Entrepreneur Working With a Laptop

Guest Post This guest post is written by Gerry Praysman. Gerry is the resident Buzz Marketer at Brainshark, the leading provider of on-demand video presentations anytime, anywhere.

The college graduation season is behind us and a fresh batch of wily youngsters is inundating the workforce. One of the fastest growing job opportunities today is in social management (or whatever we’re calling it this week) and as a December grad from Babson College, I was lucky to jump on the wave a little bit earlier.

My full-time position as the resident Buzz Marketer of Brainshark evolved from a successful internship in social media marketing during the previous summer. I have to admit there are some days when I think I’m crushing the world one tweet at a time, but then there are others when I stare intensely in the bathroom mirror like Eminem in 8 Mile and wonder if I won’t get booed off stage by the time I make it back to my desk. Having said that, here are five things I’ve learned to lean on to keep myself on track:

1. Spend a LOT of time researching

No matter how great of a student you were or how much initiative you took in starting your own business in college, chances are that you know pretty much nothing when you come into the workforce. I don’t mean to sound blunt or discouraging, but the second you drop whatever ego you might have and just start fresh is really the moment you can start applying your talent and aptitude. Besides, it’s good to be a sponge.

The social space is always changing so new ideas and best practices are always flowing through. I spend a handful of hours each week (sometimes each day) reading a variety of tech and media blogs, books, news, and keep an eye on credible influencers and what they have to say. Some of my favorites are oneforty, MarketingProfs, and Jeremiah Owyang but the list really goes on and on.

You need to find good content on your role, as well as your company’s role. Understand how your job plays into your employer’s business goals and make the connections. (Are you B2C? B2B? Both? What industry are you in? Who are your customers? Etc.)

It’s also really important to take the research outside of the digital and into the real world. Connect with other people that do what you do and pick their brains. Do this constantly. You’re going to get back a wide range of info and it’ll be on you to decide what to use, but commit yourself to always being that sponge. This role is new and growing around the world. There is no textbook. Be adventurous and always have an “I want to learn something new every day” mentality.

2. Learn how to disagree

I say “learn” because it’s not as simple as just disagreeing. If you truly believe in something (based on your research, experience, and gut) say it. Whoever hired you believes you’re capable of doing something that others in the organization aren’t. They expect you to have your own opinion. Social management is very subjective in many areas, so you have to be prepared to be on the opposite end of others from time to time.

Yet, don’t disagree just for the sake of doing it or because you feel it’s expected. Remember to stay true to what you believe, even if it might seem like it’s unoriginal. Sometimes everyone else is right on the money and a simple nod and smile is the way to go.  But…

This all comes with one MAJOR caveat: you have to put your money where your mouth is. If something doesn’t work for you, come up with an alternative solution or proposal. Take the lead in instigating the change or path that you’re pushing for. People respect leaders over complainers. You may not get everyone on your side, but you’ll get a lot more respect for being genuine and reliable.

3. It’s OK to not know – just do your best to figure it out

This pretty much speaks for itself. Like I said before, there’s no way you have all the answers. People who have been successful for many years don’t have all the answers. You are in a unique position where people from all levels in the company will rely on your advice and opinion because they genuinely may have no idea. This gives you a lot more wiggle room to say something that sounds right without really knowing, not necessarily because you’re lazy, but simply because you think you should know it.

As tempting and easy as it is to do – don’t – I guarantee it will come back to bite you in the ass. Since people are relying on you for advice, they’ll take it, and if it’s not based on anything, it will do nothing but blow up in your face.

There’s nothing more refreshing and admirable than hearing “I don’t know” from someone …except of course the eventual answer to the question. No one will think you’re stupid if you can’t come up with it on the spot but they would like to know. Go back, figure it out, and get back to them ASAP. Again, it’s a great way to earn respect for being genuine and reliable (two pillars of social media success, by the way).

4. Make sure your personality is actually a good fit

Being on social channels is a lot different than managing them, creating an effective internal and external strategy which aligns with marketing and sales goals, and whatever other nitty gritty things you’ll inevitably be tasked with. These are probably only a small portion of your responsibilities, anyway.

You have to be a people person. You can’t be afraid to show your personality. Your hours are never, will never, and should never be 9 to 5. You have to create a community both within your organization and for your customers as well. Once you create, you cannot abandon. There’s a lot of fact-finding, number-crunching, and smiling (both digitally and physically) involved.

Is this really you? If the answer is absolutely not, it’s totally cool, but you might want to consider looking into something else.

5. Be available both internally and externally

You absolutely need to be the MOST available person. You need to make your desk, cubicle, or closet a hub that all of your co-workers feel safe to approach and get answers or opinions. If they’re not approaching, find them yourself and make sure they’re comfortable with what’s going on.

Social strategies MUST involve the entire organization to be successful. Everyone needs to be moving in the same direction from the top down. Host training sessions, send out some of what you read, encourage and answer questions, and find out a little bit about everybody.

You actually have to be social to be good at this job. It’s a beautiful opportunity because you might not know all that much about the job environment, and yet, you may quickly take on the role of an internal leader.

Same goes for your digital community. Be timely, be courteous, and be open. Check your channels even when you’re not at work to see if a customer/partner issue pops up or for content opportunities. Some interesting stuff happens off-hours, including awesome events.

Check your local scene for some general, all-encompassing events that your customers might be attending to add a more personal touch to your interactions. Don’t stalk them, but always look for ways to add your physical presence to your digital footprint. Obviously, make time to have a life. After all, that’s what made you who you are. But don’t view your online community as just your work responsibility. View it for what it really is: your community.

Who is managing your social media presence at your business? Do you have a social media coordinator or a community manager, or are you a one man show doing it all? Would love to hear what you’ve learned along the way! Tell us in the comments section below.

Gerry is the resident Buzz Marketer at Brainshark, the leading provider of on-demand video presentations anytime, anywhere. Gerry manages the Brainshark Ideas Blog, as well as their social media strategy and content. Although Brainshark prides itself on being able to add voice to documents through the phone, computer mic, or mp3, Gerry insists on using a karaoke machine to musically narrate all of his internal video communications. You can connect with him at @gpraysman on Twitter.