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Written by Anna Sonnenberg

Last modified September 17, 2020 at 12:44 pm

What Is a Social Media Manager? (And What Does One Really Do?)

 

Let’s compare the expectations and realities of a social media manager job, so you know exactly what you’re getting into.

When you apply for your first social media manager job, you might not know exactly what to expect. What does a social media manager do anyway? What skills will you actually use on the job? How will your day usually look? What kind of results can you reliably get?

No matter what the job listing says, your assumptions about being a social media manager won’t always align with your experience on the job.

Here’s an overview of what you might expect and what the reality is.

Social Media Manager Job Responsibilities

Expectation

Whether you’ve worked in social media for a few months or a couple of years, you might anticipate solely of being charge of key tasks like:

  • Publishing social media posts
  • Monitoring engagement
  • Compiling monthly reports

Reality

In reality, becoming a social media manager means having a much longer to-do list.

In most cases, you also have responsibilities that involve …

Interpersonal communication

Content creation and publication

Research and analytics

Reporting on social media ROI

scheduling content for social media managers

If you manage social media for a large company, you might work closely with colleagues specializing in key areas. For example, you might partner with a social media strategist, a graphic designer, or a video editor.

But if you work for a small organization or at a small social media marketing agency with more limited resources, you may have to oversee these areas yourself.

To your to-do list, you’ll have to add extra tasks like:

  • Identifying marketing and advertising goals
  • Researching and developing social media strategies
  • Designing graphics and resizing images for social media
  • Coordinating photo or video shoots

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What Skills Do I Need as a Social Media Manager?

Expectation

As you prepare for a social media manager role, it’s easy to assume that your boss expects you to bring technical know-how to the table.

You might anticipate needing skills like:

  • Knowledge of main social media platforms
  • Experience with social media advertising
  • Familiarity with social media analytics

That makes sense, doesn’t it? A social media manager needs to know, well, social media.

But wait, there’s more …

Reality

It’s true that social media managers need technical skills. Yet the range of practical knowledge you need might be wider than you thought.

In fact, understanding social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest is just the first step. Especially if you work at a social media agency.

You also need to know how to use:

Most social media managers also have soft skills that help them excel at their jobs.

To rock your new social media manager job, you need qualities like:

  • Communication. After all, you need to write social media copy that speaks to followers.
  • Creativity. From developing campaigns to overseeing photo shoots, creative thinking is essential for social media managers.
  • Leadership. If you head a team, you’ll have to guide social media schedulers, strategists, and other colleagues.
  • Problem-solving. To optimize your social media performance, you must know how to identify problems and propose solutions.
  • Resilience. When you work with social media, you need to stay strong, so you can learn from failed experiments and look past negative comments.
  • Teamwork. Social media managers rarely work alone. You’ll probably work with other social media specialists as well as designers, marketers, and advertising experts.

(And that’s just a quick overview of what skills social media managers need!)

Download this free social media calendar packed with ideas and examples!

What’s a Typical Schedule for a Social Media Manager?

Expectation

Whether you work remotely or in an office with your team, you probably expect to have a regular schedule. It might be typical 9-to-5 working hours, or it could include some weekend hours. Either way, you probably anticipate some consistency.

Reality

Technically, you might have a standard work schedule. But if you’re running a major campaign or if your pages always receive a lot of engagement (especially if you work at a social media marketing agency), you might be tempted to put in some extra hours.

After all, it isn’t easy to ignore that constant stream of notifications.

If you find yourself working many more hours than you’d planned, consider setting some boundaries at work:

  • Talk with your team to decide when your social media pages are considered open. Then make sure you’re available and responsive during those hours.
  • During off-hours, set up away messages telling followers you’ll get back to them soon. Turn off notifications, so they don’t disrupt your time away.
  • If your team needs quick responses around the clock, get extra help. Contract social media specialists who can take shifts and offer the coverage you need.
  • Forward tasks to other team members. If your sales team needs to handle new leads anyway, assign relevant messages to the right person automatically.

how to assign tasks for social media managers

Social Media Goals and Results

Expectation

You can do anything when you put your mind to it. So, you might expect to achieve any results your team requests, no matter how unrealistic they seem.

Reality

Instead of agreeing to your boss’s impractical requests, it’s your job to set clear expectations.

Talk through your goals in advance, and prepare reports after the fact to update everyone on your progress.

goals and results for social media managers

Here’s how to handle some goal-related scenarios you’ll probably encounter:

  • Your boss loves big numbers and wants your social media accounts to reach certain milestones. Remind your boss that follower numbers only tell part of the story. Instead of account size, focus on metrics like engagement rate or engaged users.
  • Stakeholders ask you to post more content to reach goals faster. Clarify that quantity doesn’t equal quality. Help them understand that publishing more doesn’t guarantee a good outcome. Instead of more content, strive for higher-quality posts that drive results.
  • Your team wants to generate buzz and expects content to go viral constantly. Acknowledge that viral content can make a big impact. Yet creating high-quality content that your followers love is a better bet for consistent growth.
  • The company holds you solely responsible for unreasonable ROI goals. Proving ROI is part of every social media manager’s job. But many factors can affect this metric, so it’s important to define them in advance. Make sure you know what value to assign to new followers, link clicks, and other actions that contribute value.

Understand the Organic vs. Paid Social Media Debate

Expectation

Everyone says organic reach on social media is steadily declining. To compensate, you might assume that a paid social strategy automatically leads to more conversions.

But is your assumption correct?

Reality

It’s true that organic reach can be very low on platforms like Facebook. But that doesn’t mean you won’t get anywhere with an organic approach. Instead, learn what affects the algorithm and use best practices to grow your pages.

Though you may be able to increase conversions with paid social media, advertising may not deliver the results you expect. So, you need to review your ROI regularly.

Make sure the conversions you get generate the value you want.

organic vs paid social media for smms

Ultimately, most social media strategies work best when they include organic and paid tactics. But there isn’t a magic formula to follow. Instead, you have to try different approaches and learn from your results to find a combination that works for your brand.

In Conclusion

Like any job, a social media manager position is bound to have at least a few surprising aspects. But if you’re looking for a challenging, collaborative role that requires you to exercise both the creative and analytical sides of the brain, a social media manager job could be ideal for you.

Want more helpful, actionable content like this? Subscribe to the Agorapulse blog newsletter, and get the most recent blog posts, freebies, and news about the social media channels you use most. 

What Is a Social Media Manager? (And What Does One Really Do?)
Anna Sonnenberg

Anna Sonnenberg is a digital marketer who specializes in paid social strategy, social media management, content strategy, and email marketing. For over five years, she has run Sonnenberg Media, a digital micro agency that works with small businesses in the natural food and beverage industry, health and sustainability market, and travel space.

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