Skills & Expertise

What Does a Social Media Manager Do?

Tap your mad Instagram, Twitter and TikTok skills to snag a job in social media management

Unless you’ve lived under a rock most of the past decade, you probably know a thing or two or ten (we’re looking at you, Millennials) about social media. You can post pics with the best of them and upload six-second videos like a champ.

You’re totally ready for that social media manager job you want, right? Slow your roll, Flash. Being a social media manager isn’t just about posting content. We talked to some pros and found out everything you need to know. Here’s the lowdown:

What exactly does a social media manager do?

“The short answer: a lot!” says Suzanne Samin, social media editor at Romper, Bustle’s parenting site, where she is responsible for the Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Snapchat accounts. Social media managers are responsible for curating a brand’s social channels, she explains. They monitor, moderate, and respond to audience comments, manage social media partnerships with other brands, and create and post shareable videos and images.

They also strategize and execute digital marketing campaigns and gather and analyze the data results from those campaigns. In addition to working with the design team to make illustrations and memes for their accounts, Samin tracks how much traffic is driven to Romper via social media and notes what content is performing best, so she and the editorial team can use those analytics to grow the site’s audience.

Social media management is part of an overall social media marketing strategy, which may include paid media, such as promoted posts on Facebook, X, LinkedIn, and other platforms. The social media strategy may also include many different public relations-related tactics to increase brand awareness, including influencer marketing, use of social media to outreach to public figures, journalist outreach, and more.

What skills do social media managers need?

Social media literacy is a no-brainer. At the very least, you should know Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram like the back of your hand. You also need to understand how each platform differs to maximize them all, says Vince Buscemi, director of digital communications and social media at McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. You should also be able to recognize and understand your audience on each account, he adds.

Top-notch, strong communication and writing skills are important, too, as is a good sense of humor. And being a “master-level gif hunter” never hurts, adds Samin. Just remember to keep your brand and audience in mind when crafting your message.

Because you’ll get audience feedback that runs the gamut from praise to criticism, including blasts from trolls, it’s also vital to have a thick skin—the ability to prioritize which comments need replies and when is another must.

Sounds great. Who would be my boss?

If you work for a large corporation, you might report to the head of communications or marketing. You might report directly to the CEO if you work for a small entity or startup. Maybe someone at a media outfit reports to the managing editor. If you work on a freelance basis, your boss is your client who directs your project engagement.

Are there other jobs in social media management with similar responsibilities?

Social media specialists, social media account managers, community managers, and digital communication specialists have responsibilities similar to those of social media managers. Digital communications director Buscemi, for example, oversees McDaniel’s website and the school’s official Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts. He also monitors social media streams created by various departments and campus offices to maintain the school’s best interests.

Understanding emerging trends and technologies

As a social media manager, your finger must be on the pulse of the latest digital waves. The rise of platforms like TikTok has revolutionized the way content is consumed, favoring short, engaging video formats with overlaid graphic design. Embracing these changes isn’t just about posting videos; it’s about understanding the nuances of each platform and leveraging them to build a brand presence.

Similarly, AI-driven analytics have become invaluable tools. They offer insights beyond basic demographics, helping tailor content to audience behaviors and preferences. Once a novelty, augmented reality (AR) is now a tool for immersive brand experiences. AR filters and features can transform simple campaigns into interactive sessions, deepening audience engagement.

Ethics and privacy in social media management

The digital world is a minefield of ethical dilemmas and privacy concerns. Social media managers must navigate these challenges with care and responsibility as stewards of a brand’s online presence.

This means understanding and adhering to privacy laws, like GDPR, and handling user data with the utmost respect. Consent is key, especially when sharing user-generated content. Transparency with sponsored content is a legal requirement and a trust-building measure with your audience. Balancing engagement with respect for user privacy is vital; it’s about creating a safe and respectful online community.

Remember, your actions online don’t just reflect on the brand you manage but also on your professional integrity.

What do I need to get ahead as a social media manager?

It’s all about being creative and staying on top of emerging trends and technologies. To kill it as a social media manager, you should be able to come up with engaging, sharply written content on the fly, and you should be using the next big tool or channel in social media to do it.

How much do social media managers make?

Regarding the burning question of earnings, social media management can offer a rewarding career, both in job satisfaction and financial compensation. However, the salary of a social media manager can vary widely based on several factors, including work experience, location, the size of the company, and the industry.

For entry-level positions, social media managers can expect to start with an average salary ranging from $35,000 to $50,000 annually. These roles typically require a good understanding of social media platforms and basic marketing principles but not extensive experience.

Mid-level social media managers with a few years of experience and a track record of successful campaigns and strategies can see their salaries rise to between $50,000 and $80,000. A deeper understanding of analytics, strategy development, and possibly some team management responsibilities are expected at this stage.

Senior social media managers or those working in large metropolitan areas, high-end markets, or for large corporations, can command salaries in the range of $70,000 to $120,000 or more. These roles often require extensive experience, a proven track record of success in social media campaigns, and strong leadership skills. They may also involve strategic planning, budget management, and cross-departmental collaboration.

It’s important to note that these figures can fluctuate based on the cost of living in different areas. For instance, a social media manager in New York City or San Francisco may earn more than their counterpart in a smaller city, reflecting the higher cost of living in these locations.

Additionally, freelance or contract social media managers may have variable earnings based on their client base and projects. Depending on their expertise and the project’s complexity, they might charge hourly, typically from $50 to $150 per hour.

While salary ranges can be quite broad in this field, social media management offers a potentially lucrative career path with room for growth as experience and skills develop.

So, how can I get my foot in the door?

A bachelor’s degree in journalism, public relations, or marketing can help. But marketing the heck out of the social media skills you honed by spending time on your personal social media accounts is a great way to highlight yourself to potential employers. “You might not think your intimate knowledge of Facebook, Snapchat, or Twitter is a marketable skill,” says Samin, “but it absolutely is.”

Consider your profiles on social platforms as your personal brand and a type of online portfolio – especially if you don’t have relevant work experience. You can certainly impress employers with personal social media content, great communication skills, and an engaged, interactive audience.

Looking for new social media management roles? Explore job openings with Mediabistro’s award-winning job board.

FAQs on Advancing and Innovating in Social Media Management

Q: How does a social media manager stay ahead of rapidly changing social media trends?

A: A social media manager should continuously educate themselves through online courses, webinars, and industry news. Following thought leaders and participating in social media forums and groups can also provide insights into emerging trends.

Q: What role does data analytics play in social media management?

A: Data analytics is crucial for understanding audience behavior, engagement patterns, and content performance. It helps in making informed decisions about content strategy, campaign adjustments, and understanding ROI.

Q: Can a social media manager influence a brand’s voice and tone? How?

A: Yes, a social media manager often plays a key role in shaping and maintaining a brand’s voice and tone on social media. This involves consistent messaging, understanding the brand’s ethos, and effectively communicating it to the audience.

Q: How important is video content for social media managers today?

A: Extremely important. Video content has higher engagement rates and is favored by algorithms on many platforms. Social media managers need to be adept at creating and curating engaging video content.

Q: How can a social media manager effectively manage multiple platforms?

A: By using social media management tools for scheduling posts, monitoring engagement across platforms, and analyzing performance data. It’s also important to understand the unique audience and best practices for each platform.

Q: What is the role of influencer marketing in social media management?

A: Influencer marketing can significantly extend the reach and credibility of a brand. Social media managers may identify and collaborate with influencers whose audience aligns with the brand’s target market.

Q: How can social media managers ensure accessibility and inclusivity in their content?

A: By using alt text for images, captions for videos, inclusive language, and considering diverse audience needs in their content strategy, social media managers can make their content accessible and inclusive.

Q: What are the best practices for handling crises or negative feedback on social media?

A: Best practices include responding promptly, maintaining professionalism, addressing the issue directly, and, if necessary, moving the conversation to a private channel. Having a crisis management plan in place is also essential.

Q: How can a social media manager measure the success of their campaigns?

A: Success can be measured using metrics like engagement rates, follower growth, website traffic from social media, conversion rates, and overall ROI. Custom KPIs aligned with specific campaign goals are also used.

Q: How does social media management intersect with SEO (Search Engine Optimization)?

A: Social media management and SEO enhance a brand’s online presence. While social media platforms don’t directly influence search engine rankings, the activities of a social media manager can indirectly benefit SEO. Effective social media management drives traffic to a brand’s website, increases content visibility, and fosters engagement, leading to higher domain authority and improved search rankings. Moreover, social media profiles and content can appear in search results, increasing brand visibility. Additionally, social sharing can amplify content reach, leading to more backlinks to the website, a key factor in SEO. Thus, a coordinated strategy integrating social media management with SEO practices can significantly boost a brand’s digital footprint.

Q: What are some common mistakes social media managers should avoid?

A: Common mistakes include ignoring audience feedback, posting inconsistent or irrelevant content, not adapting to different platforms, overlooking data analytics, and failing to evolve with social media trends.

Q: What is the importance of graphic design in the role of a social media manager?

A: Graphic design is vital in social media management, directly impacting engagement and brand perception. Eye-catching, high-quality visuals are more likely to grab the audience’s attention, increase shareability, and convey messages effectively. A social media manager should have basic graphic design skills using platforms such as Canva, or work closely with graphic designers to ensure that the visual content aligns with the brand’s identity, communicates the intended message, and is optimized for each social media platform. This collaboration helps create a visually coherent and appealing online presence, crucial for standing out in a crowded digital space.

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