6 Characteristics of Social Media Winners

March 18, 2011

An increasing number of companies are hiring for the relatively new role of “corporate social strategist” (Jeremiah Owyang recently published a list of more than 260 corporate social strategists on the brand/buyer side, followed up by a Twitter edition of the same list here) and there are thousands of self-proclaimed (and a few real) social media experts on Twitter. What are the qualifications for such a role? Answers are likely to vary widely based on knowledge, perspective, industry etc., but Charlie Sheen’s recent meteoric  rise on Twitter aside (best not to rely on the perverse attraction of watching a drug-addled celebrity publicly self-destruct) here’s a shot at a minimum list of characteristics that enable social media success.Social Media Winner

Smart. Subject matter knowledge is essential. Interns don’t cut it; social media success requires at least some level of expertise about one’s company and industry. The social media strategist needn’t know everything of course, but should know who to refer to or where to find crucial answers (as Albert Einstein famously didn’t know his own phone number).

Engaging. A customer service orientation is essential; a social media strategist should above all want to help others. Social media is about providing value, not just promotion, and of course it’s social.

Empathetic. Effective social communication requires the ability to put oneself in the customer’s shoes, and ask “What kind of information would I be looking for?” Then the ability and initiative to provide it. A social media strategy that’s all about “me me me!” repels the community.

Trustworthy. As retail giant Walmart learned after multiple social media failures, social media success requires honesty, transparency and authenticity. Attempts to “fake it” are usually easy to discover and extremely easy to share. Bad news can go viral too.

Unique. The best social media strategists are original; they add something new to the conversation. Of course it’s imperative to share beneficial content from others—passing along good stuff you come across is what makes social media “social” after all—but the most valued social media contributors provide a voice, not just an echo.

Analytical. The best are constantly learning; what works, and what doesn’t? What type of content seems to resonate with those following me? Which content, strategies and tactics seemed to fall flat, and why? Social media offers a wealth of metrics; successful strategists monitor results, learn from the past, and continue testing new ideas.

Any other characteristics you’d add to this list?

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2 Responses

  1. Tom, thank you for linking to my blog post describing how Wal-Mart learned from its social media failures. This is very generous!

    You’ve written an outstanding post. All of these characteristics are spot-on. One additional characteristic I suggest is “community.” Quoting Mitch Joel, author of Six Pixels of Separation: “Build community, not traffic” (because online practitioners focusing on building a community succeed in the long haul).

    Once again, thank you. And, I look forward to following you on Twitter to learn of new posts and additional observations.


  2. Tom 

    Tony – no worries, the Wal-Mart post was very helpful, and thank you for both the kind words and additional characteristic. That’s an excellent attribute to add to the list.

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