I recently spotted a forum thread asking about professional social media management, and it inspired me to put together a list of skills and qualities that you need to be able to do the job well. In addition to being a social media manager across a series of networks, I also manage various personal accounts which serve different purposes. I’ve given talks, heard of people giving presentations about my social media approach, and offered a lot of advice and evaluation to several big brands.

There are two main types of professional social media.

1. Managing your own (whether for self-branding or your company)
2. Managing other companies’

When you’re managing your own social media, whether for personal branding/outreach or your company’s, you have a lot more control. That’s counteracted by the fact that you more than likely don’t have as much time or budget to dedicate to it. It can also be more of a challenge to keep the momentum going, keep it fresh, and think up ideas if you’re not working as part of a team. On the plus side, you have a lot more control about how you position yourself and what you say.

Regardless of the type of professional social media you’re doing, the following skills all go a long way towards making company channels successful:

  • Creativity
  • Self-motivation
  • Language (especially tone)
  • Organisation
  • Time management
  • Sales
  • Customer service
  • Patience
  • Investigation
  • Data analysis

Most of these skills are pretty much self-explanatory; patience, sales, organisation, self-motivation, customer service, patience, data analysis and time-management are fairly standard abilities that are straightforward enough to apply.

Language and creation

Language and creativity are two of the hardest to get right, but the good news is that they are much more malleable and can be improved upon more than qualities tied to personality (such as patience). For many people, the best thing to do is just experiment. If you’re stuck for a starting point, check out a person or brand you admire on social media to see what they’re doing. It’s always a good idea to build up a list of pages and profiles you think handle social media well – try to get a good mix of the world’s biggest brands and small businesses so you get a good idea of what’s possible at all levels.

Rather than always linking directly to content elsewhere, take a bit of time to create some content especially for your social media channels. Images in particular work well, and can be as simple as three written tips on an attractive background. This stops you forcing your content to suit social media and helps you naturally be more creative and focus on the channels themselves for a bit rather than just viewing them in the context of your website or business.


Take a lot of time to research and know your audience. Psychographic profiling is very useful for this – use real-world data where you can to find out about the majority of your user base (or the kinds of users you want to attract). How old are they? What do they do in their spare time? What kind of culture references do they have (and like)? What political views do they have? The more you know about your users, the easier it is to create and share things you know they’ll appreciate and enjoy.

Investigate not only your audience, but your internal opportunities. What do you have in your physical working environment that could translate well to social media or make an interesting story? Even just showcasing your desk and computer can be appealing with the right framing. If you work with other people, find out more about them – and their work – and use it to create stories and campaigns. Know your products and services as well as the salespeople and customer service reps, if not better.

Embrace failure

Don’t be afraid to fail. Even the most seasoned social media professionals have campaigns that don’t do as well as they think or plan for, because there are no hard and fast rules for success. Even replicating something you’ve done successfully before won’t have the same results, so count the successes but learn from the failures.

Not every conversation will go perfectly either. Regardless of your industry, you’ll encounter people who aren’t as pleasant as they could be. Customers will put you in difficult situations, whether they mean to or not. Always carefully craft your messages and replies to consider the different ways they may be interpreted, and try to leave no room for argument. Often, directing people to a different, less public channel of communication is the most effective. Some people just want to rant, so don’t allow yourself to become a buffer or a sponge. Be proactive where you can, and ensure other people in your company are too, keeping clear lines of communication open with you so you can nip potential issues in the bud where possible.

In conclusion

Professional social media requires a mix of all kinds of skills, many of which can be learned and improved upon, and some of which are more based around personality traits. Research, investigate and test on an ongoing basis to improve your approach and success rates, and don’t forget to take time out from your screen rather than feeling like you have to be on call 24/7.

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