Fire your social media manager

Ian Lurie


Congratulations! You’ve hired a social media manager! Now you can stop wasting your time talking to customers online, or blogging, or anything else in that weird online world. She can handle it all, right?


If your company has a ‘social media manager’, and she’s responsible for all online conversations, you’ve both failed.

Social media is a tool, not a technique

Social media is another way to talk to current and potential customers. Like the phone on your desk, or e-mail.

Do you have a single ‘phone manager’ at your office? Probably not (I hope).

Do you have an ‘e-mail manager’ who handles all sending and receiving of e-mail? Again, no.

Everyone uses these tools to do their jobs. It’s part of the routine.

Social media is rapidly becoming the same thing: A tool, not a technique. Your social media manager’s job is not to take the job of online communications away from everyone else. Her job is to help everyone else use it to better help customers and build the business.

Right now you’re saying oh my GOD we won’t get ANY WORK DONE if we spend all day on Twitter/Facebook/whatever! Stop for a second. What’d everyone say when e-mail arrived as a business communications tool? That it would grind your company to a halt. Yet you use it, and it helps you get work done.

What the social media manager should do

Continuously train you and your team to talk with customers on Twitter, Facebook, via your company blog and through whatever other channels your customers use. Note I said ‘continuously’. She can’t sit you all down in a room for 4 hours, do a brain dump and turn you into capable online communicators. It’s a one-step-at-a-time thing.

She should be sitting next to a customer service person while they help someone out via Twitter. She can help you answer a snarky comment on your blog without alienating your entire online customer base. The learning – and the training – never stop.

Monitor conversations about your brand. Your social media manager operates your company’s online listening post. Her job is to know when someone speaks well or ill of you before you do. Oh – ‘monitoring’ includes ‘analytics’, by the way.

And, she must craft strategy. She’s the person who figures out how social media will help your company grow, and how to tap it as a resource. It’s another arrow in your internet marketing quiver. Her job is to make sure that arrow lands on target.

It’s not optional any more

Wow, this is a lot more work than you thought. Maybe you can just skip it.


A social media strategy, and a person to drive it, are no longer optional. Nor is getting every single customer-facing person at your company comfortable using the most common channels, like Twitter.

OK, don’t fire your social media manager

Don’t fire her! Give her the right job. Your social media manager is a training asset, a strategic expert and a monitoring specialist.
Focus on those three tasks, and soon social media will be a standard tool for everyone at your company, just like that phone on their desks.


Ian Lurie
CEO & Founder

Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent and the EVP of Marketing Services at Clearlink. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). He's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Follow him on Twitter at portentint, and on LinkedIn at

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  1. I agree with you 100%, Ian. Companies need to learn to use social media tools to connect with potential customers, current customers, and anyone else interested in what they do. In fact, companies that learn to use them internally will do a better job of utilizing their own resources.
    But there are so many business owners that don’t see it like this. Once they begin to realize that social media can and should be used by nearly every person – or by at least one person in every department – in the company, they may see that there’s no way to have anyone “manage” all of that interaction. Your email analogy is perfect.

  2. Sounds good.
    Like the phone, the fax, the copy machine, the paper and pen, like the flyer. A tool.
    Why don’t we come up with a new term?
    Social Media Tool = SMool.
    Everyone will find more business success with a SMool.

  3. Thanks Ian!I must say the title sounded too hard for my me, but it definetely caught my attention so it was good after all. I totally agree with what you’re saying. And that’s exactly what I’m trying to explain when I describe my job.
    I’t not just a matter of building relations with the community but also trying to explain the rest of the team about how our work has changed.

  4. Whew! You had me nervous there for a second with this title 😉 You’re absolutely right though that whomever is in charge of social media communications has to be in close contact with the company’s teams, whether he/she is an outside consultant or an inside social media manager. Ideally, providing multiple channels for customers to get in contact with someone that can help them.
    One question, though, among many community managers has been how to report back information since – as you point out – no one can spend 4 hours per day presenting, teaching, and learning and there is no standard yet. What have you found to work best?

  5. Interesting and some great points made! I think that is a great trio of skills to look out for in social media support that you work within a company giving. The training is key to help, as you say, with ongoing integration and making it “business as usual”
    Claire Chapman

  6. Smart post, as usual. The latter half of it is actually pretty much 100% on target in describing what I’m doing, when I’m most effective at my job.
    Unfortunately, getting other people to understand that THAT’s how I can deliver the best value isn’t always easy.
    Maybe I’ll send them this post?

  7. Refreshing post!! So many clients seem to think that hiring someone to assist with social media means that they don’t have to be involved with blogging, twitter, facebook, etc. at all!
    And thanks for adding the “Ok, don’t fire your social media manager.” 😉
    Kelli- Creative Brand Consultant
    Fresh Look Creative

  8. Michelle, I’m right there with you on all points.
    My heart jumped in my throat for a minute. Ian, you’re right, but seriously, I could have done without the panic attack. 🙂

  9. Ian,
    What perfect timing for this post! I am in Week 2 of my “social media manager” role and this has given me a fresh perspective on handling this position. Thank you!
    I’ve found that most people see this position not only as the person who does all the blogging, tweeting, FB’ing, but as person who operates in a “reaction” mode. That’s like climing the Cliffs of Insanity.

  10. I found myself evaluating my own skills against this list. I think I passed 🙂
    I’ve had a number of clients looking to outsource their social media work and I’m evaluating adding that as a service. This helped. Thanks.

  11. Love it! I was “self apointed” social media manager with no formal training other than a ton of blogs, books, and podcasts – after some stumbling and help from people like you I think I’ve got it.
    I released our 2010 strategy a couple months ago and we hold weekly marketing meetings where I regularly answer questions/go over social media topics.
    All of our reps are engaged in posting everything from leadership/reference sources to just engaging with our student body.
    Plus, I like to jump in the conversation too 🙂

  12. Thank you for making this point. I spend so much time trying to get folks to understand this. Moreover, I think people still forget that content is king…For example, Direct Mail is a tool but if you send out crappy un-remarkable postcards, you will get a crappy un-remarkable response.
    This is the precise reason I don’t use the word social media manager or internet marketing. Folks need to realize the games has changed, but we still have to add value to our customers in a way that moves from awareness to a point of action.
    Well Done!

  13. Ian,
    One more item for every Social Media Manger to add to their list. Get everyone in the company comfortable with the channels. Training will only go so far if people don’t feel comfortable using the different channels. IMO this means from the CEO down.
    BTW – As always a great post.

  14. Do you have a single ‘phone manager’ at your office? Probably not (I hope).


    Do you have an ‘e-mail manager’ who handles all sending and receiving of e-mail? Again, no.

    Yes. (Same person too).
    Incidently that’s why I hired Ian to handle my SEO. LOL.

  15. Your title really caught my attention because I couldn’t imagine doing social media (and answering phones, emails, and other business communications) without support.
    But now I understand where you are going. You’re right, a social media manager needs to be trained for handling the job right, not just posting content.
    However, I’d lean more on marketing results and knowledge gathered from the channel than “brand management”.

  16. Excellent post! I agree completely with your thoughts on social media being optional. As a customer I am weary of businesses who have yet to embrace social media. It’s such an easy way to connect with your customers.. Why are they not doing it? As as a new social media manager I have finally started to convince coworkers that I don’t just “sit around on facebook all day” and that they should participate. It’s challenging yet fun.
    I will be sharing this article with others!
    Thank you,

  17. I once heard a speaker sum it up this way:
    “To the person who says they don’t care to get involved in social media, ask when they stopped caring what customers think.”
    Just as no one person handles all customer service, so too should there be no single person handling social media.
    It’s everyone’s channel. That’s why we call it social. Join the friction-free conversation!
    Thanks for the great article!

  18. Actually, a job classed as a ‘phone manager’ or ’email manager’ no, but companies DO hire people to do those jobs…Secretaries! They take all calls and handle all emails, and they only pass on VERY IMPORTANT calls or emails on to the directors. This is what a Social Media Manager does. They handle all the online conversations, and let the directors get on with growing the business etc. If there is something important raised through the social media outlets, then they will pass this on to the directors who will deal with it.

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