While businesses once relied on major media to advertise their products or services, the internet ushered in a new era that changed how marketing works.
Instead of paying for radio and print newspaper or magazine ads as the bulk of their strategy, most businesses today turn to social media to get the word out. And really, why wouldn’t they? Not everyone listens to the radio anymore, and print media is going the way of the dinosaur at lightning speed.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google Adwords, Snapchat and other media, however, are where companies are focusing their advertising dollars and efforts. Why not communicate with your customers where they are spending their time already?
Many businesses — including individual bloggers, influencers and small businesses — hire social media managers — a specific type of worker that handles all forms of social media outreach and engagement.
What is a social media manager?
Think of any business you know that has an online presence, from your local grocery store to your doctor’s office, to your favorite food blogger.
If that business is on social media sharing information, creating buzz about events, or simply letting people know they exist, there’s a good chance they employ a social media manager to take care of those details.
While social media management jobs vary, these workers are charged with understanding how major social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Snapchat work. They effectively “run” the social media accounts for the business that hires them so the business owner can spend their time doing other things.
While many social media managers work as freelancers and juggle more than one client, some find full-time jobs managing social media for major corporations or businesses.
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What kind of tasks do social media managers do?
If you look at your own social media pages and find businesses that have an online presence, it’s not that hard to figure out what social media managers do. For the most part, they craft the communications their bosses want their followers to see.
That could mean writing a Facebook post with an image that talks about an upcoming sale or promotion, or it might mean sharing news about a local event. It can also include fielding customer questions, comments, and even complaints as a virtual customer service rep of sorts. Or, it can simply involve interacting with a brand or business’s social media followers in a meaningful way.
Different businesses may use different social media platforms as well, and most businesses do not use them all.
For example, a grocery store brand may get lots of traction on Facebook and Twitter but avoid Instagram and Snapchat because they don’t find their target audience there. On the flip side, a business that caters to younger consumers — like a fast food chain or fashion brand — may focus only on Instagram and Snapchat because that’s where their customers live.
While the tasks completed by social media managers can vary from day to day, the main tasks usually include:
- Scheduling social media posts for clients
- Communicating with clients to find out what they want to promote and the style in which they want to promote it
- Responding to customer inquiries on social media
- Creating special emails or social media promotions or schedules
- Creating images to be used on social media
- Curating and sharing relevant content social media followers will love
- Tracking and analyzing stats on each platform to monitor growth
- Optimizing platforms to best represent the business
- Staying on top of the ever-changing social media platforms’ industry news
- Planning an editorial calendar
Keep in mind that this list is not all-inclusive. Most social media managers spend time on certain networks and not much at all on others, and some social media managers may also create and edit videos for their clients to share on platforms like Instagram.
At the end of the day, the scope of the job depends a lot on who you work for, the social media networks they focus on, and the company’s goals.
What skills do you need to be a social media manager?
If you are on Facebook or Twitter all the time already, you may think you have what it takes to become a social media manager without any formal training.
While it’s true having social media experience helps, believe us when we say you have a lot to learn before you can offer social media management services to clients.
There must be purpose and strategy behind every move you make on social media as a business.
The first thing to remember is that professional social media management is not to be taken lightly. Unlike your personal social media accounts, this job is less about sharing pictures of your dinner and new selfies and more about creating advertising campaigns that help your clients meet their goals.
With that in mind, skills you’ll need to work as a social media manager include:
- Proficiency in all the major social media networks
- Knowledge of apps that help with social media scheduling, such as Tailwind
- Experience or knowledge of Facebook Ads and how to use them
- Marketing experience
- Excellent reading comprehension and writing skills
- Copywriting skills
- Excellent customer service skills
- Attention to detail
In addition to these skills, you also need to be able to effectively communicate with clients. You need to be able to understand what it is they want out of social media and how to translate that information into effective social media campaigns and engagement. The majority of the time, you will learn the bulk of these skills through experience, trial, and error.
How much do social media managers earn?
While social media management is hard work, these professionals are typically rewarded handsomely for their knowledge, time, and expertise. However, it’s important to note that social media managers are paid in many different ways.
For example, a social media manager employed by a specific company can usually expect to earn $40,000 to $75,000 per year depending on their level of skill and who they work for. That’s a broad range indeed, but it just goes to show how much wiggle room you may have when it comes to negotiating salary.
Social media managers who are self-employed typically charge their clients a monthly retainer fee in lieu of an hourly rate. This could be anywhere from $500 to $3,000 per month per client depending on the time and scope of the social media involved.
I personally know several social media managers who juggle 6-7 clients per month with each paying a retainer of $500 – $1,000 per month. If you’re earning $500 per client each month and have 6 clients, you’d obviously be earning $3,000 per month or $36,000 per year. If you got each of those clients to pay you a $1,000 retainer each month, on the other hand, your salary would surge to $72,000. That’s obviously a huge difference!
Pros and cons of being a social media manager
While the income potential shared above may be exciting, this is also one of the downsides of being a social media manager. Unless you find a full-time social media management job with a single employer, your income may be highly variable depending on how many clients you have and how much they are willing to pay.
You’ll also need to brace yourself for the fact that you’ll lose clients from time to time. When money is tight, social media managers (and other non-essential services and employees) are often the first to go.
Still, there’s plenty to love about social media management as a career. Before you give this job any more thought, consider these pros and cons:
Advantages of being a social media manager:
- Work from home and often with flexible hours
- Spend your time on social media instead of in an office
- Put your creative side to work
- Nearly unlimited income potential
- Low expenses if you’re a freelancer
- Learn new skills all the time as social media trends change
Disadvantages of being a social media manager:
- Your income depends on your clients and their budgets
- If you’re self-employed, you will need to find clients on your own
- If you’re a freelancer, you won’t receive benefits such as access to a 401(k) plan or health insurance
- You will have to manage your own invoices and taxes
- You’ll need to spend time finding new clients each time you lose one
How do you find social media management jobs?
Social media management jobs are all over the place, but that doesn’t mean they’re advertised in plain sight. You may need to do a little digging to find the right social media management position or clients that will give you a chance when you’re first starting out.
Some places to look for social media management work include:
- Searching for opportunities on FlexJobs
- Online job boards
- Networking events and conferences
- Blogging conferences
- Contacting local businesses and entrepreneurs with an online presence
- Online business and entrepreneurship Facebook groups
Some social media managers also have success contacting local businesses without a social media presence to see if they need help. Many businesses want to be on social media but don’t have the time or manpower to get the ball rolling.
In many cases, they don’t even know they could hire someone to handle this aspect of their business. By showing them you have the knowledge and skill to help, you can secure work for yourself while also helping businesses create a presence where their customers are — online and on social media.
How to become a social media manager?
To become a social media manager, you need to be proficient in all the major social media networks. You also must have an eye for creativity, a certain level of professionalism, and the ability to work remotely and without any supervision.
Most of the skills social media managers need can be learned online and from home, but you may also want to explore the idea of taking a course for social media managers or virtual assistants to get started.
Once you find a client that’s willing to give you a chance, it becomes much easier to find subsequent clients and build out your work week to earn a full-time income.
When it comes to beginning a career as a social media manager, you’ll need to learn a lot on your own and be willing to adapt right along with technology. But since there is no such thing as a college degree in social media management, you may want to seek out special training that can help.
If you have the skill and the drive to succeed, this job could be your full-time gig in less time than you think.
Holly Johnson is a financial expert, award-winning writer, and Indiana mother of two who is obsessed with frugality, budgeting and travel. Her personal finance articles have been published in the U. S. News, Wall Street Journal, Fox Business, and Life Hacker. Holly is founder of of the family finance resource, ClubThrifty.com, and is the co-author of Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income and Build a Life You’ll Love. Learn more about Holly here.