What Exactly Is a Social Media Editor/Manager?

Recently, many news organizations and businesses have added social media editors and community managers to their staff. But what exactly are these new positions and what are they responsible for? Below, community managers and social media editors share insight on their positions and responsibilities.

Stephanie Romanski, Web Editor/Social Media Coordinator, Grand Island Independent

For a little over a year, I have been able to add “Social Media Coordinator” to my job title, though I have been using the medium for years. This means I handle manually tweeting for my newspaper — manual being absolutely key — setting up Twitter accounts for reporters who wish to tweet and teaching those that are reluctant to jump, handling all things Facebook, and coordinating all of the blogging that we do both internally and externally.

As social media becomes even more essential than it was a mere year ago, my job has seeped into our advertising department as we experiment with ways to harness tools like Twitter and make money. This involves occasionally going on sales calls with ad reps and explaining the benefits of social media for businesses, so I’ve had to learn that aspect of social media, in addition to using it to benefit our newsroom and website.

There are any number of smaller jobs associated with social media that creep up on a daily basis — putting together a tweets page to pull in live updates from sporting events or breaking stories, grabbing a Droid myself and heading out to grab live video of a car engulfed in flames, co-hosting chat shows using CoverItLive software to engage with our readers — all of which means I have to have a variety of skills, from video/audio editing to web design/coding skills. Whatever comes up, I also find I constantly have to stay on top of the latest news, tools and applications for social media. But it’s fun, I love it and it’s worth it.

Robert Quigley, Social Media Editor, Statesman.com and Austin360.com

The American-Statesman created this position in the summer of 2009 so I could focus on our social media efforts, which are constantly expanding. I’m the main voice behind the @statesman Twitter account and the Statesman Facebook fan page, and I am the chief strategist for our newsroom’s use of new social media tools. I work with our staff members to more effectively engage our community, I write a weekly in-house newsletter on best practices and give brown bag-style seminars on new and effective techniques. I also spend a fair amount of time reading up on the latest on the intersection of journalism and social media so we can continue to innovate. I’m also the editor of Hookem.com, our college football fan site, which is an aggregator that is heavy on social media.

I’ve been a journalist since 1994, and I’ve been with the Statesman since May 1998. I have held many positions throughout my career, from sportswriter to copy editor to page designer. I moved to the online side in January 2007 as the Internet editor, a new position in our newsroom with responsibilities of working with the newsroom to get breaking news onto the Web quickly and to help our early social media efforts. I’ve been tweeting as the @statesman since June 2008.

Greer McDonald, Social Media Editor, Stuff.co.nz

My role was created in recognition of the growing importance of social networking and the huge part it played in people’s lives. The appointment was part of the group’s wider social media strategy and at the time was one of only a handful of media companies around the world to appoint a full-time social media editor.

My role as social media editor is to find new ways to reach and engage with readers and to help them interact with our content beyond Stuff.co.nz and other Fairfax Media websites. It’s about humanizing the brand, allowing readers to feel like they are not just receiving the news, but also have the ability to respond to us, engage with us. Half of the job is about educating people about what social media is!

There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding it, with many thinking it’s just a passing fad. My job is to show those people the benefits of social media: whether it’s a journalist improving their personal brand through a Twitter profile, or a newspaper boss rejoicing after receiving a brilliant news tip left as comments on a Facebook page.

I personally think it’s important for all businesses, not just news media, to have a presence so that they know what their customers are saying about them by opening a new channel of dialogue.

Having someone dedicated to social media also means having the ability to keep on top of new technologies as they present themselves. For example, 18 months ago no one would predict the massive force Twitter would become. Now the question is: what’s next?

Emily Stephenson, Community Manager, Daily Tar Heel

As the community manager, my primary responsibility is to maintain our Facebook and Twitter accounts. That means posting stories and video, sharing quick tips about things on campus (I tweeted last week that a group was giving out free pizza on the main quad – hugely popular tweet!), helping reporters find sources, responding to questions and complaints, etc. It also involves picking up on breaking news we might cover and just keeping an eye on what folks in the community are talking about.

Beyond the daily stuff, the other editors and I have experimented with ways to get folks in the community to talk to us. Last semester, I had students send me photos of activities on campus, and I did a weekly post on the campus blog. This semester, we created a Monday feature called “That’s What You Said” (because we’re college students and enjoy our inappropriate humor). We run our favorite reader tweets, Facebook comments and photos, and we’ve gotten pretty good feedback. We also periodically try one-time things such as soliciting questions via Twitter for forums with the chancellor, that type thing. Sometimes those things work and sometimes they don’t. It’s been a learning process, but I think we’re doing a much better job reaching out to students and taking advantage of new media.

Amy Nelson, Social Media Editor, St. Paul Pioneer Press

My position as the social media editor is only a halftime position in the newsroom. I’m the features and travel section editor too for the Pioneer Press and have five lifestyle reporters (including our awesome technology reporter @jojeda). As for the social media job, I tweet as @AmyPioneerPress and I’m charged with monitoring and updating our social media sites like Facebook and our Twitter feeds (with the ultimate goal of driving traffic back to our newspaper’s Web site). I’m also watching for emerging trends that we can turn into news stories, responding to users via social media and helping promote social media usage among our reporters and editors.

Angela Connor, Social Media Manager, Capstrat; Author, “18 Rules of Community Engagement”

I believe there is a distinct difference in the role of community manager and that of social media manager, though each means different things to different companies. I was a community manager for three years. During that time I launched, nurtured, managed and ultimately grew a brand new community from zero to 15,000 members. It was often rewarding yet grueling work. A lot of blood sweat and tears goes into managing a community particularly when you are responsible for its maintenance and growth. I have strong opinions about the differences in managing a branded community vs. one on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn but we can save that for a different day.

That said, I have been in the role of social media manager at Capstrat exactly two months today. My role is very different now. I am a change agent. It’s my job to show clients how they can use social media to meet their goals and objectives. It requires an understanding of the client, knowledge of how social media is being used across a wide array of industries and the ability to shift gears at warp speed. I am working to build an area of the agency that is still perceived in some cases as a fad. The focus isn’t in a single area at an agency, A community manager has the luxury of focusing on a core group whereas a social media manager does not. For me, that’s a good thing because it makes me push myself to absorb all that I can and immerse myself in different industries.

So much of this will evolve and I doubt that my job will be the same in a month. We have a great opportunity to bring value to organizations through social media. One of my goals is to create a fully integrated strategy for PR and social media because social media is the ultimate PR opportunity. So while I wish I could give you a distinct definition for this work, I don’t think I can. Some say social media is the Wild, Wild West. Well, if that’s the case then any of us can strike it rich at any given moment.