The Most Under-Recognized Skill a Social Media Manager Needs to Succeed

If you read about social media often (which I suspect you do), you’ve probably seen countless blog posts and articles with titles like, “10 Skills That A Social Media Manager Must Have” or “5 Traits Every Good Social Media Manager Shares.” These articles have a lot of useful points to make, but I think there is one skill that has been ignored in the world of social media management: building great peer relationships.

Here are the three reasons why I think building good work relationships is an essential skill.

1)  Content, content, content

Without good working relationships with your peers, you will struggle day in and day out to succeed in the most basic role of a social media manager–finding compelling stories.

In higher ed, it’s expected that you won’t know every professor, student, or staff member–or the cool things they’re working on–but someone in a different department just might. As a social media manager, you’re only working at half speed if you haven’t built strong relationships with people across campus.

2) The shortest distance to answers is a straight line

Customers take for granted that social platforms are customer service channels. Many social media practitioners in higher ed aren’t explicitly tasked with offering customer service but, like it or not, it comes with the job.

By forging strong relationships across your institution, you’ll always have someone who can help answer a question or at least a connection to the source of an answer, saving you a lot of time and energy.

3) Re-work sucks

While there are some organizations that are small enough to have a single staff member dedicated to social media, it’s more likely that there will be many people tasked with engaging your community online. Under these conditions, re-work is more common than any of us would like to believe.

By keeping in close contact with your peers, you can work to minimize the re-work, however. For example, at USC we try to coordinate well in advance on major events or opportunities, such as the 100th day of the Trump presidency. Instead of every school trying to create their own narrative, the central communications team connected with colleagues across campus to agree on our choice of hashtag, who would post original live streams, and who would share those feeds and more. In doing so, we were able to increase our impact without increasing our workload.

In my experience, these three reasons alone (not to mention the social and emotional benefits of good work relations!) are plenty to consider the ability to build great relationships with colleagues across your organization a key skill for a social media practitioner. I’d love to hear what you think in the comments!

By Nicole (DeRuiter) Cho, Social Media Manager, University of Southern California

Follow Nicole on Twitter at