Social media managers’ daily activities
Social media managers' skills
Social media managers’ challenges
Social media managers' job satisfaction
Social media managers' relationships with clients
Social media performance data
The social media industry has a bright future
Future perspectives for social media managers
If it feels like everyone is on social media nowadays, it's just about true. The second pandemic year had massive implications for digital marketing - the online behaviors changed and new trends immersed.
Now, more than ever, all businesses and industries have turned their attention to social media.
In an attempt to better understand the lives of social media managers, we surveyed more than 300 marketers to learn about their skills, social goals, daily activities, and usage of tools, among others.
We also interviewed 11 social media managers worldwide to find insights about their career path - from early childhood and education to the present of their careers and the future perspectives of the marketing industry.
- The Past:
- Social media managers were creative kids with a vast imagination and affinity for Arts and creative writing.
- 50% of the social media managers obtained a Bachelor's Degree.
- The Present:
- The primary tasks and responsibilities of social media managers are creating content (50%) and social media strategies (45%).
- Social media managers' most significant challenges are generating engagement (65%) and publishing engaging and unique content (49%).
- The top resources they need to be successful at their job are time (69%) and resiurces for video and photo editing (61%).
- 50% of the respondents rated their job performance as good.
- 44% of the respondents are satisfied with their job.
- The Future:
- The social media industry has a bright future and will offer a lot of amazing opportunities for marketers.
- Almost all repondents said that they want to pursue their career in marketing.
02. The Past
A social media manager is a creative and analytical individual who has an eye for aesthetics, details, and data. Before getting to know more insights about what this job means, we need to take a step back and ask ourselves: where did it all begin?
1. Early childhood
Almost all the marketers interviewed talked about their childhood on a positive note, with an air of nostalgia.
One of the main insights gained from the interviews with social media managers is that there are no determining factors to becoming a marketing professional.
However, there are some personality traits that social media managers tend to have as kids.
As a kid, I guess I was super creative. Like I was always painting, drawing, playing with Lego.
Reading a lot.
I had a big imagination. Very creative.
I really enjoyed Art and English at school. Just those sort of things where it was just very hands on and like craft, making things all the time and just kind of playing.
Social media specialists are usually creative individuals with excellent analytical, organizational, and communicative skills at the same time.
This set of skills required to be successful in this domain seems to be making its appearance since childhood.
I was never the smartest, but I wasn't in the bottom either. I've always been extremely creative.
So I took Performing Arts as a GCSE. I was part of Theatre schools, dance schools. I did modern.
I was always in a dance show, my mom's shows. So I've always been extremely creative, but never overly artsy.
Nine out of the 11 marketing specialists interviewed declared that they were creative kids with a vast imagination and an affinity for studying and reading books.
This inclination towards creativity and arts resulted in various activities: painting and drawing, studying theatre and dance, or appearing in commercials.
This continuous curiosity combined with technological advancement and internet access resulted in a generalized interest in social media which later became, accidentally or intentionally, a job.
So I grew up in Poland and I actually have quite a bit of a background in media because my dad is actually an actor.
Since I was a little girl, I was always in Theatre, in films and TV, in radio, which I think is relevant to my career path. Because since I was a young girl, I really liked being in this environment.
But first of all, Theatre has no camera. I like being in front of the camera, but I also always liked the backstage work.
After childhood, the next natural step is education, be it traditional (University) or alternative (self-learning through online courses, webinars, or certifications).This section's purpose is to see whether social media managers have studied in this field and, if they did, what kind of studies they took.
Since social media jobs are relatively new and don't require formal training, we also wanted to understand if digital marketers consider education important or if they think anyone can learn how to do this job with the internet's help.
Nine out of the 11 persons interviewed studied domains somehow related to marketing (such as journalism, communication, English and creative writing, or graphic design), but only two have degrees in marketing.
of the social media managers obtained a Bachelor’s Degree
So I had my Bachelor's Degree in marketing.
And now I'm in the process of getting my Master's Degree in digital marketing. And I think it's actually important because you have some base of knowledge, not practical, but mostly theoretical knowledge.
Some social media managers argued that having traditional education is not mandatory but is still very important if someone wants to succeed in this job.
Formal education establishes a foundation through basic marketing concepts and case studies.
I think it has a lot to do with the ease with which you can learn this field, but I don't think it's enough that you know how to write a text and put it on Facebook or make an image and put it on Instagram.
I think studies are really important because they help you understand certain concepts, like target or audience. Why a certain message will work more for a specific target.
On the other hand, some respondents think that education is not necessary since all the information that can help you grow in a social media job is available for everyone through the internet.
It is not necessary nowadays. We have access to information all day long. You can buy books about marketing, you can take courses.
It all depends on how you learn as well. I'm sure that there would be some information in marketing University that you could find useful, but I don't think it's absolutely necessary to be a successful social media manager.
However, this doesn't mean that these respondents did not take alternative education methods.
They all have dedicated time to cultivate specific skills, learn about different tools and platforms, or stay up-to-date with the latest social media trends and changes.
I think it depends on your confidence. See, when I started, I was 40 and I didn't have credentials or credibility.
When I started in social media marketing, there was no social media course you could take. So I do think that if you're young and you're on the path, learning about marketing and strategies and even business, I think it would really help.
03. The Present
The social media manager role often involves managing social channels on a daily basis, but also other areas of expertise, such as community management, reporting and performance analysis, copywriting, and even graphic design.
Social media managers’ daily activities
Social media managers’ skills
Social media managers’ challenges
Social media managers’ job satisfactions
Social media managers’ relationships with clients
Social media performance data
1. Social media managers’ daily activities
Social media managers usually start their day by scrolling on social media and reading the news.
After that, their daily activities are a mix of content planning, reporting, community management, social listening, and customer care, plus organizational activities, such as responding to emails or participating in meetings.
Social media managers' primary tasks
Social media strategy
Customer support through social
I have different kinds of activities.
So every day is different because one of the things that is key for us is trying to understand what people are saying on our social media channels to give the feedback to the teams that need to be involved to improve our customer service.
Interestingly, no workday is like another for social media managers, and most of the time, it means juggling between different tasks.
They may be needed for an urgent client meeting, or they might be asked to pause what they were doing to brainstorm for Christmas campaign ideas.
To be honest with you, every single day varies.
It can start with having calls with clients to go through their social media scheduling for the week before.
I do a lot of influencer campaigns, so it could be a matter of chasing influencers for captions and for the content themselves, making sure everything's scheduled and gone out.
Marketers' primary social media goals
Social media managers' most important goals are to increase brand awareness (85%), grow the brand's audience (75%), and connect wit the the audience (61%).
Increase brand awareness
Grow the brand's audience
Connect with the audience
Increase community engagement
Increase web traffic
Resources social media managers need to make a greater business impact
The top resources social media managers need to be successful at their job are time (69%), resources for video and photo editing (60%), and budgets for promotions (57%).
Resources for video and photo editing
Budgets for promotions
Social media software
Market research tools
Support from other departments
Financial resources for analytics tools
Because it can become chaotic to do all these tasks simultaneously, the respondents also emphasized that every social media manager should be organized, because it is the key to success in a multi-tasking job.
Which leads us to the next subcategory of this chapter - what skills are required to be successful.
2. Social media managers’ skills
Successful social media managers need to love social media and have a genuine interest in the latest trends.
They also need to be open to changes and testing because social media is a trial-and-error situation.
Being a good communicator, being open to feedback, and understanding consumers’ behaviors are also very important skills.
You kind of need to be creative and analytical at the same time.
It's very much like a left and right brain kind of way of thinking, because you have to be able to come up with these engaging, entertaining, educational pieces of content that work for your audience that stand out on the feed.
You really need a good balance of the two and a real understanding of how people consume content.
Having charisma or genuine empathy will also enhance every social media manager’s job.
And last but not least, because social media never sleeps, social media managers need to be organized and structured.
You need organizational skills, people skills, good writing. Copywriting skills are very important. Speaking is good. Learning graphic design, even just the basics.
Being able to present yourself well in meetings. Having confidence and understanding business.
I think the biggest skill you need is being charismatic and being a people's person, because one thing that my first manager taught me is that what people ask for isn't what people want.
But a lot of it, I think, is down to you needing to have a passion for it. If you're not passionate about it, then there's no point you can't learn that.
3. Social media managers' challenges
The social media manager role is not easy, and it definitely can’t be done well by everybody.
This job requires a set of skills that need to be put into practice correctly. However, with all the skills in the world, social media managers have their struggles.
For me it’s reporting. And writing a lot of copy. It doesn't need to be inspiring or anything like this, and it's just kind of like a cadence.
It gets to the point of like, well, I've tried to sell this iPhone case a million times. I've already used a million variations of copy. How can I sell it anymore?
I think that sometimes the most difficult thing is trying to understand how algorithms work when there are changes.
Maybe sometimes it's hard to understand this is the most difficult part.
Social media managers' greatest challenges
publishing engaging and unique content
identifying and reaching the target audience
securing budgets and resources for social
monitoring the competition
The hate that you receive, no matter what you do. People are not educated to be on social media. The hardest thing for me is to manage all the hate people are throwing on social media towards the brand.
It’s even harder because I am the one who has to respond to their messages. But I learned not to take people’s comments personally, even though it’s still hard.
You can’t really understand social media if you’re not a heavy user, so I developed some bad habits. I feel addicted to social media, more addictive than other people.
It’s hard for me to consume social media content in a responsible way. So I started to curate the content I follow.
4. Social media managers’ job satisfactions
One of the most common satisfactions social media managers have with their job is coming up with a great content idea, putting it out there, and watching it grow and succeed.
They also take their satisfaction from seeing their clients genuinely content about their work.
And the third most common response is the one that revolves around the idea of community - growing a network, meeting with industry experts, sharing experiences.
When you present your ideas to the client. And they’re like, yeah, I love them all.
But the only issue is budget restrictions. But when they add an additional budget to do your idea, I think on a personal level, that's the most satisfying.
Personal goals for social marketers
Improving an existing skill
Understanding the social media landscape
Learning a new skill
Outperforming previous achievements
Increasing personal contributions within the company
Securing a promotion
I would say the biggest thing probably is when a client is genuinely grateful. So we sometimes get a voice (“thank you so much”). That always makes me happy.
And also at the end of it, when a campaign does well. Once all the hard work is done and you can get to set back and you're like, okay, that was me.
How are social media managers' jobs evaluated
Progress towards goals
My social media performance is not evaluated
What really brings me joy is connecting with smaller communities and really getting to know them. That’s why I migrated from an agency to an NGO, because I wanted my relationships with consumers to be meaningful.
How social media managers rate their job performance
Social media managers' satisfaction with their job
Social media managers' career ambitions
To be promoted to a more senior-level role
To be the best in my department/function
I would like to start my own agency/fly solo
I am content in my current role
I would like to change careers
5. Social media managers' relationships with clients
There are many aspects to building a successful agency.
Beyond delivering excellent work, it's also vital to establish and maintain strong, valuable, and positive client relationships.
I think it’s really important to set clear expectations from the beginning.
I feel we sometimes lack the clarity of the expectations a client has from us. We’re not behind social platforms, those are the tech guys, they understand for real what’s happening.
We only understand social better than our clients. And sometimes, clients don’t have realistic expectations from social media managers.
One thing that marketing and social media get a bad rep for is that clients would assume you've come in and you're suddenly going to increase their sales by, like, 50%, because suddenly we've posted twice on Instagram, and it doesn't work like that.
Educate the client.
Set clear expectations from the beginning.
Gain their trust.
Maintain open communication.
It can be a difficult one because sometimes it requires educating the client on what you're trying to do.
I think a lot of the time it's just not telling them that they're wrong and that we're right and they should trust us, but kind of taking them on that journey of being braver and having confidence in what we do and our suggestions.
6. Social media performance data
The digital space is constantly changing and evolving.
From trends that appear overnight to changes in algorithms and new platforms emerging, social media managers need to be quick, always test, and constantly observe and adapt their strategy.
This is where social media analytics tools step in. With these tools, marketers can make the best out of their social media efforts and improve their tactics with the help of data.
The platforms on which social media managers are most active
Instagram is the most used social platform (87%), followed by Facebook (73%) and LinkedIn (61%).
There are a lot of social media analytics tools on the market, and each of them provides a lot of functionalities to fit the client’s needs best.
According to our survey, the ideal social media analytics tool needs to include all social media platforms (78%), be easy-to-use (75%), and provide real-time data (74%).
Reasons for using social media-analytics tools
Most social media managers use analytics tools for measuring the content performance (85%), understanding their audience (75%), and reporting (69%).
Measuring the content performance
Understanding my audience
Tracking social media campaigns
Tracking brand evolution
It just needs to save time and be really intuitive, because I think sometimes some platforms try to do everything at once and they don't do it well.
There's nothing more stressful when you're a social media manager and you schedule something and it doesn't go out or if it goes out it fails to post.
04. The future
Today, social media platforms occupy an undeniable part in people’s lives.
From communicating and connecting with each other to exchanging ideas and sharing knowledge, many people have built their careers through social media.
With all the social media trends, emerging platforms, and unlimited access to all people regardless of their age, how will the social media landscape look in the future?
The social media industry has a bright future
Future perspectives for social media managers
1. The social media industry has a bright future
According to the respondents, the social media industry has a promising
Online conversation is an area that will grow exponentially in the future.
From virtual reality and avatars that will become an integral part of our lives to the rise of NFTs and more engaging social platforms like Twitch, social media will constantly change and develop exciting tools and platforms.
Video is going to be the go-to type of content.
Short video format will prevail because our attention span is getting shorter.
Influencer marketing will be more trustworthy.
Authentic and relatable content that speak to consumers directly will become more popular.
Well, I hope that social media teams will get bigger because I think too
many people expect asocial media manager to do absolutely everything.
I think a lot of people expect a social media manager to be an art director, a videographer, an insights analyst, and a copywriter. I think people expect too much.
I definitely think that our attention spans are getting shorter, which you
can see in real YouTube shorts, all of these kinds of short video versions.
I think video is going to keep on for at least another few years. It's going to be the most important part of the media. And people like relatable stuff.
But because every coin has two sides, it's essential to make some notes regarding what this scenery will look like from the people who actually make a living out of social media and who sustain these platforms through their work.
The social media teams will need to be taken more seriously, and businesses will need to invest more in marketing.
Set clear expectations from the beginning.
I have noticed that there are more permanent fulltime jobs now coming back
up for businesses. So I think we finally have kind of been given a bit
And we're not this kind of fluffy job because marketing saves a lot of businesses.
I think it's very promising in general. It will be very tech driven
I think it will be key looking also at the Chinese market, where they use social media as tools for ecommerce and also as tools to even pay their bills, in which, for instance, you can have your bills for the electricity coming into that social media channel and you pay directly.
2. Future perspectives for social media managers
One thing is certain. Social media is not going anywhere.
In fact, our predictions tell us that it's here to stay for a long time and develop in ways we can't even comprehend now.
With all these rapid changes in the social media landscape, the social media managers' jobs will become more secure, tailored to specific needs, and taken more seriously overall.
With that being said, the digital world will offer excellent opportunities for people working in social media. But this doesn't mean that their jobs are going to be easier.
To be successful in this space now I think the most valid thing is you do need to ask
questions and be curious at the same time, just not being complacent.
Don't be old fashioned, you know what I mean? Never shooting down certain ideas as well. Be open. That is what you have to do. Like, don't be so confined to your own kind of box.
Explore more than anything. If it doesn’t work, don't worry. That's what social is. You throw in stuff at a wall and see what sticks. Just explore.
I don’t see myself working in social media forever, but I see using what I’ve learned in
the past 8 years working in social media to my advantage.
I wish to detach myself from the online, I feel I’m too immersed in this world.
In a digitalized world, hard skills can be easily learned, while soft skills will become more desirable and hard to master.
To be successful in the social media landscape, you need to be curious, always try and test new things, and be open to changes. These skills will be even more required in the future since social media changes will occur more often.
We already mentioned that video formats already are and will continue to be the most wanted type of content, so marketers will need to learn how to use this to their advantage.
It should be clear by now that social media is a crucial piece of the awareness puzzle brands need to play to gain the customer’s trust.
Social media acts like a glue that holds together all the other parts of a growing business, from sales to customer service and support.
The purpose of this study was to debunk some myths about the social media manager job and to make some light regarding what it really means - with the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Today’s social media managers are just scratching the surface of what they can do with social media. As they continue to improve and take on new skills, overcome the limits and challenges, and embrace social data, social marketers will unlock the full potential of social media.
It’s an exciting and challenging journey, and we are here to see how this job will develop in the future and what impact it will have on brands’ successes.
This study is based on a mixed methodology: quantitative and qualitative.
Data is based on 300 marketer respondents from around the world. The survey was conducted online between July 2021 and September 2021.
The data was then cross-referenced with 11 in-depth one-on-one interviews with social media managers to obtain a holistic view.
The top 0.5% of data was winsorised to limit the impact of extreme outliers. Graphics are rounded to the nearest whole percentage and may not add up to exactly 100%.
Theodora Stanciu is a content marketer at Socialinsider, co-host of the Insider Insights podcast, and coordinator of this study. She has a B.A. in Sociology and an MBA in Anthropology and a background in research and editing, especially in due diligence and market research.
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