13 must-have social media skills

What are the ingredients of an ideal social media manager? If you were to ask this question 10 years ago, it would probably be a fairly short list. But as social media marketing evolved over the years with new technology and a wider audience, we’ve been able to see certain skills and traits that separate the top marketers from the rest.

Learning and sharpening these skills can help propel your social media efforts into elite status, and avoid being one of the many brands that can’t seem to make any progress.

Whether you’re looking to hire a new social media manager or simply want to improve your own strategy, focus on building up these 13 social media skills:

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1. Community Management

When you look at the top brands on social media, you’ll notice something they all have in common is a community aspect. Social media marketing is all about connecting with your audience. Once you’re able to build that connection and grow a community, your audience will start creating user generated content (UGC) and your reach will spread organically.

Start by acknowledging your top sharers. These are the people who are consistently engaging with you and your content on social media. You can find this in the Sprout Social Trends report.

Sprout Social Trends Report

Want to know what other pieces should be a part of your social team? We partnered with HubSpot to create a free guide on how to build a social media dream team from scratch, including some of the key positions you should fill. Download it here.

2. Relationship Building

Not only is it important to connect with your audience, but you also have to connect with influencers. That’s why relationship building is a crucial social media skill that you have to develop. Unfortunately, this is a skill that a lot of companies lack, resulting in spammy direct messages on Twitter and Instagram comments begging for follows.

In our influencer outreach guide, we break down a simple process to identify and connect with influencers in your industry without spamming them. It boils down to being genuine and thinking of ways you can add value to them rather than asking for favors. If you can master the skill of relationship building, you’ll have a significant advantage on social media.

benefits of influencer marketing

3. Creativity

A study from Fractl and Buzzstream found 21% of social media users would unfollow a brand if the content shared was too repetitive or boring. In order to keep your followers engaged and to be an effective social media manager, you have to consistently come up with new and creative initiatives and campaigns. Whether it’s a fun Facebook contest, brand partnerships or entertaining videos, think of ways to stand apart from the millions of other users on social media.

Take a look at what some of your competitors are doing to get ideas for how you can amplify your brand’s social media presence and stand out.

Why People Unfollow Brands

4. Organization

Creating a publishing schedule, tracking all of your contacts and maintaining multiple social media profiles requires some level of organization. The best social media managers know when content is supposed to be published, which special holidays and occasions to plan ahead for, and have a way to keep track of the different social media conversations they have going on.

Luckily, staying organized is much easier today than it was when social media marketing first started out thanks to social media dashboards like Sprout Social. You have the ability to track all of your scheduled social media posts on a calendar, keep a history of your interactions with other users and manage all of your profiles from a single app.

5. The Ability to Learn New Technology Quickly

New social media platforms are constantly popping up. You don’t have to be active on all of them, but if your audience starts gravitating to Periscope or Snapchat, you should be able to quickly adapt and learn the ins and outs. This is one social media skill that tends to come natural to millennials and social natives since they grew up on social media. But that doesn’t mean it’s not possible for everyone else!

The key is to become an early adopter and spot emerging social media platforms before they’re mainstream. By the time everyone else jumps on board, you’ll already have an established presence and won’t have to fight for a piece of the pie. Brands like GrubHub, Karmaloop and Taco Bell were some of the first businesses on Snapchat and each have led the charge on the social media app.

And of course, you can follow our posts for tips and tactics to be successful on all of the latest social media platforms.

6. Writing

Whether it’s creating a blog post to be shared on social media or crafting the perfect Tweet, writing is a must-have social media skill. If your headlines aren’t captivating and magnetic, people aren’t going to be motivated to click-through. Writing isn’t just important for headlines, it’ll also come in handy for other social media related tasks like creating blog posts.

It’s also important you have the ability to write for the Web in particular. Writing a blog post or Tweet is different than writing a newspaper column or college essay. Web content needs to be easy to skim and visually appealing by using headings, bullet lists and shorter paragraphs.

7. Sales

This skill is a bit tricky. You don’t want to be a pushy salesperson on social media, but you also don’t want to lose out on potential leads by being too passive either. You can strike a balance by using certain sales techniques that translate well into social media marketing.

For instance, sales people are trained to pinpoint a customer’s pain point, and demonstrate how their product can provide a solution. People use social media to express their frustrations and problems all the time. By finding these users and reaching out to them, you can bring them into your sales funnel and generate leads.

Search Twitter for certain keywords that your audience uses when talking about problems your product or service solves. You can do this easily with Sprout’s social media monitoring, and even save your most popular search terms to come back and check whenever you want. Here’s an example of a search that targets people asking a question about social media tools. We just did a search for “social media tool?”

Customer Prospecting Sprout Social

8. Customer Service

A study from J.D. Power and Associates found 67% of consumers have used a company’s social media page for servicing. If you’re unable to interact with customers on social media and resolve their issues, you could quickly find yourself losing business. We’ve seen numerous stories of companies that suffered because they lack customer service skills on social media.

One popular example of poor customer service on social media is when a chef at Pigalle Restaurant in Boston replied to an unhappy diner’s Facebook post. The customer complained about the Thanksgiving meal she had at the restaurant. The chef fired back with a series of insults and inappropriate replies. The fiasco garnered negative attention in the press and the restaurant has since been closed down.

Here are some quick tips for responding to customer complaints on social media:

  • Respond quickly
  • Be polite and professional
  • Have empathy
  • Go the extra mile to resolve issues
Microsoft Twitter Support

9. Analytical Skills

Is your social media strategy working for your business? A good social media manager should not only be able to answer that question, but also provide data to prove it. In the early stages of social media marketing, your options for tracking your activities and progress were limited to say the least. But today, tools like Sprout Social provide you with plenty of data to improve your social media marketing efforts and make informed decisions instead of relying on assumptions.

You should be able to access and interpret data about any of these metrics:

  • Your audience demographics
  • The growth of your account
  • Engagement
  • Your posting habits
sprout social reporting

10. Detail Oriented

The devil is in the details. One accidental typo or an oversight in a Tweet can result in negative press and flat out embarrassment. Britain’s Got Talent contestant Susan Boyle found this out the hard way. In order to promote her album release party, Susan’s marketing team came up with the hashtag #susanalbumparty. Unfortunately, that hashtag can be misread as something else entirely and a huge fiasco ensued as a result.

Burger King also fell victim to an unfortunate oversight when they promoted the hashtag #WTFF, which was supposed to be an acronym for “What the French Fry.” Unfortunately, that acronym is internet slang for something else, which Burger King apparently didn’t know about. As a result, conversations with both Burger King’s meaning and the more inappropriate meaning were all funneled together for the trending hashtag.

Remember, what happens on social media is forever. Even if you delete an accidental Tweet or Facebook post, there’s always the chance that a screenshot was saved or a blog picked it up before you were able to delete it. Be careful and make sure you dot your i’s and cross your t’s.

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11. SEO

As search engine optimization and social media marketing become more intertwined, SEO is quickly becoming a must-have social media skill. You may not need in depth technical knowledge like knowing what URL canonicalization is, but you do need to understand keywords, link building and content marketing.

Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team, stated in a video that Google doesn’t include social signals such as followers or Likes in its ranking algorithm. However, one study found 50% of companies struggling with SEO aren’t integrating social media. While things are still a bit unclear, keeping SEO best practices in mind with your social media strategy seems like the safest bet.

Read our Social Media Optimization post to learn more about how you can use SEO and social media marketing together.

Social media and SEO

12. Decision Making

Research published on Search Engine Watch found 53% of users expect brands to respond back to them within an hour on Twitter. And that number increases to 72% if the user is Tweeting to a company about an issue or complaint. Social media moves so quickly that you won’t always have time to have a round-table discussion before deciding how to reply to people. You need confidence and the ability to make decisions quickly.

twitter response time

13. Time Management

Spending time on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram can quickly become a time drain. Aside from the distractions of looking through other peoples’ content, it’s also easy to fall into the trap of spending an hour doing menial tasks with nothing to show for it. In order to avoid wasting your time on social media, you need to be able to manage your time efficiently.

You’ll have to divide your schedule among several different tasks, including:

  • Monitoring social media for trending topics and events
  • Scheduling posts
  • Creating new content to share
  • Engaging with other users
  • Responding to your followers and customers

And that’s only a handful of the daily activities you’ll be responsible for. If you’re unable to juggle everything, you could end up wasting your time and energy.

How do your social media skills stack up with our list? And what skills are important to you? Leave a comment and let us know!