Three Core Characteristics of Good Social Media Managers

Big businesses need a lot of different managers to be successful. Every department and every function needs a manager. So, it’s not surprising that the rise of social media has created the rather specialist role of social media (community or digital) manager. The role is relatively easy to define: it’s the management of all online communication, which includes representing the brand and monitoring and responding to mentions online.

Finding someone to fill the role is not always that easy, however. There are a lot of people who fancy themselves as social media managers. They think that because the have Facebook and Twitter accounts and because they have a modicum of digital marketing experience they are all set for a glittering managerial career. The role requires a lot more savvy than that, though, and while formalised social media qualifications are thin on the ground, there are some characteristics that good social media managers have in common.


The first trait is an obvious one. Good social media managers must have a passion for social media. They should be active on more than just Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. They should also have a well-maintained personal blog with several engaging comment streams; they should be able to spot promising social media platforms and be on the ground floor (those who recognised Pinterest’s potential are laughing); and they should be present on some niche social media sites that relate to their interests.

These interests should closely resemble those of the company or organisation concerned. An animal rights group should vet all social media manager applicants to see that they’re not on any hunting related sites. A florist ought to see if applicants at least follow other plant/flower/gardening people and if they belong to a network like The Garden Geek.


This is another no-brainer, really. Most of a social manager’s job involves communication. They’re either saying things or listening to things being said. That means they need to be intelligible, succinct, witty, personable, compassionate, and capable of responding calmly and rationally to complaints and criticisms, no matter how irrational and excited those complaints and criticisms are.

They need to be good listeners and they need to know where to listen. This means paying attention to forums, sites as Wiki and Yahoo Answers, complaint portals, social media platforms, and blogs.

And, they also need to be good at offline communication. This is because they’ll have to work with a social media team or, at the very least, some other members of staff to ensure consistency and implement ongoing training and education sessions so that everyone is aware of new developments and trends.

Really good social media managers will make an effort to meet up with other power uses in the area, as well as attend events, seminars, conferences, launches and generally network with relevant industry professionals – much like a traditional marketing, PR and branding expert would do.


This is an increasingly prevalent requirement in all industries but is particularly important in the digital/social media world. Basically it means a willingness to work outside of traditional hours. It means being available or on-call 24/7. Social media managers need to be able to react to developing situations immediately, even if those situations develop at 22:00 on a Sunday night.

This also means that they need to be au fait with mobile technology and should, ideally, have at least a moderately smart phone.

Flexibility also refers to an ability to think on their feet, an ability to adapt to changing situations, and an ability to (admit to and) learn from their mistakes.

Obviously social media managers need more than passion, communication and flexibility to succeed, but without these three core characteristics, most social media strategies are dead in the water.

Sandy writes on behalf of Now Learning, which promotes IT and business management diplomas online in Australia.

Check out our post about Social Media Manager Responsibilities.

Image credit: Beppie KCommunityManager

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