When it comes to social media, it is easy to be dazzled by big numbers and strong opinions. But often what is really needed isn’t a comprehensive strategy with metrics and targets, but a charming and intelligent human personality.
The majority of people who today call themselves social media experts, even the legitimate ones who actually know what they are doing, were complete social media newbies only a couple of years ago. Some very likely took the plunge only a few months ago.
I’ve seen people who didn’t have a Facebook page, people who’d skeptically asked “What the hell is this Twitter crap?”, jump in head first and, within a few months, become absolute masters of social media with tens of thousands of connections and followers and influence over some of the biggest names in their field. I’ve seen people in their teens and in their 60s become social media virtuosos, at least within the fields they really know and love, some of them virtually overnight.
I also know hundreds of people who have lots of friends on Twitter, who regularly blog and speak about social media, and who know all about the different companies, people, and technologies in the social media space, but who would be absolute freaking disasters if they had to put those skills to the service of a brand or company. I know this because they have volatile personalities, crummy writing skills and sloppy grammar, glaring personal issues, or are just ignorant of important subject matter. But with thousands of friends and immense popularity across lots of social media.
In other words, jerks, blowhards, and idiots are perfectly capable of mastering the logistics and technologies of social media, but do you really want them managing your social media?
There is undoubtedly a kind of social media skill that has nothing whatsoever to do with expertise with social media tools and technologies, but which all great social media success stories have in spades. Social media tools and technologies can be learned in a matter of days or weeks by the right people as long as they have other important skills: A passion for the product or the field they are working for, for example, is essential. A great personality. Great interpersonal communication skills. A sense of dignity and balance, and political sensitivity. Empathy.
In fact, this traditional stuff is WAY more important than having any experience whatsoever with social media. A so-called social media expert with thousands of hours of experience managing and building social networks and products could easily ruin your social media strategy simply by being a bad cultural fit with your audience and customers. And a total newbie — a kid from the mailroom, a user interface designer, or maybe the CEO herself — might become your company’s social media rainmaker simply because they completely understand your audience and believe in your product.
Charm can be bought, and it can be taught. But usually it’s simply a matter of finding it and letting shine.