Did you know you could get paid to do social media?
It’s true. Although, it’s a relatively recent vocation, which didn’t exist a decade ago.
Today, social media managers are expected to have a deep understanding of the many types of social media and a passion for connecting and sharing with people online. But they’re also expected to have one more thing: knowledge of marketing, communications and business, best proven with a relevant degree.
An educational foundation
A degree in marketing, communications or public relations can provide an excellent educational foundation for a social media manager. Journalism and English degrees can also be highly relevant due to social media’s emphasis on writing.
You may work for a company or nonprofit in an in-house position, or you may work for an agency serving clients. Within your social media responsibilities and actions, you’ll facilitate overall marketing and communication goals, requiring a grasp of audiences, messaging, consumer behavior, copywriting and other marketing and communication subjects.
“Marketing has always been about connecting consumers with brands. In the rapidly changing world of conversational marketing, understanding how to harness new communications technologies to engage with your audience is more important than ever,” according to Lora Louise Broady, adjunct instructor of integrating social media at the University of Denver’s University College (www.universitycollege.du.edu). “Coursework in social media provides an experiential understanding of the various social media platforms, and emphasizes the importance of creating a strategic digital marketing communication plan to integrate and augment social media into the existing marketing mix.”
Review the curricula of potential degree programs to determine the amount of coursework specific to social media. Be aware that a course may contain significant social media instruction without having the words “social media” in its title.
Duties of a social media manager
Writer. Editor. Producer. Analyst. Advocate. As a social media manager, you must carry out these multiple functions. In supervising your organization’s presence in social media, you’ll create and maintain pages in major social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Regular posting of engaging and useful information is essential. Blogging, one of the earliest and most pervasive examples of social media, also requires strong writing and editing skills. You’ll need to understand search engine optimization (SEO) to populate your content with keywords that your audiences use in their online searches.
Photos, podcasts and videos are important forms of user-generated content that call for social media managers to be media producers. You’ll generate, edit and collect pictures, audio recordings and videos and post them to appropriate sites.
In the analyst role, you’ll monitor what people are saying and sharing about your organization and its competitors. Tracking the discussion of relevant trends, topics and news stories is also important. Basic monitoring is possible using search engines and the search functions within social media sites.
Ultimately, social media is about advocacy, creating a positive dialog with and among your audiences. This is particularly important when comments turn negative. You must address these comments constructively and openly. You must build online communities, attracting members and motivating them to speak and share.
“As companies realize that they need someone to interact, manage and monitor social media engagement, the role of the social media manager will be more closely defined,” states Deirdre Breakenridge, marketing agency president, college instructor, and author of Putting the Public Back in Public Relations. “Businesses will be looking for candidates who are marketers first, even before they are social media marketers. They want good writers, strategic thinkers and people who understand how to build relationships.”
Managing yourself as a social media manager
Deadlines are important in any communication position, but the real-time interactive nature of social media demands constant strategy and action. It is important to establish a work format amid the fluidity of social media. Rachel Dodsworth, a social media professional says, “Many social media managers get tripped up by not following a set plan and not setting enough time aside to develop, manage and maintain their social media in addition to regular day-
to-day tasks and spontaneous events.”
Kiplinger.com lists an annual salary range for social media managers of $38,000 to $83,000. Your salary will depend on the size of your employer and the scope of its social media activity and geographic location.
Not long ago, being a “social media expert” sounded like a fad. Today, it is a serious career path with managerial responsibilities.
Jason Karpf is a public relations and marketing professional and an adjunct college instructor. Visit Jason’s blogsite, “The Funky Adjunct” (www.funkyadjunct.com).