Since 2010, Social Media Day has been celebrated (annually on June 30th) amongst professionals in the marketing and advertising industry to recognize social media marketers, their work, and the impact that social media has had on human communication and culture. There is no denying that social media use is now an integral part of how people connect with one another. According to Pew Research, in 2005, only 5% of adults claimed to use at least one social media platform whereas now, in 2021, that percentage has increased to 72%. Let’s unpack that.
Essentially what this stat represents is that in a room of 25 people, 18 of them are using a social media platform to connect with someone they know or someone they want to know. This means that today, the average social media user, or consumer, is more knowledgeable about how social media platforms work than ever before. Because of this, they’re using it for more than just nurturing and building relationships with their loved ones. They're using it to have a direct line to their favorite brands and resource hubs, by way of consuming [insert dramatic pause here] content.
When we think about social media content, it can seem like a very arbitrary marketing buzzword that has more recently been co-opted by social media influencers but the reality is that even one singular social media post, could have taken hours upon hours to craft––almost as if it were an art form.
The Rise of the Social Media Manager
Despite the launch and rise of major social media networking companies, like Facebook and Twitter in the early 2000s, the profession of social media marketing didn’t really come to life until the mid-2000s. Even then, social media management roles were very ambiguous positions with even more unclear job titles. Sometimes social media management fell under Public Relations, Communications, Media, or Marketing departments or somewhere in-between. Today, while that is still the case within many organizations, social media management roles are being more clearly defined and a path for growth for the individuals in these positions is foreseeable. From Social Media Coordinators to Sr. Social Media Strategists, today’s social media marketing professionals are creating and defining roles for themselves at their companies and brands just as they are creating and defining social media content, strategies, and communities for the brands that consumers know and love. With the constantly changing way that social media evolves and shifts, the work of a social media manager can be intricate yet freeing, tiring yet fulfilling, and validating while simultaneously not so great for their mental well-being.
In honor of Social Media Day, I spoke with 18 social media marketing professionals to get a better understanding of their work and asked them to share what they want people––marketing peers, clients, industry leaders, and their bosses––to know about their hopes and desires for this career field.
Everything. No, really.
Because the role of the social media manager has only recently been established, marketing leaders who are looking to fill the role(s) on their teams are still learning about the skillset required and what the day-to-day work looks like. Honestly, it may not even be something that leadership or the person in the role figures out until they’re actually doing the work. This typically leads to a lack of clarity around responsibilities for the social team but depending on the type of work style they have, that type of “freedom” can be thrilling.
“We’d be here for days if I listed it all! Social is the voice of the brand, so it’s like being a lot of jobs all rolled into one: community manager, brand ambassador, crisis comms controller — you name it. I manage relationships with sellers, build content, and think about projects 6 months down the line all at the same time. It’s a big job, but one that I really enjoy because at its core, doing social is about connecting with other people. That’s what I love.” — Nat, Social Media Manager (5 Years) “Outside of meetings, I’m typically multitasking on any number of the following in a given day: social media strategy, content creation, content scheduling, social listening, researching and studying other brands on social media, employee advocacy, and pulling data and reporting on our analytics.” —Claire, Manager, Social Media Marketing & Advocacy (7 Years) “There is always something new! Whether I’m working on content strategy, brainstorming Tik Toks, community managing, or planning campaign content for larger initiatives, my main goal is to keep the brand cool so I do whatever I need to do to keep that up! I also try to stay on top of trends so I make sure, as a user, I am recognizing things that I can do for my brand. Saving Instagram stories, adding Tik Tok songs to my list…I like to be in the know, so being a user of social media is very important for me.” — Bari, Social Media Manager (7 Years) “A day in social media is never boring! On any given day you could find me doing social listening and engaging with our community, writing social copy or long-form content, editing a video, posting an interactive Story, planning the social media and content component of our latest campaign, recognizing our clinical staff for the incredible work they do, and reviewing analytics. Most importantly, I keep my eyes open for stories that give a look into the heart and humanness of the organization.” — Taylor, Social Media Strategist (10 Years) “In my role, I’m not as hands-on with social as I used to be. I have a Social Media Manager that I work with on creative direction. However, I do oversee our TikTok and create most of our videos myself.” — Jon, Creative Marketing Director (9 Years) “Every week is different when it comes to my job because it all goes back to trying to help clients understand the value of a smart social media strategy — whether it’s about evergreen content, audience insights, or a specific campaign brief. And the way you get to the smart social strategy can vary each time. I’m breaking down the relevance of each platform and what’s happening on them and from this knowledge, I help create strategies for clients across multiple industries.” — Angela, Sr. Social Strategist (7 Years)
Trust and respect are everything and it’s needed to bring great social media content to life.
Oftentimes, directors, managers, CMOs, and other leaders within marketing organizations can be a bottleneck. Approvals, ideas from their teenage children, last-minute notices, and lack of creative freedom can prevent social teams from delivering their best work which impacts the quality of content and its message. The best thing any leader can do is get out of their social media team’s way and let them work their magic! They’re not creating content for you. They’re creating content for your customers and community.
“It might take someone on your team a short amount of time to whip up copy and create a video or image, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy work. There are new trends, influencers, and social apps popping up every day. Try not to push for your team to buy-in for the sake of a quick hit of followers or engagement because it often won’t benefit you in the long run. Trust your team. Also, the logo doesn’t need to be the center of attention on all posts.” — Piera, Digital Marketing Manager (11 Years) “I’d like leaders in the industry to know that patience and understanding comes a long way. Everyone’s journey is different and when you’re working for a well-known company, the pressure alone can take a toll on your mental health. At times, it can feel like you are walking on eggshells. While the work may seem easy enough, pressure comes from all directions, especially for someone in a junior-level role. Trust and believe that your team is doing their best. As more brands are working on integrating their teams to be diverse, equitable and inclusive, don’t forget understanding and patience play an important role in the integration process for your team.” — Anonymous, Social Media Community Manager (1 Year) “Believe it or not, getting a single post out the door requires a lot of effort. When you factor in things like copy, messaging, tracking links, visuals, and timing, on top of everything else going on…it’s a lot. All that said, keep all of this in mind the next time you ask your social media manager to get something up ASAP. We need time to actually read and understand the things you send us to promote.” — Syed, Sr. Social Media Manager (10 Years) “Social media can be an experimentation lab for marketing efforts — don’t be afraid of that. What worked yesterday may not work tomorrow, so don’t get caught up in sticking to one strategy for long periods of time. Also, because social media is always changing, it’s not as “easy” or “unimportant” as many executives still think. Don’t downplay the importance of having a great and properly staffed social media team.” — Dante, Freelance Social Media Strategist (7 years) “Social media is easy to do, but hard to do well. The skills required to be a good social media manager take time and talent to develop. It’s not a job you can just hand to an intern or an entry-level employee with no experience in the field. Your social media manager also has their hand on the pulse of conversations around your brand and can provide valuable insights that can help your brand. Lean on them. Invite them to meetings. Have changes or important announcements coming down the pipe? Your social media manager needs to be one of the first on your team to know. Include them.” — Jon, Freelance Social Media Manager (10 Years) “Organic social media is not a channel to close in on growth marketing goals. It’s a channel and platform used to entertain, educate and empower a community, and your strategy should reflect those objectives.” — Nis, Sr. Social Media Manager (6 Years)
A future where social media professionals can make a sustainable impact on the marketing and advertising industry and ultimately, revolutionize the role of the CMO.
“I hope that as an industry, we take a good look at how we’re affecting people’s mental health and what we can do to make it better. Social media can be addicting, and toxic, but also a beautiful tool to connect people who wouldn’t otherwise be connected, and give a voice to people who wouldn’t otherwise have a platform — so I hope we can find ways to continue the good and fix the bad. Personally, my goals for my career in social are mostly around helping new people break into this industry — I see a future outside of social for myself, but want to help people who are interested in this industry get in and feel welcome.” — Anonymous, Social Media Manager (8 Years) “I decided to pursue a career in social media over a decade ago because I knew it would be the future of marketing and advertising. I’d like to start seeing professionals with extensive social media experience in CMO roles. Social media is arguably the most visible and accessible medium for brands, which means your SMM is an important part of your company. They know audiences and brand voices intimately, I can’t think of a position that is more deserving of an elevated role.” — Azad, Sr. Social Media Manager (11 Years) “My hope for this space is to shine the light on creators and impact-ers who are genuinely creating for the sake of and positively shifting the culture.” — Kadeem, Social Media Strategist (6 Years) “I hope social media marketing isn’t seen as a specialist role. Social touches a little bit of everything: PR, crisis management, packaging — and yes, even legal. To put it in a box under digital would be such a disservice to the role and the person. I hope leaders are keeping this in mind to help the individual in the social role expand beyond just their social media role and be better suited to be a CMO someday.” — Julian, Marketing and Social Media Manager (3 Years) “I would like to see social media get a seat at the decision-making table when it comes to any and all marketing communications. We are the voice of your brand and first in a line of any interaction considering they all almost come from social in this day and age. It’s the fastest way to communicate and fix things. It saves brands from falling apart and also makes them more relatable. Your audience sees your social content every day unlike any other marketing channel’s efforts — they deserve the respect and resources as other departments. Social is not just an afterthought, it’s in the center with a bright spotlight on it — everything we do is not only watched by the entire audience but also the entire company. I can’t wait for the social team to get their own C-suite title!” — Chi, Head of Content Marketing & Social (6 Years) “I would like to work for a brand that understands social media for all that it can do and embraces the complexity of it all. Additionally, I want to do work at a place where I can learn from my managers and enhance my knowledge of the field. In jobs where I’ve grown the most, I’ve had boss’s that helped me expand my knowledge of the industry. As a result, I’ve realized that in order to grow in any career you need bit of mentorship from your boss and team. Most of what I know of social media is self-taught, so I’m always looking to learn from a manager or team how to keep learning and growing in the field.” — Ejolee, Social Media Director (4 Years)
Whether it’s today, Social Media Day, or any other day, the work of a social media professional never stops. It’s an ongoing, around-the-clock job that requires vision, strategy, and a genuine love for brand and community. So, before hiring your next social media manager or strategist, consider the following:
…and don’t forget, show a social media manager some love. They do have the passwords to your accounts, after all. ????