How to Become a Social Media Manager | 6 Easy Steps

How did a moldy hamburger underscore the importance of social media in business? Let’s ask Burger King.

In 2020, the fast food giant introduced an advertising campaign featuring a time-lapse video of a hamburger growing mold to prove it was made from natural ingredients. The video may have been unappetizing, but the campaign worked.

According to global communications firm WPP, the campaign generated 8.4 billion impressions on social media, $40 million in earned media value, and $14 million in increased sales. The hashtag #moldywhopper became ubiquitous on multiple platforms, and the campaign won a Clio Award for creative effectiveness.

Social media has transformed how businesses interact with customers, and social media managers lead the strategy behind those conversations: they shape how companies brand themselves on platforms where more than 4.5 billion people globally live, work, and play. Social media managers connect their companies to consumers, which makes them vital to business success.

Becoming a social media manager requires more than nimble fingers and familiarity with social platforms. In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of social media in business, the key skills social media managers possess, and how to learn social media marketing, including through a digital marketing bootcamp.

The Importance of Social Media in Business

Nearly 60 percent of the world’s population uses social media, according to digital insights firm Kepios. Social media’s reach is staggering: 4.55 billion users, representing 10 percent growth over 2020, spend an average of 2 hours and 27 minutes daily on social media. The average participant uses 6.7 different social media platforms monthly.

An image depicting statistics surrounding social media use and users.

Businesses must meet customers where they are, and today, the ideal location for these efforts is social media. According to the Kepios report, 13 new people begin using social media every second, and companies value these users. Pew Research reports that 84 percent of American adults ages 18–29 say they use social media, and 78 percent who make $75,000 or more annually say they use social media.

Social media is essential for driving website traffic and brand awareness, creating sales conversions, and providing access to greater consumer data. As Instagram notes, 83 percent of those who use its Explore page discover new products there. Inc. reports that social commerce (i.e., using social media to promote purchasing) generated about $475 billion in revenue in 2020.

Social media also provides companies with platforms to shape public perception and build brand identity. Budweiser created a Clio-award-winning social media campaign to address the sponsorship gap in women’s sports. Planters built an effective social media campaign around the hashtag #ripmrpeanut that lasted for more than a year and generated significant mainstream news coverage.

Meanwhile, customers often appreciate companies that interact with them directly via social media. According to Statista, 59 percent of people surveyed globally in 2019 viewed brands more favorably if they responded to questions or complaints via social media. Such public interactions can be worth valuable goodwill advertising, an important commodity in today’s marketing.

Companies that aren’t on social media should develop a strategy to platform themselves. Social media managers make that happen.

What Does a Social Media Manager Do?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), social media managers communicate with the public via digital platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, TikTok, and Pinterest. They schedule media posts and react to the day’s top news and trending topics, and must be ready to pivot their strategy if needed. Social media managers also strategize to promote engagement and maintain a company’s brand guidelines — all while responding to public questions, comments, and complaints.

Successful social media managers touch a lot of rails in their companies: marketing, sales, customer service, brand management, and even community-building. They blend structure with creativity, long-range planning with rapid responses, and businesslike messaging with playful tones. They are vital public voices for their organizations.

Social media managers don’t work a typical day, though their schedule requires some consistent tasks. They post content across organizational channels multiple times per day, often according to a pre-planned calendar. They also employ analytics software and techniques to track their content’s reach and effectiveness. This involves goal-setting for key performance indicators (KPIs) and other targets to maximize a campaign’s success.

Even with proactive planning and strategies in place, social media often refuses to be linear, and managers must be nimble in trend tracking. Social media managers scour the most popular platforms for viral media and popular posts that they can leverage into relevant content. Knowing when to capitalize on these moments is an acquired and essential skill.

Learn about other digital marketing career paths available to creative people interested in social media.

What Are the Steps to Becoming a Social Media Manager?

Social media managers can begin their careers in several ways. Marketing, communications, business, and advertising backgrounds lend themselves well to the field.

Where else should aspiring social media managers get started? Let’s consider some steps to becoming a social media manager.

How to Learn Social Media Marketing

Most people who work in social media have degrees in advertising, journalism, public relations, or a similar field. Though CareerOneStop doesn’t track social media managers specifically, it does report that the majority of advertising and marketing managers have at least a bachelor’s degree.

However, other programs provide equally valuable opportunities — particularly for professionals seeking to upskill or make a career change. In this sense, a digital marketing bootcamp can be an effective launchpad to a career in social media. Bootcamps acquaint learners with the tools and technologies of social media, including Google Ads and Analytics, Facebook Ads Manager, and more. These programs also cover essential skills such as building and managing brands, content strategy and lead generation, and analytics.

Throughout the bootcamp, students develop a portfolio of digital marketing campaigns and receive a Facebook Certification exam voucher upon completing the program, giving them an opportunity to pursue one of Facebook’s professional certifications.

To learn more about social media marketing, check out The Digital Marketing Boot Camp at Texas McCombs.

Become Proficient in Various Social Media Platforms

Social media managers are adept not only at using social media but also at extracting the most benefit from each platform. Each site is an ecosystem with its own demographics, user preferences, shorthand language, and posting styles. Good managers tailor their content and tone to each platform.

For instance, according to Pew Research, YouTube was the most-used social media platform among U.S. adults in 2021 (81 percent). Meanwhile, 69 percent use Facebook, and 40 percent are on Instagram. Those demographics vary by age, gender, race, income, and other characteristics. Seventy-one percent of adults 18-49 use Instagram, Pew Research found, but only 13 percent of those 65 and older are on the platform. Meanwhile, TikTok passed 1 billion worldwide users in fall 2021, reaching the milestone faster than Facebook.

Savvy social media managers understand where their target audience devotes most of its time and attention, and they concentrate content strategies on those platforms while maintaining a presence on others. Being fluent in each platform’s rhythm and attitude is a prerequisite of the position.

Build a Personal Social Media Presence

Companies interested in hiring you to run their social media certainly will want to know how you run yours. So make sure your accounts showcase your craft.

Grow your accounts and personal brand by posting consistently, sharing unique content, and engaging with followers. Be professional but also true to your personality, and adopt social-media best practices.

Gain Work Experience in Social Media

Before-the-job training works well for aspiring social media managers. As you get started exploring your options, consider volunteering to run social media for organizations short on time, staff, or resources. Local small businesses and nonprofits might want to increase their presence on Facebook or create a YouTube channel to highlight their work.

Youth sports leagues and clubs could also benefit from sharing their achievements online. Even a consistently updated Twitter account is meaningful for many organizations.

If you’re looking to break into social media, this experience can be highly valuable. You’ll learn about managing accounts, successful posting strategies, and methods to monitor your work while building practical experience and a digital portfolio to show prospective employers.

Become Familiar With the Industry You’re Pursuing

Organizations have different social media requirements. Some demand a formal tone highlighting their industry expertise and experience while others want to be lighter and more entertaining. Still others seek an edge, perhaps with some self-deprecation — every brand will be unique.

Before interviewing with a company, learn about its products and services, its market and customer base, and its public persona. Get to know how the company resonates with the public and how you can enhance its presence. Equip yourself to lead a company’s public-facing social media by becoming ingrained in its story.

Pursue a Job in Social Media

As you might imagine, social media platforms are the perfect place to pursue a career in social media. According to The Muse, 92 percent of companies use social media to hire — so put your expertise to use.

Follow the organizations, companies, and brands that you admire and for which you want to work. Reach out to them through their channels with a pitch and portfolio link. Companies often post job openings through their social media accounts, and many use LinkedIn to advertise jobs and vet candidates.

Encourage conversations by letting recruiters and managers know that you’re “open for networking.” Take advantage of the career service programs that your school offers. By attending a digital marketing bootcamp, you’ll have access to an advisor, career coaching, and a professional engagement network to keep you competitive in the ever-evolving social media landscape.

Above all, be positive. Your next post could be the one that leads to a career in social media marketing.

The Top Social Media Manager Skills You Need

Social media managers must be versatile and adroit. They might go from writing a clever Facebook post to meeting with the marketing department to pitching in with the customer satisfaction team — all in the span of a few hours. The following skills are indispensable to becoming a successful social media manager.

Communicating ideas effectively and creatively is the bedrock of social media. You’ll be writing a lot, so nurture your passion for words.

Learn to “write short.” Delivering ideas concisely can be difficult, especially in competitive, scrolling environments such as social media. Spelling and grammar matter, too. Mistakes undermine clever ideas, making them appear unprofessional.

Also, remember that you’re communicating with stakeholders in different environments. The email you send management pitching an Instagram strategy requires a tone distinct from the campaign itself. Understand the audience for each communication and tailor your tone accordingly.

National Football League teams compete for social media attention even in a once-mundane environment: the unveiling of the upcoming season schedule. In 2020, Sports Illustrated ranked the 10 most creative schedule-release videos that teams made.

Social media is primarily visual, and companies are hiring graphics designers and video editors to make content that generates buzz. Managers must develop a discerning eye for compelling visual content. Having design experience helps, particularly when applying for social media positions with smaller organizations.

Release your sense of humor or edgy side on social media, within the parameters of a campaign, of course. Learn how other brands are tapping their creative energy on social platforms. In addition, find the influencers who could bring a fresh, lively approach to your social media.

Social media managers don’t have to be full-time data analysts, but they must be comfortable with assessing and responding to metrics. Social media is busy with performance data: Facebook shares, Twitter mentions, LinkedIn engagement, hashtag usage, clickthrough rates, etc.

Dashboards and software tools visualize this data, making it easier to interpret and use. They all matter to brand-building but can become overwhelming. Distinguish between the vanity metrics and those that demonstrate your brand’s strengths and weaknesses, or those that might point to larger industry trends. Social listening can also be a valuable data collection tool, especially for organizations in product development, as user-generated content can often aid in enhancements or other improvements leadership may not be aware of.

Social media managers lean heavily on schedules and calendars to determine their content strategies. They post based on product-release dates, holiday seasons, and important anniversaries or milestones. They juggle clients, campaigns, and platforms.

To do this effectively, managers constantly manage time. They know when to publish content, when to roll out new campaigns, and when to assess customer reactions. They are well-organized and efficient in addition to being creative.

“Trending” is a keyword for social media managers. They make daily, often hourly, rounds of various channels to find topics people are discussing. In turn, they can apply these topics to their content to draw attention and engagement.

To do this, social media managers have to be as nimble as they are organized. Trends emerge and dissolve quickly; capitalizing on them requires quick turns. Social media managers have a knack for trendspotting and the ability to shift directions in their programming.

As noted earlier, many people respond more positively to companies that engage with customers on social media. In response, organizations have turned their social media accounts into de facto customer-service lines. Managers with a deft public touch can thrive in this environment.

Social media requires a level of public engagement. It’s interactive; so, interact. Customers appreciate that social media can cut response times to solving problems. Other customers notice as well, potentially generating more business.

Is Social Media a Good Career?

A social media career combines the contemporary approach of digital brand-building and predictive analysis with the timeless techniques of storytelling and marketing. As a result, companies are hiring skilled social media managers with no signs of slowing down.

Job Outlook for Social Media Managers

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t yet track social media as a specific career path. However, the BLS snapshots the broader category of advertising, promotions, and marketing managers, under which social media falls.

The BLS projects an 8–10 percent growth in these roles through 2030, attributing that growth largely to digital marketing and social media.

How Much Do Social Media Managers Make?

Advertising and promotions managers, according to CareerOneStop, earn a median annual salary of $133,460. For marketing managers, the median salary is $142,170. Pay for social media managers will vary within these parameters based on employer, role, and experience.

An image showcasing the median salaries for two different social media manager positions.

Becoming a Social Media Manager FAQs

Below are the most frequently asked questions people have when considering a career as a social media manager.

Social media managers communicate and interact with the public through an organization’s social channels. Managers employ a variety of techniques and strategies to tell the organization’s story and build its reputation. They also perform data analysis to track their content’s engagement, reach, and success.

Successful social media managers set the vision and tone for a company’s social media plan. They schedule release dates and times for content, post consistently, choose the proper platforms, and monitor engagement closely. They also pivot plans quickly based on trending topics and understand how to use graphics, photos, and video. Social media managers are organized, write well, and understand their company’s business goals and audiences.

Aspiring social media managers can build skills and portfolios by offering their services to local businesses, nonprofit organizations, or clubs that need a social media presence. They also should develop and maintain a personal social media brand that demonstrates creativity and commitment to the role.

Digital marketing is part of many college communications, advertising, and public relations curricula. Those familiar with social media for personal use will learn how to apply marketing, analysis, and business fundamentals to social media.

At a digital marketing bootcamp, students learn the in-demand technologies necessary for social media management. They also build a digital portfolio to share with employers.

Some social media jobs are entry-level positions open to recent college graduates. Others require several years of experience, particularly those in larger companies with established social media teams.

Professionals looking to break into social media management can take advantage of a digital marketing bootcamp. The 18-week curriculum at The Digital Marketing Boot Camp at Texas McCombs, for instance, covers brand and audience building, advertising analytics, and other skills necessary to pursue a career in social media marketing.

Small businesses should employ the same social media techniques as larger companies: post consistently, schedule content, track mentions of their brand or products, and interact with the public. They should also pay attention to locally trending keywords and phrases and spend time weekly or even daily engaging with customers.

Become a Social Media Manager Today

As usage trends continue, it is projected that more than 5 billion people worldwide will soon use social media. Creative professionals will be responsible for harnessing all that scrolling and tagging into powerful social media presences for their brands.

Ready to get started? Consider enrolling in a digital marketing bootcamp, the next step toward becoming a successful social media manager.

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