice mobile tech’ blog, love the logo.

  5. September 14, 2011 8:26 am

    I liked the 8,9,10 most. The whole article is fully conceptual and logistic. I agree with Jennifer too…This is how it is…Its time for the future step…

  6. September 15, 2011 2:15 am

    I love that you mentioned about a good social media manager in the constant fight against social media burnout ( or, should I call it ‘bore out’? ). I guess, it all comes down to passion in what they do and to their client’s cause. An effective social media manager is innovative, and we all know that innovation transcends leadership these days. He/She knows that social media is ever-evolving and we are all on-the-job-training, where s/he strikes balance between work and play to be the most effective in striking a conversation… at the right time and place. Do you think that social media managers will do so much better with automation tools?

  7. September 15, 2011 9:41 am

    What an interesting blog post – As a social media strategist who works with charities, non-profits, social enterprises AND corporates I’d have to agree that the most important qualities needed are passion and friendliness – the rest mentioned are also essential, but without those two you can’t generate the inspiration and motivation amongst both the staff and the audience to engage with the message. One rider to that is that you also have to genuinely ‘like’ people in all their shapes and sizes, there are many opinions about every subject under the sun and although you may not like them all, they all deserve respect and if you like people you can almost always find some way of getting over the differences – I’ve met too many people online who have the same role I do, who clearly don’t like communicating, aren’t relationship oriented and are often arrogant about their abilities (a point you address in number 7).

  8. September 16, 2011 5:37 am

    Great article. I especially like #4. I am the Director of Marketing for my company and am amazed at operations people who think they know more than me and my 20+ years of marketing simply because they chat with their high school buddies on a Facebook profile page. I’m also weary of anyone calling themselves a “guru”. We all have a lot to learn because the industry is so fluid and changes every day. Unless you’re a profit and can foresee the changes, continue to learn and educate yourselves.

    • October 10, 2011 11:51 am

      The real experts/gurus/mavens don’t have to declare their status, don’t you think?

      • nonprofitorgs permalink
        October 16, 2011 6:18 am

        Or are at least humble about it. 🙂

  9. September 17, 2011 11:55 am

    Good article. I’d have to add that an good social media manager must be organized and consistent. To get your message out there, you need to be heard above the din. That means presenting your organization over and over, engaging people and creating a following.

  10. September 19, 2011 7:02 am

    Great article! The newness of the field leaves a lot of employers unsure of what they’re looking for/what’s realistic. It’s important to stress that we don’t just “do” social media or play on Facebook/Twitter all day, but we have to forge new relationships and manage the old ones. It’s a fun job, but it definitely isn’t easy.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. Now time to share this with my network! 🙂

  11. September 19, 2011 8:28 am

    Thanks for posting this! I work at City Year and I shared this with all of our social media managers.

  12. John Moore permalink
    September 20, 2011 1:25 am

    Great Article. I think one non-profit that is really pushing the envelope is the UN world food programme. They have a really nice community feel on the facebook page and I like the way the posts are written, good balance between corporate message and bringing in personality. also think Save the Children are doing a stellar job.

  13. September 21, 2011 7:29 pm

    Hi All! I’m looking for some one who is in need of a volunteer to donate their social media skills. I’ve worked in the advertising industry for 8 years helping fortune 500 brands build their online presence. I’m just starting my own small business focused on developing social media strategies and building online communities and would love to donate my skills if anyone needs help! (PS. Im located in San Francisco)

  14. September 27, 2011 7:30 am

    Nice topic…you may be interested to know about Social India Conference 2011 in Bangalore,India which is organized by Akshay Patra Foundation to raise funds for a non-profit cause. The event brings together world’s well known social media speakers at the event…visit for more details

  15. October 18, 2011 10:29 am

    Great article. I would have like to have seen links to sites or compa
    naies that have good SM training tools.

  16. March 18, 2012 12:01 pm

    Reblogged this on doubledawnwriting and commented:
    I came across this blog post which is written with non-profits in mind, but I think it applies to everybody. Extremely well written and full of valuable information that just about everyone can put to good use.

  17. April 17, 2012 9:27 am

    I appreciate all the tips and advice that you gave for all the social media managers. This is a big help on our part especially for those newbies in this kind of business. I like what you said in #7, we should not really be overconfident on whatever skills we have. In addition of this, i would like to say that we should always be our self and not putting mask in our face. People will follow us because of being who we are.

    • July 12, 2012 8:35 am

      As an up-and-coming in the advertising world this was very helpful. Numbers 1 and 3 are what I pride myself on and I hope it will carry may career forward. I currently am a social media consultant for a non-profit and I have been getting a lot of information from this blog, so thank you!

  18. Shaun Damon Hagler permalink
    July 16, 2012 12:35 pm

    Superb article…getting others to realize, accept and act upon the valid points however, especially “Non-Profit” organizations has proven to be a challenge. Building a diverse clientele has been my goal so as to demonstrate to any and all, the benefits of not only “social media,” but a capable individual to manage their “social media” for their organization, company, group, etc.

  19. August 3, 2012 8:48 pm

    A case study of social media;The NGO World: A journey from an to an NGO:

  20. November 4, 2012 11:38 pm

    Reblogged this on Keep it Real and commented:
    This is some great information

  21. Corena permalink
    March 10, 2013 3:52 am

    Note: The use of he, he, he, he etc. in the second last paragraph was a bit off-putting. It would be better if you could write in a less gender biased way.

    • March 13, 2013 2:15 pm

      Actually, I alternated using he and she throughout the entire book… this just happens to be a section where it what he and his turn.


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