How to build trust as a social media manager

4 tactics to earn their ears before you present
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· 4 min read

This might be a triggering tale for social media managers.

You’re pitching your latest creative idea. You’ve tossed in all those wonderful tricks that come with years and years of experience—the type of thinking you’re employed to show. Then you spend the whole meeting explaining the strategy to executives who don’t get it, barely get to your creative idea, and ultimately don’t get your content approved.

It’s infuriating. It’s a common tale. It’s sadly a reality of the gig. I got really tired of the charade.

So, I decided to shift my perspective. My job couldn’t just be knowing social strategy. Selling social strategy was my job. If I couldn’t convince internal teams or clients to buy my strategies, that’s not on them—that’s on me. I ended up building expertise in pitching, greatly increasing my promotion rate, raises (since I was bringing in new work), and my visibility in the industry.

My biggest tip?

Focus on showing your expertise + building trust before your projects.

I want to share some tactics I’ve used in the past.

Show your homework

It was well-known at my first agency that I was kinda obsessed with social. Our VP wanted our team to see what other brands were doing for inspiration, so she asked me to write a weekly “What’s Happening in Social” email. Every Friday, I’d send a simple bulleted note around our team with three examples of brand social from the week. The format was consistent and short:

  • A link to the tweet/video/post
  • What it is: a description of the content/any necessary context to understand it
  • Why it works: my analysis of the social or brand best practices

I’d see the examples I brought up put into decks. I’d get emails from other departments asking me for other examples or more analysis. That email allowed me to show off my brain and my love of the industry, which got me on many more projects.

Meet with senior people from other departments

On my first social strategy project, I worked with my agency’s head of digital to build the “Injustice Battle Arena,” our campaign for the DC Comics video game Injustice: Gods Among Us. He’s someone I immediately looked up to—an incredibly kind man, so eloquent and composed, and a fellow tall (6’6” to my 6’5”). Young me spent a lot of time with him despite having different expertises—a shared interest in the NBA helped. I didn’t enter that friendship as a strategy. I didn’t realize when it transitioned into an informal mentorship of sorts. But building that relationship was key for my career. It gave me a role model. It gave me someone who’d give me incredibly candid feedback on how to grow.

A Social Media Newsletter by Jack Appleby

That project we worked on together? Best-selling video game for two months, over 850% ROI in earned media value, and a bunch of gaming awards. Maybe more importantly: Five years later, after my mentor joined a different agency to start a new department, he made me his first hire.

Ask to shadow people

I wanted to learn how to pitch (again, because I wanted my ideas to get made). I asked my boss if I could shadow her in meetings—promised I’d never say a word, just sit in the corner and listen. I learned so much from that exposure. Even better, I was often asked to participate anyway—very senior folks would ask me what I thought about social, or if I had any examples that’d support their theories (I’d established myself from the aforementioned weekly emails).

Besides improving my personal skills, that shadowing resulted in the biggest shift in my career. When our agency had grown and needed more help on the pitch team, my boss nominated me to go in her stead since “Jack already knows the process.” I became the youngest member of our agency pitch team, traveling around the country with 20-year agency vets as a 20-something.

Find your own style

The end result of all the above: I had established my expertise long before I ever needed it. When I pitched a creative idea or suggested a change, I didn’t have to defend myself; there was inherent trust that I knew what I was doing. I firmly believe you can’t accomplish that from simply doing the work. It’s just too hard.

These are just a few methods I’ve tried. My challenge to you: Consider your personality and your organization, then figure out what you can do away from your typical deliverables that’s comfortable and rapport-building for you. Don’t wait ’til you want your ideas approved.

A Social Media Newsletter by Jack Appleby