How Social Media Managers Are Like Secretaries (And How To Find One)

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a long time now but afraid that people would burn my effigy in their front yards.

Give me some leeway.

Disclaimer: I’ve been some form of an office worker from 14–42. I became a Marketing Manager at 42 years old. I’m big on analogies. I realize that a social media manager is a better paying and more highly esteemed profession than secretary, administrative assistant, office manager, or whatever other title given to this type of work.

Office Work.

It’s routine. It’s perfect for a task-oriented, routine oriented person like myself. Papers come in, papers go out. They get sorted, filed, distributed. Phones ring, calls are transferred, messages are taken. This is the essence of a secretary. You’re filling in for someone who is otherwise occupied at present.

It’s a thankless job. Like laundry, no one notices your work until it’s not done or until you make a snafu like mixing red fabric with whites.

You write memos, answer emails, and open physical mail. All communication, both incoming and outgoing, goes through you.

Discretion, organization, and reliability are key components to any office worker’s persona. After all, you’re representing your boss and their company. You’re at the front line of their branding.

Social Media Management

Much like office work, effective social media management requires a routine oriented person who can effectively respond to several sources (social media platforms) of communication.

Lots of people are really more idea-oriented. That’s great! You need good ideas. But then you need to do the work. You get new followers. They need to be filed (listed) and possibly followed back. You need to respond.

You become the middleman between the public and your company, just like a secretary. You make quick decisions constantly. No one wants a secretary who goes to them for approval on every email. You have to use your best judgement. This comes from experience.

It can also be a thankless position, more often than not, going outside of the Monday-Friday 8–5 hours, too.

Proud of the perfectly-composed, less-than-140 character tweet, no one cares except for you. Your only recognition is from generous, non-competing peers.

People who don’t understand the intricacies of your position and the skills it takes to do it well often discount your position. This is not unlike how a secretary is viewed.

The Myths and Job Requirements

This is where the analogy breaks down. As an office manager no one expects me to be the CPA. Sure, I have a basic understanding of general ledger codes and I know how to enter invoices and journal entries. However, I do not, nor am I expected to, do a financial audit, come up with financial statements, make recommendations for tax or accounting purposes, or file corporate taxes.

A CPA is a highly-trained, highly-specialized position just like a SEO consultant. Though a Social Media Manager should have a basic understanding of SEO which translates into good headlines, proper use of social platforms, and possibly blogging (but not all social media managers blog), a Social Media Manager would almost never be considered an expert.

A Social Media Manager is also not a graphic designer. I love this post by Amy Donohue because she comes across this all of the time. We’re also not web developers.

Now, it may be that a web developer and/or graphic artist can be a Social Media Manager, but not all Social Media Managers have that skill set. Nor should they.

I find it absurd that Social Media Managers are required to be jack of all trades. Would you expect a salesman to be an accountant? No. Just because a computer is used doesn’t mean the skills are automatic.

How Do You Find A Good Social Media Manager?

Do you hire for company culture? Do you ask for the last ten years of their work written out on a PDF? Or are your requirements so stringent that Jesus, Himself couldn’t get the job?

Carol Stephen has some suggestions in this blog post. She gives you good questions to ask.

My suggestion is this: ask for as many of their Twitter handles as they’ll give.

Twitter Tells you Everything You Need to Know.

Look at their own Twitter account. Twitter is a primary way to meet people, extend reach, and explore based upon hashtags. From there you should be able to find out everything you need to know.

Look for grammar.

Look for concise writing style.

Look for humor.

You’ll know if they fit in your company.

How automated are they? Are they using if this then that to tweet out Mashable articles? Are 90% of their posts from or Triberr? Automation is a helpful tool for anyone but it shouldn’t be the majority of their tweets. I’d say 50% or less is good.

How cross-posted are they? This is another controversy. But cross-posting is lazy. I said, it, but I’m not alone. It shows they don’t want to or cannot craft a post that fits the platform’s culture. Gary Vaynerchuk talks about knowing a platform’s culture in this post.

How many retweets are in their feed? Why does this matter? I think it’s a branding issue. I prefer old-school retweets.

Do they ever respond to people? On, check their “tweets and replies” column to see if they ever respond to people. If they only tweet out their own blog posts, they are not engaging.

Though numbers isn’t everything, check out their following to follower ratio. If you were asking me to help you find someone, I’d say that should be close to 1:1. If they’re not following people back because the Twitter stream overwhelms them, that tells you they don’t know how to use lists.

If the person’s online accounts pass these things, then look granular toward your culture. You can tell if someone is generous, kind, appreciative, and appreciated by the community they built. If they’re like this on Twitter, I’d bet they’d be good at Instagram, Facebook, and any other platform that’s thrown our way.

I Know What You’re Thinking: “You’re Off Track.”

Not really.

At 14, I started on a typewriter, graduated to DOS, Windows 95, and am now on an iMac.

A secretary, like a social media manager, has to contend with ever-changing technology, office politics, and management style.

Look for those skills and you’re sure to find a winner.

Originally posted on LinkedIn 2/6/15