What to Expect in Your Social Media Manager Career

A picture of a social media manager looking at her tablet and laptop
A social media manager has her finger on the pulse of the company she works for while engaging the community and turning them into loyal followers and fans.. Photo © JGI / Tom Grill / Getty Images

Many people want to get started as a social media manager but they're not quite sure what to expect throughout their social media manager career. A social media manager is responsible for monitoring and posting to all social media outlets as well as interacting with and growing a company's audience. The ultimate goal is to raise awareness of the brand, company, product or a person online while driving traffic online, offline or both.

Depending on the job, a social media manager is typically associated with brand building through Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, MySpace and corporate blogging.

Salary Range for a Social Media Manager:

A social media manager can make anywhere from $10 an hour to over $100,000 a year. The salary largely depends on your education, experience and if you're working freelance vs. a full-time, in-house position.

Large cities like New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles have a high demand for full-time, in-house social media managers. That's where the higher salaries can be found.

Hiring a freelance social media manager is another option. Many small businesses take this route and can find someone to manage social media for as low as $10 an hour. This doesn't mean freelancers are a better deal. You need to thoroughly evaluate the candidate's skills and related experience to make sure you're hiring the right social media manager.

Education and Training Required to Become a Social Media Manager:

Companies who hire full-time, in-house social media managers usually require the candidate to have a degree in marketing, journalism, public relations or new media. Depending on the job, your work experience managing other social media campaigns may be considered if you don't have a relevant degree.

Smaller companies tend to outsource social media work to keep overhead costs down. These companies usually advertise the position through online sites and hire freelancers who may or may not have a degree. Pay for freelancers is significantly lower than that of an in-house social media manager.

Special Skills Needed to Be a Social Media Manager:

Every social media manager needs to have in-depth knowledge of social media and must always keep up with the latest social media trends. You also need excellent writing skills with an emphasis on catering to an online audience.

The rules of social networking go beyond being able to write something clever in 140 characters or less. You are the online representative of the company and your job is to engage your audience, interact with them and grow the numbers through social media.

You have to know everything you possibly can about the company you're writing for because you are an integral part of the marketing process. Updates must be balanced with online networking to grow the business and you have to develop a strategy that works specifically for that company.

Becoming a master of new media will strengthen your career, regardless of the industry where you wish to work. After all, every industry imaginable is using social media -- from media entities to automakers, healthcare to retail. The job opportunities are limitless.

A Typical Day for a Social Media Manager:

Social media never sleeps so the first stop in a social media manager's day is to check up on what happened overnight. This includes reading new emails, looking over Twitter @ replies, re-tweets and mentions, checking Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and other social networks for interactivity, comments, wall posts and responding when necessary.

After overnight catch-up is done, it's time to get started on the day's social media updates. This starts with a check on the company's website to see what has been posted so far that can be used for an update. Visiting the company's website several times a day is a must. A continuous check on feeds to find news, blog posts, videos and other posts or tweets to share with the audience is also vital throughout the day.

At the same time, you're keeping an eye on trending hashtags that you can apply to your updates so you can expose more people to the company through the hot topics. And you're always monitoring the mentions of the company you work for so you can address praise and complaints quickly.

Posting and scheduling updates takes place throughout the day as well as interacting with the audience who's asking questions or making comments. As your updates go live, you're also monitoring analytics to watch where traffic is going and gauging what's working today to see if you can capitalize on the buzz.

One minute you may be writing a tweet to zero in on a trending hashtag, the next you're posting a newsworthy update to Google+. You follow that up by interacting with a customer who's posted on the company's Facebook wall and then publish a new Pinterest board. Now you're off to address comments on the company's new YouTube video, followed by writing a blog post that you'll then promote across all of the company's social media outlets. At the end of the day, you're scheduling updates to go live overnight while you're asleep so the company has a 24/7 presence to reach the night owls, the customers in another time zone and even those in other countries.

Common Misconceptions about a Social Media Manager:

There's a long list of misconceptions about what a social media manager actually does to help grow a company and drive sales. Social media managers are often lumped into the "anyone can do it" category, which leads to business owners tweeting a few times a day or getting an intern to post to social media. They then claim social media doesn't work when, in fact, it works and works well when someone with proven experience is managing your accounts.

Employers need to rethink the "anyone can do it" mindset and thoroughly evaluate the person being considered for this important position. A bad social media manager can harm you worse than not having a social media presence at all.

The flip side is a lot of people think a social media manager does nothing more than sit in front of the computer all day to tweet and post updates to Facebook, Google+ and the like. It's not an easy chit-chat job. There are many facets to a successful social media campaign and posting updates is only one small part.

Bosses also believe all messages should be sales-oriented and completely focused on the business. A good social media manager can tailor almost anything to fit in with the product, service, brand or person she's promoting. But not every tweet should be about the company or you lose your audience.

Social media isn't a company's soap box where they run the social media equivalent of infomercials all day. Instead, a good social media manager will engage the community, keeping the company on top of people's minds constantly without an in-your-face approach.

Getting Started as a Social Media Manager:

It's a great time to break into a social media career. The importance of social media is becoming clear to more companies every day. This means social media managers are in high demand.

Many people who've landed social media manager positions got their start by managing their own personal account. For those with limited experience, there's no better way to show off your social media expertise than by building up your own Twitter followers, Facebook fans, Google+ circles, Pinterest boards, etc. and then using those accounts to market your skills as a social media manager.

It's also a great way to find out if a career as a social media manager is right for you. As you're managing your personal brand, you'll get to learn exactly how to build a social media presence from the ground up.

Use your social media accounts as if you are your own business. In other words, no tweets about how you can't believe you drank so much last night and still haven't thrown up.

If you're looking to get a few projects under your belt, find freelancing jobs online. While these don't pay very well, they can be your future references for the higher-paying, full-time jobs.

Social media is still the baby in marketing. It's quickly proven itself as a powerful way to reach consumers and, because tweeting and posting updates sound so simple, it's attracted many people who think it's an easy, fun job that doesn't require a lot of effort.

Being a social media manager who gets results takes more than a few tweets or status updates, though. Work hard in your role and you will earn a reputation that will open doors to bigger, better opportunities.

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