If you're a whizz with social media and understand how engaging multimedia content can be used in marketing, then a career as a social media manager may be for you

The overall purpose of a social media manager is to lead an organisation's social media strategy in order to boost visibility and customer and client engagement. This typically involves managing an organisation's online presence by developing a strategy, producing good content, analysing usage data, facilitating customer service and managing projects and campaigns.

Although social media management can be a distinct role, it is sometimes combined with other marketing and communications responsibilities, particularly in small and medium sized companies. Distinct social media management roles are normally found in large organisations, where you may also be known as a social media coordinator; and in agencies, where you could be known as a social media account manager.

Responsibilities

As a social media manager, you'll need to:

  • develop a social media strategy and set goals to increase brand awareness and increase engagement
  • manage all social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google + and Instagram
  • plan content and delivery and use tools like Hootsuite and Asana to manage multiple social media channels
  • develop and manage competitions and campaigns that promote your organisation and brand
  • write engaging blog posts and articles
  • create engaging multimedia content such as videos, and/or outsource this effectively
  • form key relationships with influencers across the social media platforms
  • manage and facilitate social media communities by responding to social media posts and developing discussions
  • monitor and report on performance on social media platforms using tools such as Google Analytics
  • manage junior staff such as a social media executive or assistant
  • educate other staff on the use of social media and promote its use within your company (in-house roles)
  • regularly liaise with clients via telephone, email, conference calls or face-to-face (agency roles).

Salary

  • As an assistant or junior social media manager your starting salary is likely to be between £19,000 and £23,000.
  • More experienced social media managers typically earn between £25,000 and £40,000.
  • With substantial experience, salaries can go up to £60,000, or more.

Freelance rates vary depending on experience, but typically range from £15 to £25 per hour.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

You will usually work normal office hours, 9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday. However, some companies and agencies may require longer hours than others. Long hours and evening and weekend work is common if working on a campaign or to a strict deadline.

Full-time work is common, although part-time work and contract work is available, particularly if freelance. If you work on a freelance basis, you may work longer hours depending on the needs of your clients and the amount of work you are prepared to take on.

What to expect

  • You are likely to find the role challenging but rewarding, as social media and the wider digital marketing industry is a continuously changing and fast-paced sector.
  • You will usually be office based but may sometimes need to travel to meet clients or attend relevant networking events and conferences.
  • Opportunities exist across the UK but tend to be located in major cities, this is especially the case if looking for opportunities with larger agencies.
  • Flexible working patterns and some home-working may be possible. Self-employment or freelance work is possible with experience.
  • A professional dress code is expected; however there may be a more relaxed approach in agencies, except when meeting clients.

Qualifications

There are no set qualifications for becoming a social media manager, although many entrants have a degree, and some employers require this. It is open to graduates from any discipline, but the following subjects can be particularly helpful:

  • business management
  • marketing (particularly digital marketing)
  • media and communications
  • public relations.

However, employers view personal qualities, existing knowledge and experience as equally important. Most social media managers first get a job at junior or assistant level and work their way up. It is also common to move into this role after gaining experience in marketing, PR or advertising.

If you have a degree, you could also work towards postgraduate qualifications that are relevant to working in social media. Course titles vary so look out for programmes such as:

  • Business Intelligence and Social Media
  • Digital and Social Media Marketing
  • Social Media and Interactive Technologies.

Skills

You will need to have:

  • a solid understanding of the use of a range of social media platforms, particularly in relation to advertising/branding and customers
  • strong editing and writing skills suitable for each platform, from knowing how to write a successful tweet to using effective storytelling techniques
  • knowledge and understanding of algorithms and search engine optimisation
  • creative skills for contributing new and innovative ideas
  • strong verbal communication skills for articulating ideas to colleagues and clients
  • organisational skills, with the capacity to prioritise and work across multiple projects
  • the ability to work well under pressure and meet deadlines
  • data analysis skills and statistical prowess to draw actionable insights
  • online community management and customer service skills to strike the balance between publicity and stimulating direct discussion with potential and actual customers
  • an eye for detail and the ability to work accurately
  • excellent team work and networking skills.

Work experience

The digital marketing sector, which includes social media roles, continues to be competitive and relevant experience is expected by the majority of employers. To stand out to employers, you will need to show that you are able to use social media well on a professional level.

Paid social media student internships are available; for example with global online fashion retailer ASOS - however, paid internships and placements are rare. As social media is used as a significant part of a wider marketing strategy, experience gained in other related marketing roles could be relevant. You could also try directly contacting the marketing departments of companies, digital marketing/social media agencies and charities speculatively to ask about their work experience opportunities. The UK's national volunteering database Do-it is a useful resource when searching for charities.

Building a strong online presence and personal brand across a number of social media channels can help. You can also do this by writing a good quality blog, and using multimedia tools such as videos, photos and infographics. Immersing yourself in a personal or team project and using social media to showcase it could be part of your online presence. Remember to track the impact of your posts, as having lots of followers speaks volumes.

Employers

In-house opportunities, working exclusively for one organisation, are normally found in medium to large organisations across the private, public and not-for-profit sectors. Opportunities can be found in a diverse range of industries such as retail, higher education and even independent inquiries set up by the government.

You could also work for an agency managing social media for a number of clients. Agencies can specialise in social media or have a broader remit such as digital marketing or PR. Freelance work is possible with experience.

Look for vacancies at:

Professional development

Once you're working as a social media manager you'll need to keep your knowledge and understanding of platforms and tools fresh.

You can work towards professional qualifications through closely-related professional bodies such as the:

Many of these courses can help professional development, but particularly relevant qualifications include:

  • IDM Professional Certificate in Social Media
  • CAM Web Analytics and Social Media Monitoring.

Joining a professional body can increase your status as an industry professional and offer a range of benefits. These typically include the chance to attend events, take part in mentoring schemes and gain access to webinars to keep you up to date with relevant trends.

Career prospects

Social media management is a relatively new role and there is no fixed career structure. Nevertheless, you could progress in the first ten years to more senior management roles such as head of social media. You could also consider moving into senior roles with a broader digital communications remit.

Due to the fast changing and developing nature of the social media and digital marketing sector, it can be difficult to predict what will happen to social media jobs in the future. Understanding how to use the increasingly complex analytical tools used by social media platforms, as well as having a thorough knowledge of both organic and paid social media marketing strategies could help you progress.