How to Become a Social Media Manager

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Think you have what it takes to become a social media manager? There’s more to it than just hash-tagging on Instagram and Twitter all day.

Being a successful social media manager requires great customer service skills, subject matter expertise, and a good sense of humor. That’s why companies are often willing to shell out big bucks to social-savvy Millennials for doing this fun but important job.

Keep reading to learn what a social media manager does and how to become one.

or, skip straight to the section on how to become a social media manager

What Does a Social Media Manager Do?

Working as a social media manager involves taking on a variety of different roles and responsibilities. Here’s a general overview of what to expect.

Schedule posts across social media accounts

As a social media marketer, you’ll schedule posts across numerous social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Snapchat, to name a few.

Effective social media managers know the best times of the week to post on different channels to maximize user engagement. They also know when to break the rules to capture attention and stand out from the crowd. 

Engage with customers 

When you’re managing social media for a company, one word you can expect to hear a lot is engagement. Companies want to create content on each social media platform that resonates with their customers and generates comments, likes, and shares. 

The best managers know how to think outside the box and put together campaigns that command attention — even when the brand isn’t that exciting. 

Manage damage control

As a social media manager, you’ll be on the front lines for the company you represent. When customers comment about a negative experience, it’ll be your job to respond and manage damage control. 

This may involve commenting with a response, sending a direct message, or issuing a public statement on behalf of the company. 

Create promotions 

Companies run promotions through their social media channels to connect with buyers and drum up business. 

One classic example is Apple’s #shotoniphone campaign, which leverages user-generated content to promote the brand.

Coordinate with various departments 

Social media is typically just one part of a brand’s overall marketing strategy. 

Social media managers often coordinate with public relations, design, product, and sales teams to produce social posts aligned with various campaigns and goals. 

How to Become a Social Media Manager

  1. Educate yourself
  2. Brush up on your skills
  3. Know the social media tools
  4. Gain experience
  5. Look for paid work

1. Educate yourself

Many professional social media managers have a degree in business, marketing, communications, or a related field. These majors can help prepare you for the work you’ll do in social media marketing.

Alternatively, you can look for non-degree educational programs in digital marketing. There are some great options on learning sites like Udemy.

It also pays to get real-world experience. Volunteer to help a local nonprofit with its social media marketing. Or take an entry-level job to learn the ropes without getting a marketing degree.

2. Brush up on your skills 

Social media management is highly competitive. So you’ll need to be sharp as a tack if you want to land a gig — and keep it. 

Here’s a quick breakdown of what you need to make it as a social media manager:

  • Time management: Social media managers often have to balance multiple projects across different channels. It’s important to have strong time management skills to stay on top of everything and meet your deadlines. 
  • Creativity: Digital marketing professionals often need to think outside the box. You can’t just copycat what everyone else is doing.
  • Design: A little bit of design expertise can go a long way when managing social media. Start by learning the basics — like how to make a GIF or crop an image for social media. You should also have a working knowledge of color schemes and the impact they have on consumers. 
  • Analytics: Social media managers should understand how to use Google Analytics and understand SEO to find out how viewers interact with different pages. This information can help you determine what questions customers have and what they’re interested in.
  • Communication skills: Social media is all about communication. Managers spend a lot of time interacting with customers, partners, and coworkers. They use these insights to create compelling social material. 
  • A pulse on social media trends: Succeeding as a social media manager involves having your finger on the pulse of what’s happening across the industry. To get the best results, you should always be familiar with trending hashtags, the viral image or video of the week, and all the latest styles and tricks. 

3. Know the social media tools 

If you want to succeed as a social media manager, you must know how to use the management tools created to track engagement, manage your workflow, and publish content.

Top social media management tools to know about 

  • Sprout Social: Sprout Social provides tools for engagement, analytics, publishing, and reporting.
  • Hootsuite: Hootsuite is a one-stop-shop for managing multiple social media handles. You can create content and share it across multiple locations with ease through Hootsuite.
  • Trello: Trello is a highly customizable project management app that lets you visualize and update various projects. Using Trello, you can create and move cards around, add images and descriptions, and tag team members to provide updates and request information.
  • WordPress: WordPress is a leading content management system for building websites. As a social media manager, you may use WordPress throughout the day to publish content you’ll then promote on sites like Twitter and Facebook.
  • Asana: Asana is a mobile and web application for organizing and tracking projects.
  • Monday.com: Monday.com offers pre-built templates for managing workflows. It can be a great content management option for teams working with social media managers.
  • Canva: Canva is a graphic design tool for creating social media graphics, documents, and presentations.

4. Gain experience

Before you can land a paid gig, a company will want to see your experience and some samples of your work — such as viral tweets or Facebook posts. They might also want examples of strong engagement and a demonstrated ability to manage a channel and work with others. 

One easy way you can start meeting these requirements is by building your own social media presence. Post across channels that interest you. For example, you may start with Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. And don’t be afraid to showcase a bit of your personality.

After you build a social media presence, you can approach small businesses in your area that may need help. You may also want to contact charity organizations and nonprofits to see if they need any volunteers. 

Learn More:

5. Look for paid work

Social media opportunities abound. So you won’t have to look very far to find them. A quick search of sites like LinkedIn, Indeed, and Monster should turn up a bunch of social media management jobs.  You can even look on freelancing sites like Fiverr or Upwork.

Unfortunately, you’re likely going to be up against stiff competition. You may have better luck approaching companies directly through their websites and asking if they have any social media positions available.

Otherwise, it’s a numbers game. If you want to play it, start applying and take what you can find! 

Types of Social Media Manager Jobs

As you can see, there are many different ways a social media manager helps an organization. There’s often much more to the job than sitting in front of Twitter all day.

Here’s a breakdown of the various types of social media manager roles that you can explore. 

Freelance social media manager 

As a freelance social media manager, you have the freedom to work with multiple brands at a time. 

Freelancers often work in niche industry areas. For example, you may work with food companies, clothing brands, or travel organizations.

Freelancing as a social media manager gives you the ability to work from home. If you’re good at what you do, you might be able to travel to fun events like trade shows and industry events to help promote the brand.

Contract social media manager

A contract social media manager works exclusively with one brand, but not on a full-time basis. For example, a company may really like your work and won’t want to share you with any organization. The organization may offer you a contract role to lock you down. 

Be aware that contract opportunities may pay more, but they don’t usually offer benefits. On top of that, they can also prevent you from taking on other gigs that could potentially give you more cash until the contract is up. 

Full-time or part-time social media manager

If you find that you’re decent at managing social media and prefer the stability of a full-time role, you may opt for a full-time social media manager position. 

At the same time, you could also opt for a shorter role for thirty hours per week — especially since many companies now pay benefits for part-time workers. This may be on-site, remote, or hybrid, where you go back and forth from a home office to a physical office. 

Only you can decide if this type of role is right for you. Some people like working set hours and receiving steady paychecks, while others find this lifestyle stifling and limiting. 

How Much Do Social Media Managers Make?

It almost goes without saying, but when assessing a social media manager role, you should give serious consideration to how much the job pays. The fact is there are many talented social media managers out there who are being under-compensated for their talent and skills. 

The average salary for a social media manager is $54,000 annually. On the low end, a social media manager can make anywhere from $30,000 to $40,000 per year. In some cases, social media managers can earn upwards of $80,000 to $90,000 per year — or even more.

How much you make largely depends on your location, career level, and skill level. Early career social media managers naturally won’t make as much as a more experienced mid-career social media career consultant or a well-known influencer who is trying to help grow a company’s brand. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about becoming a social media manager.

What makes a good social media manager?

To be a good social media manager, you need to wear a variety of hats. 

First and foremost, it requires being good at brand messaging and producing engaging content. As such, it’s critical to have strong copywriting, editing, and design skills. 

In addition, you have to be flexible and willing to go above and beyond the job description at any given time. For example, you may need to learn new social media platforms, train other marketers on your team, or put in extra hours. 

On top of all this, social media managers need to respond quickly and have the ability to think on the fly.

TIP: If you tend to procrastinate, this job isn’t for you.

Should I work full-time or pursue gigs?

A steady paycheck can be either a curse or a blessing depending on how you look at it. 

Some people — especially those who have families to support — find freedom in knowing exactly where their next paycheck is coming from.

At the same time, receiving a steady paycheck can make you lazy and ruin your sense of ambition. It’s very easy to take a cushy job and spend the majority of your career in one place, only to wake up one morning and realize your career is passing you by. 

The Bottom Line

Social media management can be a great career path if you enjoy producing content and working on marketing projects. Working as a social strategist is fun and engaging, and it can expose you to many new and valuable skills as well as new people, too. 

If you’re interested in this line of work, spend some time poking around social media platforms and take a look at how various brands handle their social media strategy every day. Imagine how you would manage the channel as a community manager and visualize yourself in that role. 

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