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Social Media Marketing

Social Media Manager Playbook: Essential Tasks & Skills Needed, with Tips from 50+ Experts

Looking to understand what does a social media manager do? Dive into our guide to explore their key tasks and skills.

Andreea Udescu
Andreea Udescu
Table of Contents

In today’s digital landscape, it’s become essential for brands to prioritize social media marketing in order to increase their brand awareness, build a loyal community and generate leads for their business.

For all of that to happen, someone needs to sit at the helm, managing all the tasks and responsibilities that come with the social media strategy and management territory. That’s where you will find the social media manager, a central piece of any social media team puzzle.

So then, a key question arises: what does a social media manager do?

Top five social media managers tasks are definitely content creation/ideation, reporting/analytics, social listening, content strategy, and community management/engagement. - Venessa Santiago, Digital Marketing Specialist at Well Go USA Entertainment
social media managers' tasks

Well, get ready because that's what we're delving into in this article: the definition of the social media manager role, their responsibilities, tasks, and the challenges they face.

We’ll top it all off with first-hand expert tips from social media managers all around the world, so be ready to soak up a load of knowledge!

Table of contents
What is a social media manager?
Why is it important to have a social media manager on your team?
What does a social media manager do?
How to become a social media manager: 10 essential skills
FAQs on what does a social media manager do


What is a social media manager?

A social media manager is someone who oversees a brand’s social media strategy and online presence. 

Depending on the size of the company or agency they’re a part of, or whether the social media manager is actually a project-based freelancer, the particularities of this job can vary a lot.

The primary tasks of a social media manager are community management and engagement, content planning, and reporting analytics. - Bassma Al Zahran, Social Account Executive  TBWA\Raad
primary tasks of a social media manager

Typically, social media marketing managers are tasked with developing strategies and employing social media best practices that drive engagement and/or reach, creating content for social media, managing the content calendar, and interacting with the online community – to name just a few of their responsibilities.

In some cases, the social media manager might also be the head of social media, meaning that he/she manages a social media team and gets to delegate various tasks to other team members.

Social media managers are the translators of the company.

They interpret the wants of a company's target audience, then create content to fill that space. - Timothy Skau, VP Digital Marketing
social media managers are the translators of the company

Why is it important to have a social media manager on your team?

Much like a flower, your brand can only thrive when the right conditions are met. That can mean: increased brand awareness on social media, an ever-growing loyal community, proper engagement, customer trust, and more.

For all of that to happen, you need social media managers to see and understand the big picture and strategize accordingly, properly target customers, increase website traffic, generate qualified leads and ultimately increase sales.

A social media manager should have a high level knowledge of how social media functions, and understand audience insights and how to implement them in a brand strategy. - Kalli Combs - Social Media Strategist - Kulur Group
how social media works

What does a social media manager do?

Contrary to popular belief, social media managers do much more than scroll through Instagram all day and have fun creating TikToks.

We’re here to debunk that myth and finally answer the million-dollar question: what do social media managers do actually?

Social media managers’ tasks:

Getting random requests of "let's put this on social" from everyone in the company who doesn't understand how social media works. - Khyati Sethi - Social Media Specialist at Contensify
social media managers' tasks

In all honesty, it can be difficult to map out a complete answer to this question because the responsibilities of a social media manager vary so much based on a variety of factors: whether they’re working in a small or large company, whether they’re full-time employees or freelancer workers and whether they’re working as part of the social media team or… are the social media team.

A big challenge for social media managers is having executive leadership teams who don't understand what we do is valuable, and consistently undermine us. - Adrienne (Mills) Harvey, Adjunct Professor at Centralia College
executive leadership teams don't understand social media

That being said, let’s round up 8 of the most common tasks of a social media manager.

Performing social media audits

For many social media managers, an audit is one of the first tasks they undertake. In many cases, a social media audit is absolutely necessary in order to learn everything there is to learn about the brand’s identity on social media and whether the current strategy is working for them or not.

After that, social media marketers should schedule regular audits to (re)evaluate performance, optimize resources, incorporate new trends, understand your target audience and stay competitive within the industry.

First, I understand a client's goals, whether it's building brand awareness, attracting customers, or growing their following.

Then, I audit their social media to see if their current strategy aligns with these goals and identify their best-performing content. - Dr. Kebar Yodhhewawhe, Social Media Marketer & Strategist
social media managers do regular audits to evaluate performance

Developing the social media strategy

No brand or business can get far on social media without a proper plan. A strategy gives your content a sense of direction, specific metrics to track and goals to aim for and pretty much ensures that your brand has a consistent, memorable presence on social media.

After analyzing all the data, a social media manager will need to determine the brand's message on each social media platform. The strategy needs to map out the goals, social metrics and general direction of the social media content, and it absolutely has to align with the larger business goals.

Think of social media managers as the friendly hosts of a party.
They plan the event (strategy), create invitations and decorations (content creation), and make sure everyone is having a good time (community management). - Raluca Toma - Social Media Manager at SocialBee
social media managers have to determine the brand message on social

As new social media trends come and go, the social media account manager needs to make sure the brand remains relevant to its audience. If the plan doesn't appear to be working, they may need to adjust or update the social media strategy

Social media content managers are usually in charge of creating and adjusting the social media strategy, although in some cases this task can be assigned to a dedicated social media strategist.

Many think social media managers only create content and post, but at the manager level, there's a lot strategy work, reviewing copy and graphics, and reporting. - Adriana Jimenez, Social Media Manager at Planned Parenthood Federation of America
social media managers have to create content and post.

Creating content for social media platforms

Nothing moves the needle quite like quality content delivered to the right audience.

Creating social media content for one, two or more channels is certainly a demanding task, but there’s noone more qualified than a social media manager to do it.

Why do social media managers create content?

Because usually there’s not enough budget for a dedicated team member that can focus solely on writing for social media. So social marketers are expected to both create and execute the social media strategy - therefore being both a social media manager and content creator.

So, if you’re wondering what does a social media manager do daily, the answer is most likely creating content (usually in advance). This is most often the case for social media managers for small businesses.

The ever-changing algorithms of social media platforms necessitate constant adaptation of creative strategies, leading to a surge in content creation. - Mariya Spektor, Director of Social Media Content at SocialChain
Mariya Spektor: the ever-changing algorithms of social media platforms necessitate constant change.

Social content managers will need to determine which kind of information works best for each medium—photo, video, gifs, infographics, blogs,  and adapt their message depending on the platform they are sharing it on.

What works on LinkedIn and Twitter might not work on Instagram or TikTok.

A significant part of content creation for social media is actually content repurposing. More often than not, social media marketers will be tasked with turning a blog post, podcast episode, webinar or any other type of long-form content into brief, compelling copy for social media.

The stress of always striving to have content performance that continuously improves in spite of platform updates and changes is also a challenge. - Geisha Garcia - Director, Digital and Social Media at University of Miami
Geisha Garcia: creating content in spite of platform changes.

A major challenge social media managers face in the day-to-day job is creative fatigue. That’s the difficulty or inability to consistently produce new, exciting content that stands out from the crowd.  On the other hand, the audience can also grow tired of seeing repetitive content, which can ultimately drive them away.

There's the issue of content saturation.

With so much content being produced and shared on social media every day, it can be challenging to create content that stands out and captures the audience's attention amidst all the noise. - Courtney Larvadain, Account Supervisor for Social Media
it can be challenging to create content that stands out.

Engaging with the online community

A big part of managing social media is actually connecting with the online community around your brand, and that usually falls within the social media manager duties.

Community management can also double as audience research. Understanding why people are on a specific platform, why they are interacting with others, and why they are engaging with some pieces of content and not others is a major aspect of a social media strategy.

So what does a social media community manager do?

The primary tasks of a social media manager are community management and engagement, content planning, and reporting analytics. - Meagan Amos, Social Media Coordinator Chinook Winds Casino Resort
Meagan Amos: community management is a primary task for social media managers.


The main goal for a community manager is to create a sense of community and brand loyalty.

Start by listening to what people are saying and responding to as many comments and client inquiries as possible. That makes them feel seen and understood.

Creating and monitoring organic and paid campaigns

Occasionally, social media managers might also act as social media campaign managers.

With the right strategy and a budget, a skilled social media manager can significantly improve a brand's visibility, reach, engagement through both organic and paid campaigns.

The secret to success lies in targeting the right audience and knowing when it’s worth investing.

Major challenges for social media managers include limited budgets, especially for organic social, pressure from management to generate revenue, and lack of understanding of the importance of organic social. Gabriela Martinez, Associate Social Media Manager at The Institute of Internal Auditors
Gabriela Martinez: major challenges for social media managers include limited budgets.

Monitoring campaign performance and creating campaigns reports is just as important, as it can reveal key insights about the content and the way the audience responds to it - social media insights which can inform your strategy and make it better.

Limited budgets can restrict the ability to run paid advertisements, hire additional people, or use premium tools for analytics and content creation.

This can make it difficult to compete with brands that have more resources. – Mike Koshko, Social Media Strategist at Charge Media
Mike Koshko: limited budgets is a challenge for social media managers.

Scheduling and/or publishing posts

To stay on top of things, social media page managers build a content calendar for days or even weeks ahead of time.

Scheduling ahead of time reduces workloads, saves a lot of time and ensures that content is published whenever you want, even when you're away from the computer/phone or sleeping. This is especially beneficial when clients are in a different time zone than you.

Luckily, many tools for social media managers have advanced scheduling capabilities, alongside many other social media management solutions.

Time is a massive challenge, so the trick is to manage time to make sure everything is planned and scheduled ready to go - Carl Richardson, owner/manager TFTG Media
Carl Richardson: time is a massive challenge for social media managers.

Doing competitor research

As a social media manager, you'll need to research competitors, and constantly look into industry benchmarks on social media. Your competitors can be a social media marketer’s best source of inspiration and motivation.

Using competitor analysis tools, you can find content gaps that your brand is uniquely qualified to fill, determine a specific target audience for your brand, and compare campaign performance across different channels.

Conducting competitor analysis and keeping an eye on industry benchmarks is essential for any social media manager.

Not only does it give you tons of content inspiration, but it also helps you see where your brand stands and spot content gaps you can fill.

Plus, you’ll get to know your audience better, which can seriously boost your strategy. This way, you’ll keep your brand ahead of the game and drive better engagement and results. - Miruna Vocheci, Social Media Manager at Socialinsider
conduct competitor analysis as a social media manager

Monitoring social media performance

The best social media managers keep a close eye on all social media channels, because they know it’s the best way to succeed.

While social media analysis and reporting might not be the most thrilling task for a social media manager, it is undoubtedly one of the most important parts of social media manager work.

Why?

By monitoring performance on social media, marketers can prove the worth of their social media strategy (aka the social media ROI): if the content was successful, if the budget was used wisely, if the key social media goals were met.

Understanding data and analytics is crucial.

Social media managers need to interpret metrics, identify trends, and use insights to refine their strategies. They must balance creativity with data-driven decision-making to achieve the best results. - Vanjela Bellovoda, Social Media Strategist
Vanjela Bellovoda: Understanding data and analytics is crucial for social media managers.

Time is of the essence for social media marketers, which is why they need to always be on the lookout for solutions to optimize their workflow.

So what does a social media manager do when it’s reporting time and they need a professional tool to analyze their performance across all channels and generate pitch-ready reports for social media?

Easy – they use Socialinsider to get analytics benchmarks, monitoring campaign performance and see what type of content is performing best according to individual metrics.

socialinsider benchmarks

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Perform social media audits, competitor research and track key social media metrics.

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How to become a social media manager: 10 essential skills

You would be surprised to know that many of the skills needed to be a social media manager can be picked up quite easily. That being said, it’s not an easy job, nor an entry-level job.

One of the biggest challenges is the popular perception of the job. Many people feel that it's ‘just posts’, which leads to people thinking they or their assistant can take on the role.

This leads to situations where little budget and multiple roles are delegated to a social media manager.

Social media managers should invest in their knowledge and skills and additionally focus on clients who don't see the role as a quick fix but know and value the true impact it has on their business. - Esther Nkechi, Founder Social Media Connoisseur
Esther Nkechi: One of the biggest challenges is the popular perception of the social media job.

Companies seeking social media managers for hire will often have a checklist that includes the main social media manager skills they are looking for in a future team member.

The top social media challenges include managing numerous tasks as a one-person team, maintaining active and consistent presence across all platforms, creating graphics and videos, constantly generating new and creative ideas, dealing with budget constraints, and adapting to the constant changes in social media.

Top challenges for social media managers: trying to handle so many tasks as a one-person team, being active and consistent on all platforms, creating graphics and videos, constantly coming up with new and creative ideas, budget restraints, constant changes in social media. - Mitra Mehvar, Social Media Manager at Buffer
Mitra Mehvar: top social media challenges


Let’s go over 10 of the most important social media manager qualifications in 2024:

Communication

Many people working in social media will tell you the number one skill they need and leverage every day in their social media manager career is communication.

For anyone at any level working in social media, you must be adaptable, creative and have good communication skills. - Ashley Foster, Sr. Social Media Manager at Willow Innovations, Inc

Being able to communicate efficiently with team members, clients and your target audience can really make a difference in a social media content manager’s job.

The toughest part of the job is dealing with clients.

Getting everything you need from them, and making them see why it's so critical, can be a real challenge. It's a bit like dating—you've got to communicate well and hope you click! - Agata Pawlak, Co-Founder at Cruz Creative Media

Copywriting

Social media is a jungle and all brands fight for attention. Words, if wielded right, have the power to stop people from scrolling and get them to resonate and engage with brand content.

That’s why copywriting is one of the top skills for social media manager roles.

If you’re just learning how to be a social media manager, copywriting could very well be the first skill you choose to develop.

A social media manager ability should be to translate complex ideas into accessible, concise, compelling text. - Kate Meyers Emery, Senior Digital Communications Manager
Kate Meyers: A social media manager ability should be to translate complex ideas into accessible text posts.

Flexibility

No amount of social media education can prepare a social media manager for the realities of the job.

Key skills for a social media manager are certainly flexibility - the ability to change a strategy on a dime if the algorithm changes - strategic thinking, certainly a creative eye (you need to be able to identify a nice shot) and writing skills are super important too. - Sophie Hay, Founder of Twin Palm Social
Sophie Hay: A key skill for a social media manager is certainly flexibility.


The reality is that the rules of the social media world can sometimes shift overnight, and the social media manager needs to be prepared to withstand any kind of pivotal change, including crises, trends, algorithms.

These are all part of the social media manager experience.

Social media managers' skills must include flexibility and comfort with ambiguity. Being able to think rapidly, change direction and respond in real-time to emerging needs on constantly fluctuating platforms is critical in social media success – Amy Peiffer, Social Media Lead, Penn State Health

Creativity

Behind any memorable social media campaign lies a creative social manager that puts their imagination and industry knowledge to good use in order to generate content that stands out from the crowd and attracts new followers.

Creativity is one of the few skills social media marketers can’t do without.

We all know content is king, so it's essential to develop content in a compelling and visually appealing way. Creative thinking allows social media managers to produce engaging content that captures the audience's attention and effectively communicates the brand's message. - Alma Pantaloukas, Founder + Lead Strategist at Ritual Thrive
Alma Pantaloukas: We all know content is king.

Strategic thinking

It may seem like all social media managers do is share random posts on the internet, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

There’s actually a lot of planning and strategic decisions that go into a content calendar and implicitly, the content posted on a brand’s various social media platforms.

Leadership pushing back on experimental ideas in exchange for more sales-forward posting.

This is creatively stunting and doesn’t allow for the SSMs to put together focused-strategy to potentially take the brand to the next level. - Dejaih Smith, Social Media Manager at Sequence of Social
Dejaih Smith: Leadership pushing back on experimental ideas in exchange for more sales-forward posting


The best fit for a social media manager role is someone with a strategic mindset, who thinks and plans ten steps ahead and is able to define a clear direction for the brand content that gets shared.

With the help of a strategic social media manager, social media marketing efforts will be better aligned with broader business goals.

Demonstrating the return on investment (ROI) of social media efforts can be challenging.

Linking social media activities directly to sales and business outcomes requires sophisticated tracking and analytics in certain industries. – Summer Browne, Marketing Executive at Alphatec Engineering

Analytical mindset

What do social media managers do when they need to make a decision about a brand’s social media strategy? They look at the data, of course.

A skilled social marketer should have an analytical mindset, which means being able to examine a data set, interpret it and derive insights that help shape the social media strategy. This also involves using analytics tools to track performance.

The tricky part is walking a fine line between creativity and analytical thinking, making sure you have enough of both to fuel your social media efforts.

A general lack of understanding within upper management about the tasks and value of social media teams can lead to undervaluation and underinvestment in social media efforts. - Kassandra Quinn, Social Media Strategist at ModSquad
Kassandra Quinn: upper management doesn't understand social media.

Crisis management

Things move fast on social media. Crises can erupt in a matter of minutes and social media managers are usually the first line of defense. That is why crisis management skills are so crucial for this role.

Handling negative feedback, protecting brand reputation, mitigating misunderstandings and generally having a calm, collected approach to social media management is the best way to go.

A social media manager plays a huge role in issues-management and crisis communications, often finding out first about an issue bubbling up and offering it as the platform for messaging out proactive and reactive messages around events. – Sarah Goldfarb, Managing Director of Social Media at RW Jones Agency
Social media managers in general are not taken seriously.

Empathy

If social media managers want to stand any chance against AI, then they need to improve one of the few soft skills AI will (probably) never master: empathy.

Empathy is an underrated skill that can help social content managers engage and connect with their audience, build communities and actively listen to what people are saying, thinking and feeling.

As front-facing brand ambassadors, social media managers essentially speak on behalf of the brand. Ensuring they are optimistic, kind, and empathetic is crucial, as this helps them handle potential customers or followers, even when faced with annoying requests or mean comments. – Alma Pantaloukas, Founder & Lead Strategist
Alma Pantaloukas: social media managers essentially speak on behalf of the brand

Confidence

When it comes to social media manager jobs, confidence is always a nice-to-have skill. Whether it comes from a naturally extroverted personality or from experience, confidence helps social media marketers stand up for what they do (i.e. defend their well-founded ideas and strategies from hesitant C-level executives).

Confidence can also come in handy if the social media manager is also creating video content and needs to appear in front of the camera.

Controversially, I don't think social media managers need to be the ones confident on cameras themselves, especially if they have a team of content creators, but I think it's definitely a bonus for those teams of 1 that are wearing multiple hats. – Isabelle Perello, Digital Communications Manager at Galveston College
Isabelle Perello: I don't think social media managers need to be the ones confident on cameras themselves.

Collaboration

Last but not least, the best social media managers are excellent at collaboration. Whether that means working with other departments internally (design, sales, dev, c-level executives) or with external collaborators (including influencers), being able to come together and cooperate is a great win for any social media team.

This is most often the case for social media managers working in agencies.

A social media manager’s job should include close collaboration with other teams (events, product, support, content, HR etc), supporting their needs for social content. – Michal Sklar, Social Media Manager at UserWay
Michal Sklar: A social media manager’s job should include close collaboration with other teams.

Final thoughts

So, it seems like the answer to the question “what does a social media manager do?” is “a lot”.

Social media managers often get the bottom of the totem pole, we are expected to perform a very wide range of tasks while not having an allocated budget. - Alexus Brittain, Head of Social at Vista Social
Alexus Brittain: social media managers' tasks and budget.

If you’re a junior marketer planning to step into the social media management world, expect to wear multiple hats and learn many things on the fly.

If you’re a marketing manager looking for the perfect social media person for your team, now you know what tasks and skills should make it to the job ad.

At the end of the day, each social media manager will have a unique task list and skill set depending on where they work and in what capacity – but this guide covers the most common skills and responsibilities associated with the social media manager role.

In a nutshel, a social media manager is responsible for:

  • Social media strategy
  • Community management
  • Social copywriting
  • Engaging with the audience
  • Analytics and reporting
  • Social account audits
  • Competitor analysis
  • Video editing
  • Video production
  • Photo editing
  • Graphic design
  • Influencer Management



FAQs on what does a social media manager do

What does a freelance social media manager do?

Freelancer social media managers juggle multiple clients and adapt their voice and style to each. They handle everything from creating strategy and writing posts to designing graphics and even shooting videos. They have to be highly creative and versatile in order to do their job best.

How much does a social media manager make?

According to Glassdoor, a social media manager earns, on average, between $45K - $81K/year. At the highest level on this career trajectory, directors of social media can earn up to $248K / year.

Andreea Udescu

Andreea Udescu

Content writer @ Socialinsider with 7 years of experience in digital marketing. When I’m not writing, I like to go on coffee dates with friends, dabble in poetry and fill my house with flowers.

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