Social Media Manager – The Front Line of Crisis Communications



Confession – for years I thought the job of a “social media manager” was bullshit.

Partly this is because social media wasn’t a thing when I first entered corporate communications.

Back in 2008, MySpace still existed and the term for social media was still “Web 2.0.”

By the time the “first social media manager” positions started appearing, they were for entry-level positions for 22-24 year-olds who could Tweet, use Facebook, and draft the occasional blog posts.

While useful, these social media channels were (and often still are) considered afterthoughts by most communications clients.

Simply put: clients expected a lot more than social media management for $4,000 (or $12,000) per month. That’s hard to justify to C-level executives, let alone Boards of Directors or shareholders.

Communications professionals were repeatedly told there’s little value in a tweet or a Facebook post compared to a feature story in The New York Times or Wall Street Journal.


But by about this time last year my thinking had evolved.

This was primarily due to two factors:

  1. The media landscape had changed.
  2. The proliferation of social media channels.

Media Landscape


Source: Engagement Labs eValueTM 2015 and 2016 rankings of U.S. digital and print news outlets.

Long before the advent of “fake news” and Donald Trump’s laying waste to more than a dozen other contenders for the Republican presidential nomination—and then the presidency itself, a new breed of digital news site had already siphoned audiences away from the websites of the most famous American newspapers.

The news hierarchy was no longer limited to just The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Reuters, CNN and the like.

Now, online upstarts like BuzzFeed, Mashable and Vox had broken into the top ranks of mainstream media.

Meanwhile, the highly partisan Drudge Report received more monthly pageviews last summer than the sites of The New York Times and The Washington Post combined.

Simply put, the U.S. media landscape has been in flux for several years, under pressure from declining ad revenues, the intense fight for eyeballs among dozens of media outlets – traditional and digital upstarts alike.

Perhaps there’s no greater testament to the new power of digital media than this fact:

When the city of Washington, DC made made its Snapchat Live Story debut on July 20, 2015, more people viewed the channel than tuned in to all four of the local TV stations’ 11:00 pm newscasts combined.

Social Media Channels


Likewise, just three years ago “social media” for brands was typically code for “posts to Twitter, Facebook, and occasionally LinkedIn.”

Today, those three channels are considered the bare minimum, and there’s increasing pressure for brands and causes of all stripes to also be active on visual channels like Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube.

Whereas three years ago “content marketing” meant that every brand needed to be blogging on their website, today, it’s more likely to mean posting short videos at least weekly.

Day in the Life

Fast forward to today, and the position of social media manager has been professionalized.

As in, become a legitimate mid-high level position.

No longer the realm of 22-25 year-olds, there are far many with a solid decade+ of experience in digital advocacy among the social media ranks.

In 2017, a typical day in the life of today’s social media manager includes:

  • Drafting LinkedIn updates, Facebook updates, and tweets for as many as 4-6 separate brand handles
  • Drafting, editing and posting two blog posts
  • Scripting or shooting a short video for posting to YouTube
  • Designing digital assets like infographics
  • Proactively responding to customer queries via Twitter
  • Revising brand guidelines and mentoring junior staff

Twitter and Crisis Communications – The Front Lines

Any who still doubt the power of Twitter need only review how then-President-elect Trump used the platform to move markets.


The fall-out?

Following this single tweet, Lockheed Martin’s stock price fell about 2 percent, losing about $1.2 billion of total market value.

Trump did it again on Jan. 5th. The following tweet caused Toyota’s market cap to lose $1.2 billion in just five minutes:

Due to the breaking-news, real-time nature of Twitter, it has become the front lines of crisis management for companies large and small.

Sure – Twitter is used by a small minority of people. And, due to its nature as a fire hose of information, it’s estimated that only two percent of an account’s Twitter followers will even see a given tweet.

But the reason the platform matters? See these statistics from Cision:

Granted, these statistics are suspect, as they are a year and a half old.

But they also date from long before President Trump demonstrated the power to move markets (and public policy) 140 characters at a time.

If anything, Twitter is more powerful today than it has ever been.


Today’s social media manager has the ability and responsibility to mitigate crises and calm markets – often in real-time.

In a world where everybody’s glued to their smart phones and far more likely to receive their news from Facebook or Twitter than from the evening news or hard copies of The New York Times, social media is too important to be thought of as an ancillary marketing function.

This means brands of all stripes should consider increasing their investment in social media.

More importantly, brands should invest in the people who will be charged with crafting and communicating their message.

The return on that investment is obvious – Just ask the CEOs of Lockheed Martin or Toyota.

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