Seven Things I Wish I Knew Before Working In Social Media

By Dave McDonald, Digital Content Producer | Development and Alumni Relations

Remember the early stages of social media? The days spent wondering if your high school crush was going to accept your friend request…good times. Fast forward to today and the networks that were once considered “new media” are now full-fledged platforms for branding, advertising, and consumer engagement, for starters. We’re living in a “social first” atmosphere. When news breaks, we turn to Twitter and Facebook, and once-traditional marketing/PR jobs are changing to include social as a key responsibility.

If you work in these fields and it hasn’t happened yet, it’s only a matter of time before your responsibilities will involve social media. Whether it’s running your boss’s twitter account, writing blog posts, or managing the department’s Facebook page, you should know what to expect.

Here are a few pointers I wish I knew before being pushed into the digital deep end:

1. Social Media is a conversation, make your voice stand out.

Social Media is just that…social. We log on to our favorite online mediums to take a break from the formalities of the day. Tailor your content to reflect that desire. When drafting a post, imagine you’re talking to a close friend or relative — the more human you sound, the better. That doesn’t mean you can throw professionalism out the window, but let your followers know there’s a person behind your posts. Also, remember who you’re talking to! Your voice should reflect how your audience engages in conversation. If students are your primary audience, write like one. If it’s researchers, feel free to use jargon — they’ll understand it.

2. The fun doesn’t stop at 5PM

Things don’t stop just because it’s the end of the work day. In fact, usually social media is at its peak outside of the 9–5 hours. Take this into consideration when publishing content and monitoring activity. This doesn’t mean you need to always be monitoring your feeds, but pick your battles. If news drops or a crisis pops up, many times waiting until 9AM the next day can be too late.

My advice: Keep your push notifications on and be ready to address any issues at the drop of a hat.

3. Dealing with complaints and trolls is a delicate dance.

These situations can be sticky, there’s no “one size fits all” solution, but here are guidelines for dealing with issues/complaints and trolls:


If someone posts an issue or complaint, remember these three things:

  1. Respond as fast as possible — Most of the time your followers just want their voices heard. A quick response builds brand loyalty and shows that your company is on top of their game. Even if the issue cannot be resolved at that moment, just knowing your team is working on a solution is enough to put your needy followers at ease.
  2. Act like a human being — No one wants to talk to a robot, so don’t respond like one. Spice up your response with some charm, don’t be afraid to say “That’s awkward!” or “Yikes! Our bad” when appropriate. It’s amazing what a human touch can do.
  3. Take it offline a fast as possible — I’m not saying delete posts. NEVER hide a post unless absolutely necessary (see “trolls” below). What I mean is to solve the issue off social media. — Let me explain; If someone posts a complaint, respond like this: “Yikes! Awkward. Let’s get this fixed. DM us your email or phone # and we’ll work together to solve this.” It’s human, it’s quick, and it shows your followers you’ve taken action.


Every organization has them, and they exist to cause trouble. Under no circumstance should you engage with them, if they’re posting offensive content, hide their posts, and warn them that if they keep it up, they’ll be banned.

4. Social listening is essential

There’s a good chance the conversations happening around your brand aren’t taking place on your social channels. They’re in tweets, blogs, or forums living elsewhere. Social listening can help you track down those interactions and chime-in when necessary. There are many programs out there that can help, but following hashtags and keywords related to your brand is a great start.

5. Follower count is important, but engagement is the real measurement of success

Followers matter, but they’re not everything. When reporting metrics, remember what social is all about; to ignite discussions around your initiatives. If the conversation is engaging, more followers will want to join-in.

6. Determine which metrics are key for your team

Yes, engagement is significant, but it’s not the “be-all end-all”. When deciding what to report on, think about your team’s yearly goals. Are you trying to increase clicks to your website? Extend your reach? Get more leads? Find out what those are and pull the appropriate metrics around them.

7. Trends move fast. Try to keep up.

The world of social media moves fast. A strategy could work great one day, then BOOM, a new algorithm pops up and you’re stuck coming up with a new plan. There are plenty of publications to help keep you on the cutting edge. A few of my favorites are Social Media Examiner, Techcrunch, and Social Media Today. Remember, just because it’s new, it doesn’t mean you need to be doing it. Do the research, and decide if your team has the resources to invest, or if it’s the right fit for your stakeholders.

Final Thoughts:

I’ve been working in social media for just over five years within various industries. While the content for each trade is different, what I’ve come to realize is that the way people interact with social is always the same. The lesson here is that if you know how your network engages, respond quickly, and speak their language, you will build lasting relationships with your stakeholders.

Do you agree with my list? Are there things I missed? Sound off in the comments.