What do GoPro, Nike, and Taco Bell all have in common?
With over 130 million followers combined, all three brands are crushing their social media activity. And I mean, really crushing it.
And check out this Taco Bell Instagram Reel. I mean, aren’t they just geniuses?
But these brands didn’t get over 130 million followers by magic, overnight. Behind each one of these brilliant social media posts and campaigns sits unbelievable social media managers. Social media managers that care passionately about the growth and success of the company they’re working for.
You don’t need me to tell you that this type of talent doesn’t grow on trees. It’s rare to find employees, especially ones in the fickle world of social media, who care about scaling a brand, as much as these three do.
So, where and how do you find your Wes, Katie, or Erika?
What Does a Social Media Manager Who Cares About Scale Look Like?
To improve our social media efforts and get the growth that we’re after, we could learn a few lessons or pick up some ideas from the type of content and campaigns that successful brands like Nike, GoPro, and Taco Bell publish.
But this approach is a superficial one.
What works for one brand rarely transfers over to another, not when they have completely different values, objectives, and audiences.
For instance, what works for GoPro on social wouldn’t work for Taco Bell. The tone of voice, the copy, and the imagery? It just wouldn’t fit.
Picture this Instagram Reel: A guy, riding the waves, one-handed on a wakeboard, casually eating a Mexican Pizza Taco (Oh … Actually, that could kind of work. Maybe.)
The point is, we need to go beneath the surface of the content that these brands are posting and look at the people who are producing and directing it.
These people, the social media managers or directors, are making key decisions around content, campaigns, and strategic direction. They’re successfully steering their social media ship through the stormy waters, into the calm port of success.
So, who are these types of people? What makes them exceptional social media managers that can generate over 27 thousand likes from one post? What qualities do they possess?
Top Traits of an Exceptional Social Media Manager
What qualities and personality traits do the exceptional social media managers at Nike, GoPro, and Taco bell have?
Exceptional social media managers are adaptable, fluid, and flexible
“Social media marketing is fluid, the platforms are changing, the users’ mindsets are changing, and the rules and guidelines are constantly in flux. It’s our job as social media marketers to change with it.” – Katie Marylander, director of Social at GoPro
Every day is different.
There are new trends, breaking news, catastrophes, unexpected events, gossip, politics, global recognition days … And because we now live in such a transparent world, things move and change quickly. And everybody sees it. Especially in the world of social media.
Social is a living and breathing platform that people turn to for the latest on what’s happening in life and the world.
“The first thing I do, when I wake up, is look at what’s trending that day, across multiple countries.” – Katie Marylander, GoPro director of Social
Any social media manager worth their salt will stay on top of trends, pivot their social media strategy accordingly, and see unpredictable (but inevitable) change as a goldmine full of opportunities.
“We’re laser-focused on putting out consistent Nike messaging, across all our platforms and making sure that our conversations reflect the nature of the stories we’re trying to tell, which are changing all of the time!” – Wes Warfield, social media manager at Nike
Exceptional social media managers choose empowerment to achieve brand consistency
“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” Familiar with that saying? That’s exactly how exceptional social media managers, like Katie, Wes, and Erika, view their teams.
“We empower our employees to represent the brand in a way they feel is in-line with Nike.” – Wes Warfield, social media manager at Nike
Instead of dictation and micro-management, they choose empowerment.
“We work hard to empower our whole team to make sure we’re all on the same wavelength at all times, in terms of how and when we talk to fans because consistency in brand voice is key.” – Erika Prime, Social Media Associate Manager at Taco Bell
They prefer to guide decision-making, trust the talent they’ve hired, and hand the accountability and subsequent pride for work, over to their team members.
“Empowering employees to make their own decisions is in ensuring that Nike thrives as a brand on Instagram,” says Warfield.
Empowerment and trust in employees breed confidence, new ideas, and the motivation needed to perform at a consistently high level.
“Empowering international teams has given me such an incredible perspective on how different people think, behave, and live, all around the world,” says Marylander.
Exceptional social media managers are strategic, innovative, and creative thinkers
“I am tested creatively on the daily and am always ready for the next challenge.” – Erika Prime, social media associate manager at Taco Bell
Capitalizing on content opportunities with out-the-box thinking is a natural process for most, decent social media managers. They almost instinctively know how to create scroll-stopping content. But what makes a social media manager exceptional, is their ability to pair their creative and innovative streak with ruthless strategic vision and steely determination to achieve growth.
“Content that works best doesn’t always sell the most. It’s about finding that sweet spot between fun, entertaining content that builds awareness, and product-centric content that drives sales and educates the audience.” – Katie Marylander, director of Social at GoPro
Creativity and innovation aren’t limited to creating wipe-out copy or presenting visuals in a new and dynamic way. For exceptional social media managers, it also includes finding ways to save time or streamline arduous tasks.
“My social media team receives lots of similar questions from customers, so we keep an eye out for actionable incoming requests where we can help multiple customers at once. Customers are more likely to share information with others, which decreases the future volume of questions around a particular topic. I’m always looking for ways we can add value.” – Wes Warfield, social media manager at Nike
Exceptional social media managers are driven by metrics
Social Media ROI has become a big deal.
Gone are the days when social media managers could report on vanity metrics with no consequences or questions.
Although vanity metrics still play a part in proving performance, exceptional social media managers center their strategies around cold, hard, real numbers that are grounded in data: How much referral traffic will this piece of content drive? Are we getting more sales with these Facebook Ads? How can we generate more conversions with our content?
“Aim for one action per consumer. You might only have 50 likes on a post, but you might have 100 views. Don’t underestimate the importance of views.” – Katie Marylander, GoPro director of Social
But your social media manager doesn’t have to be an analytical genius to get the numbers needed to prove ROI. Not if they use social media management tools like Agorapulse.
Agorapulse has a built-in ROI feature that tracks, proves, and reports on the Social Media ROI generated from all the content published through the platform. Check out Agorapulse over a two-week, no-obligation, free trial.
Exceptional social media managers are helplessly passionate about what they do
“I was SO eager to learn more! After a few months and a handful of photo shoots under my belt, I began representing the @TacoBell account. Five years later, I now lead all of Taco Bell’s digital and social creative strategy and production.” – Erika Prime, social media associate manager at Taco Bell
Passion is priceless.
And it’s something you can’t teach. Exceptional social media managers truly love what they do, and it shows through their hard work, dedication, and the results that they consistently get.
They like to browse their socials to spot the latest trends as soon as they wake up. They choose to respond to messages on the commute to work. They prefer to check in on their accounts late at night, over the weekends, or even on holiday. And they automatically think to get that shot of their avocado-on-sourdough, ready to post at the opportune time.
Social media management can often be a 24/7 kind of job. Only the best seems to remain unresentful about the hours, stress, and intensity of the role.
“I wish people knew the hard work and long hours that go into each and every post. I dive into product or campaign insights, work through rounds of creative concepting and storyboarding, consult with the team during photoshoots, and much, much more. Also, the Internet never sleeps, so my job is non-stop. If someone is stuck in their car, surviving off of Sauce Packets, you know I’m gonna be hot on the story and ready to react.” – Erika Prime, social media associate manager at Taco Bell
How to Find a Social Media Manager With Those Star Qualities
Now you know what an exceptional social media manager looks like. But how do you find these rare breeds? What can you do during the hiring process to separate the wheat from the chaff and find your shining star?
You can never be 100% sure if someone would lead a team through empowerment or be completely flexible and adaptable to whatever life throws at them. But there are pretty standard interview questions that you can ask to tease this insight out.
But to find out if a social media manager is naturally passionate, creative, and gets the importance behind data-led metrics, can be slightly harder.
How to tell if a social media manager gets the numbers
You need to know that your social media manager understands and isn’t fazed by ROI and other key metrics.
Ask them what their high-level goals for your brand would be, what type of metrics they’d want to track, and why they’d want to report on them each month. It’s important that they mention vanity and data-led ROI metrics to show that they appreciate the significance of both for the success and growth of your business.
How to tell if a social media manager is creative
Hiring a social media manager that isn’t creative would be nuts. But how do you know if someone possesses the natural ability to come up with crazy ideas, or produce out-of-this-world content?
Look carefully at their first point of contact. How far outside the box did they go to make themselves stand out from the pack? Did they make a TikTok video instead of sending a resume, for example? Or did they create a Pinterest board with all the things they love about your brand?
How they approach you will tell you how creative their brain is.
How to tell if a social media manager knows how to maximize productivity
A savvy social media manager will know that juggling all the major social media channels natively can be a massive time-suck. So, they will use a social media management tool, such as Agorapulse, to do everything social from a dashboard.
If they really know their stuff, they’ll also use the social media management tool to easily generate social media reports, set publishing schedules, monitor social, and do a host of other tasks with ease.
How to tell if a social media manager is passionate
As we know, social media management is a full-on job. You need to hire a social media manager who is willing to go the extra mile, regardless of whether they’re on holiday or it’s one o’clock in the morning.
A great way to test this level of passion and dedication to the job is to see how naturally interested they are in the social media industry itself. Do they know the latest trends? Do they know what new products or websites have launched or changed? Are they all over the new tactics or strategies that your competitors are using? Do they make time to read articles on new ideas or new technology?
An exceptional social media manager will want to stay up to date with the constantly changing social media landscape.
Go find your Wes, Katie, or Erika!