The role of empowerment in social media success

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By Alexandra Reid

Not a day goes by that I don’t learn something new which furthers my understanding of social media and the role of the community manager. I seek out new information and it finds its way to me. It’s a necessary and unavoidable part of the job description. But I’ve come to learn that success in my field depends on my ability to act on what I learn. Without the empowerment provided by a supportive, progressive and open-minded business environment, my ideas could never come to fruition.

Social media has become a new market point of entry for business, where individuals can reach the appropriate people, have their questions answered, concerns addressed and opinions heard with immediacy. As competition between companies for attention on social platforms becomes fiercer, social consumers have grown more sophisticated and discerning about the people and brands with which they interact, says an eMarketer study. They expect their needs to be met instantly and professionally. As intermediaries, community managers are the primary communicators of a businesses’ social media acumen. Employers must empower them with the opportunity to seek out better ways of engaging target audiences through social media and the support which develops the confidence to speak up and bring forward-thinking ideas to the table.

Social media is intimidating for lots of businesses because they are afraid to make mistakes, yet the biggest mistake a business can make is to strip its social media advisors of the power to act. If you trust the people you’ve hired to do social media and provide them with the information and guidelines necessary to do their jobs well, you should be just fine.

Employees perform better when their employers, clients and colleagues are open to receiving new ideas. James Kouzes and Barry Bosner’s Five Practices Model, from their ground breaking book The Leadership Challenge, presented by Social Media Explorer, advises business leaders to show interest in their teams’ social media strategy by asking questions and being “present.” They also advise leaders to be open about challenging the status quo and to encourage employees to question legacy thinking and old business models and foster new ideas.

Other advice for business leaders include:

  • Encourage pilot projects
  • Create a supportive environment that breeds social media trial and error. But be sure to communicate that learning from mistakes is the goal.
  • Develop a learning culture where employees are encouraged to invest time to build their knowledge base. This could take the form of self-guided learning, mentorship or a more structured social media approach to training.
  • Support (qualified) employees that want to expand their sphere of social media influence. When it comes to social business, everyone can be in marketing and customer service.

Although empowerment is necessary for social media activities to flourish, it is equally important to critically assess the decisions made by the social media professionals who are advising you. According to Jeremiah Owyang, businesses should continuously educate themselves on social media best practices. New tools and techniques must be evaluated from all possible angles before they are used. While social media professionals worth their salt will do the necessary research and present important findings, both positive and negative, to their employers, colleagues and clients, there is always a chance that they may neglect to take into consideration important factors that others, who might be privy to information they are not, could pinpoint.

Once a community manager is empowered by a business to seek out new ideas and implement them, it is the responsibility of him or her to do so. While your employer may suggest a good webinar to watch, whitepaper to read or event to attend, you can’t expect him or her to stay on top of your professional development indefinitely. You’ve got to seek out opportunities for yourself. I don’t care if you call yourself an expert, evangelist, aficionado, guru or maven, you must still be open to receiving new information and ways of doing your job. If you’re not, you’ll find it much harder to earn the support of your employers, peers and clients. Attend events, watch webinars, view Slideshare presentations, interview specialists, take counsel from other professionals and read whitepapers and blog posts and tweets. People are always developing better ways of doing things. Better to learn from their experiences than to start from scratch on your own.

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