How To Become a Social Media Manager
Updated February 16, 2023
Social media managers are individuals who manage the social media presence of a business or person. This role has become increasingly important because many organizations and public figures use social media to engage with their audience. To pursue this career, you must develop strong communication skills, earn a relevant degree and master the use of social media.
Many people think social media is “easy." While it may be easy to share an image and post small commentary, there is actually a lot of data analytics and strategy that goes into it. In this article, we will discuss what social media managers do and how to pursue a career in this role.
What does a social media manager do?
A social media manager is the person within an organization's communications, marketing or public relations department that monitors, filters, contributes to and guides the social media presence of a business, product or brand. Social media platforms are fast-paced and usually considered “real-time marketing,” so social media managers must be able to work quickly and respond and share information as it becomes available. The social media manager often must be well-versed in news cycles and an industry expert for their company, business, product or service.
Companies across all different industries have embraced social media as a method for acquiring and maintaining customers, so having someone who can manage their online presence is essential.
Their main duties include:
Creating editorial calendars of possible content related to timing and channel
Publishing content to share through various social media channels. Each company may have a mix of social media channels that reach their specific market
Responding to user-generated comments and feedback to create a positive brand experience for strong engagement
Creating campaigns with messages that represent the brand voice
Tracking content and campaign success through engagement ratings, metrics and analytics
Participating in visual design strategies
Generating engagement and promotional strategies, such as influencer marketing, generating organic traffic and paid advertising
Presenting findings to upper management to assess and guide strategy moving forward
Recognizing and reassessing if a certain platform is not producing the acceptable ROI
Maintaining brand guidelines across all channels and working with team members to ensure brand messaging is consistent
Staying on top of trends. For example, using short videos are popular now but memes continue to see high engagement
Contributing to the tone of the brand—be serious, responsible or even funny if and where it makes sense
Developing and representing the brand with a consistent personality—be very clear on how this person would interact with its customers, partner brands and/or even its competitors. For example, some fast food companies banter back and forth on Twitter with light humor and become viral with lots of engagement from customers in the sense of retweets and comments.
The average salary for social media managers
The average salary for a social media manager is $44,741 per year. The salary range for social media managers varies between $14,000 and $105,000 per year. Some of the factors that can impact the salary of someone working in this role include their experience, level of education, company or even industry and geographical location.
How to become a social media manager
To become a social media manager, follow these common steps:
Garner experience in social media marketing strategy.
Earn a degree or gain relevant work experience.
Build your own social media following and post strategic and thoughtful content.
Learn how to use social media and general marketing analytics.
Build an online portfolio.
Follow companies you admire on all their channels.
1. Garner experience in social media marketing strategy
There is a myth that all young people can be great at social media because they have grown up with it and they have had cameras on their phones since they were teenagers. And while yes, they are great at learning new platforms and posting for their individual following, there is a lot of strategizing and thought put into a brand’s social media platform or efforts.
If being a social media manager interests you, you can garner experience by reaching out to a friend/family member that owns a small business. Get to know them and understand how or why they would want to post to social media platforms. Learn more about business objectives and how social media can enhance their businesses and even drive new customers. There are many layers to the value of social media—user-generated content, geographically relevant information, the ability for target marketing—but no business should be posting content without a strategy.
There are some sincere considerations to how each business addresses their social media and to be fair, they may change their strategy over time if one platform is not working for them. Each platform has its value and type of content, so a company or brand may need to select which ones are the best time and money investment for them.
The best way to grow in this role is to have real-world work experience so you can hone the necessary skills and be a value add to the organization.
2. Earn a degree or gain relevant work experience
Although not all social media manager positions require a college degree, many employers prefer candidates to have a bachelor's degree. The best programs for this career path include business, marketing, advertising, public relations and general communications degrees. Psychology majors also do well in this area because they are well-versed in human behaviors and the customer mindset, why we do the things we do and why we purchase items from certain brands.
You can also look for educational programs that include training and courses in social media management and strategy. Consider also pursuing internships, volunteer roles or entry-level work that involve working with social media to practice theory and strategies learned in the classroom. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) can also be really helpful to gain experience and knowledge in analytics and social media campaign planning. You can find these on websites such as Udemy, Coursera and Google.
3. Build your own social media following and post strategic and thoughtful content
One way to show your ability to manage a social media following for a business is to generate engagement on your own. Grow your personal accounts by sharing engaging content and increasing the number of likes, comments and shares you receive on your posts and connecting with your followers. You can also develop a content strategy for your personal profile to build this skill.
Apply social media best practices to demonstrate proof that your techniques work. Be sure to identify your own brand voice and make sure visuals—including images and graphics—match a certain look and feel. Be sure to credit photographers or other content where applicable, if you utilize images that are not your own.
Related: 4 Steps To Building a Brand
4. Learn how to use social media and general marketing analytics
Every social media manager relies on analytics to determine how well campaigns and content are performing. Analytics on social media help you measure the success of what you are sharing and identify follower trends—what they like, what they don’t and what they may not respond to. The main analytics to review include followers, page views, clicks, likes, shares, comments and impressions. While impressions are great—how many viewers see your content)—it can be helpful to understand how to translate all analytics elements into an action plan. The impressions may be great but if the engagement is low, you know that there is an opportunity to improve upon.
Many tools are available that track these metrics and show trends. As you gain hands-on experience during your education, internships and other practical roles, you can become familiar with these tools and use these insights to revise campaign and content strategies. Many small businesses and entrepreneurs utilize Google Analytics but there are also enterprise-level platforms like Core Metrics.
Reviewing analytics can often feel like reviewing comprehensive data reports and take some time to pull out and understand insights. It also takes a visual eye to know how to present these findings to senior leadership. Many people find utilizing visualization software to help present their findings.
5. Undergo training
In addition to pursuing a degree, you can benefit by taking social media management training courses through several online platforms and providers. These training courses help you develop necessary research, analysis and communication skills and discover how to overcome challenges you might face when managing social media for a brand or organization.
You may also choose to take courses that will help you learn new tools, such as trending tools, content-sharing tools, publishing tools and social media platform listening tools. Due to the fast nature of social media and “real-time marketing,” it is good to understand that many companies utilize social media listening software so they are aware of what consumers are saying about them at all times. Examples include Hootsuite, Hubspot and Sprout Social. You may not need to be well versed in using social media listening tools to land a job, but it is good to understand how this software works and how it can enhance your marketing efforts. You can also take these training courses if your previous education and experience are in a different field or if you're interested in becoming more well-versed with social media. These courses often provide certifications that you can add to your resume and portfolio.
6. Build an online portfolio
When you interview for social media management positions, you may be asked to show your portfolio of previous social media work. Whether you pick up freelance clients, manage your personal accounts or volunteer to build a page for a non-profit organization, keeping a portfolio of top posts, engagement records and other pertinent data will ensure you have proof of your qualifications to show during interviews.
Pro Tip: You can build a personal website using hosting sites such as WordPress or Squarespace which can include more details about you as a person albeit these do involve an investment for monthly hosting fees.
You can also utilize free sites like Behance or Coroflot to upload files of your work for sharing. LinkedIn is also a great free option if you can add work samples underneath your work experiences.
If you choose to use LinkedIn, be sure to customize your LinkedIn URL by following these steps:
Click the dropdown menu beneath your picture icon
Select View Profile
Select Edit Public Profile and URL
Delete random numbers and make the URL your name
Related: How To Build Your Work Portfolio
7. Follow companies you admire on all their channels
Follow the top brands in your industry, as well as those in other industries to become familiar with what works and what they are doing well to engage with their followers. Don’t forget to find them on all social media platforms as they may have a different purpose or messages they push out on different platforms.
Frequently asked questions about social media managers
Here are some commonly asked questions about becoming a social media manager to help you learn more about this career:
Do social media managers post for their clients?
Some social media managers work on a freelance basis for multiple clients, generating campaigns and content to share. In most cases, they post this content on behalf of the client, but this depends on the desires of each client. Some prefer to maintain control of their profiles and simply want a freelance manager to handle the creation of the campaigns.
What skills does a social media manager need?
Some common skills necessary for social media managers include:
Spelling and grammar: It is important to have excellent spelling and grammar so that the company you are representing on social media looks professional and polished.
Time management: Social media managers also need to be able to manage their time effectively, especially those who work on a freelance basis for multiple clients. This skill ensures they publish content at the most optimal time and that the pages they manage are actively engaging with audiences.
Customer service: This skill enables social media managers to appropriately respond to comments, whether positive or negative. Strong customer service helps these professionals best represent the brand.
Visual eye: Many social media managers work with graphic designers for content but some create their own. It’s important to have a visual eye for your client or company’s brand.
In which industries do social media managers work?
Social media is prevalent across all industries, so companies in many different areas rely on managers to handle the creation and sharing of content. As a social media manager, you could work in business, food service, hospitality, transportation and travel, healthcare, construction or nearly any other industry.
You may also work on an in-house creative team or work at an outside agency that has the expertise and specialty in social media marketing. You may report to a digital marketing manager or if you work with a smaller business, you may also be responsible for other elements of their marketing and not just what you post on social media.
Who is successful at being a social media manager?
There are many different characteristics of someone who is successful at being a social media manager. Some of these traits include:
You get excited about data and analytics.
You love finding out what a brand voice is and how to push that out through a variety of channels.
You have no pre-judgment on social media channels and why a brand would use them.
You are curious to learn - technology changes quickly and so does strategy.
You thrive in finding out the why but also like quick turnaround times and paying attention to the media and news cycles.
You understand marketing strategy and how social media channels fit.
You appreciate what user-generated information and content can do and how it can encourage positive reinforcement or increased revenue for a brand.
You have a great sense of humor and know that social media has been around for a while but people are still learning the best ways to utilize it.
Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
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