7 Ways To Improve Your Social Media Skills And Influence

social crm

Image by Sean MacEntee via Flickr

Sean is a young guy in his first agency, hired because he understands social, right? Carrie is a little older and has worked in marketing for nearly a decade. Her boss has asked her to take on the department’s social strategy – because she’s senior yet still young enough to get it. Eric is a marketing director and worries that his career might slip away if he doesn’t start building his social profile outside and inside the enterprise.

How do these people find help?

Social media skills are becoming extremely important to employees, yet I think there is a very significant skills gap here.

Many people in social media are not really prepared for their new roles.  They have to effectively create a new job spec. They have to fit into a fast moving environment out on the web. And like Carrie and Eric they may have to make a new internal social policy work when the company has little experience of it. They have to make what they do relevant for strategy when social media ROI is a pretty difficult metric to get a handle on. They have to do it all in public.

By this time next year we’ll all be looking back at 2012 and saying wow, the explosion of social media inside the workplace has been one of the most amazing disruptors I’ve seen in business. Companies like  Dell have a lead because they’ve trained over 6,000 staff in social. Social is a new competitive battleground. But people are still having to self-service their skills’ development – even after training.

Companies need to train employees to relate to customers through social channels.  But they must also invest in people’s ability and willingness to take on significant social roles inside and outside the walls.

I notice when I write about this topic, I get an uptick in Twitter followers and many of those new followers will be social media newbies or experts with very small Twitter followings.

They are like Sean, Carrie and Eric, folks who need to grasp a new skills set, yes. But folks who also will be practicing that skill in public, on the web, in front of a potentially critical audience made up of more experienced social media people and customers. They need to grow some kind of following even while they are learning their craft.

There are some great writers out there with really solid advice for people who have begun to find their way around.

Darren Rowse and Copyblogger are great sources for the mechanics of how content works online, Social Media Today is stream of good and topical advice, this article on Mashable about how to create a good blog following is one of the best I’ve read, and  on socialmediaexaminer last week Kristi Hines wrote a great piece on how to use your Google + account to build SEO power.

So there’s plenty of good material around.

Yet I get a sense from comments, emails and the people I see on Twitter that there’s still a missing ingredient.

Might it be that these sources assume a higher degree of knowledge than many people actually have? Or that there is just so much to learn that people who are new, or relatively new, feel overwhelmed?

If that’s the case then a few simple steps might help get a fledgling social media career in shape.

I wrote about this earlier with a focus on what it meant to write for the web. Today I’ll focus more on what it takes to get a really strong orientation in your new role.

I’ll be writing a more challenging piece on what makes the difference in social media, later in the week.

Here I wanted to touch more on what it takes to build a self-sufficient approach to this new area. Sometimes creating new things just takes strength. How you draw on your hidden reserves can make the difference between learning, advancing and giving up.

My own experience here is 25 years of earning my living as a writer and about 10 years blogging. I was also a partner at The Conversation Group, one of the first social media agencies.

I don’t want to suggest that those experiences make me an expert. None of us are really experts. This type of skill is a work in progress.

# 1. How to deal with your confidence.

I find my conversations with people about social media are really about confidence. That happens to be a big issue for anyone who writes or performs in public. I worry about everything I write – I tend it after it’s published, going back and tweaking here and there because I know it’s never perfect. It probably drives the Forbes producers nuts to have someone like me obsessing on a post and still making errors. Most people new to expressing a view in public fret about it. But many of us who’ve been doing it for years are no more relaxed.

OK so the fact that most people are nervous about their work being judged constantly in a public arena doesn’t help?

What can you do about it? You might feel that your skill levels are lower than they should be in the company you now have to keep, and that adds to your anxiety.

You need a point of view. That’s my recipe.

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