Crafting Your Digital Destiny: How to Become a Social Media Manager

Last updated May 15, 2024

They say if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. So, if you love spending time on social media, why not turn that into your career? Before you laugh about the plausibility of social media as an actual career, consider these statistics.

  • According to SproutSocial, 90% of leaders agree their company’s success will depend on how effectively it can use social media data and insights to inform business strategy.
  • More than 2 in 5 (44%) business leaders estimate their social media budget will increase by more than 50% in the next three years.
  • In 2012, roughly 12,000 active social media managers were in the workforce. In 2022, there were over 60,000. 

Suffice it to say that social media as a career is growing steadily, and there’s room for many more social media managers in the industry as social media tactics take over traditional forms of marketing and advertising, especially for reaching younger consumer audiences. 

In the digital age, social media is more important than ever, especially when trying to capture the attention of millennial-aged consumers and younger. Thus, the demand for skilled social media managers will be constant over the coming years.

If you’re ready to jump into this exciting career, this guide will help you learn how to become a social media manager, what makes a good social media manager, and more.

The journey to becoming a social media manager

A social media manager is responsible for leading the strategy, content creation and community management of a brand’s social media presence. Social media managers are typically members of a company’s marketing or advertising teams, though they can also work independently.

In today’s business landscape, where brand awareness and online sales are top business goals, social media is the perfect place for people to see and engage with brands. If a brand wants to reach the most people where they spend the most time, it’s social media.

According to the Global WebIndex, over 62% of the world’s population uses social media for an average daily usage of 2 hours and 23 minutes.

If you’re ready to learn how to become a social media manager, consider these steps your starting point.

  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree in marketing, communications or advertising.
  2. Demonstrate an understanding of all social media platforms and best practices.
  3. Gain social media experience through an internship, club or job.
  4. Create a portfolio of your work and experience.
  5. Apply for marketing-related jobs in social media as an entry-level social media professional.
  6. As you gain experience in your career, you may work from social media coordinator to social media manager to social media director and beyond.

Roles and responsibilities

Before you decide to become a social media manager, consider all of the roles and responsibilities related to social media as a job. The role includes diverse workplace opportunities, including large corporations, small businesses, government agencies and officials, freelance work and education.

These different industries may require different responsibilities, but the most common duties of a social media manager include:

  • Planning and developing social media campaigns
  • Creating social media content, including videos, images and graphics
  • Analyzing social media performance
  • Researching potential collaborations and partnerships
  • Publishing content to social media platforms
  • Managing social media advertisements
  • Responding to community comments, questions and private messages

To complete these tasks successfully, specific skills and qualities are needed to excel as a social media manager. Besides a general passion for and interest in social media marketing, other required skills include communication, analysis and creativity. Strategic thinking is helpful when creating campaigns and engaging content, and changing strategies when efforts may not work. Understanding the target audience, storytelling and an eye for photography, videography or graphic design sets great social media managers apart.

Training and education

Training and education are vital to becoming a social media manager. Audience insights, platform best practices and digital analytics don’t come naturally to most. Therefore, education is essential to understanding entry-level knowledge. Similarly, social media is constantly changing, and continuing education through seminars and online courses will ensure your knowledge stays relevant and up-to-date.

Though the position doesn’t always require a college degree, prior knowledge of social media platforms and how they work is suggested. Those who wish to become social media managers can find free courses and training on eLearning platforms such as Meta Blueprint or Skillshare. Some companies may require a bachelor’s degree in business, marketing, communications, advertising or public relations.

While some colleges specifically offer degrees in social media, it’s still a relatively fresh field of study. General fields like marketing, communications and PR will still cover the basics of social media and other related knowledge that will prepare you for your role as a social media manager. This knowledge includes advertising best practices, communication, business law and more.

Developing essential skills

Social media managers constantly develop their skills as social media (and technology) changes quickly and frequently. The critical skills required to become a successful social media manager include:

  • Communication skills: Social media managers must communicate well through writing, graphic design and video. Not only do they need to be comfortable writing captions, but they should also excel at storytelling through copywriting, messaging and design.
  • Social media platform best practices: You must understand the ins and outs of each active social media platform, including who uses them, the types of media allowed, how and when to publish posts and when to use one platform over another. Today’s primary social media platforms are Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, LinkedIn, Snapchat and X.
  • Creativity and design skills: Social media is a very visual marketing platform. Creativity and an eye for design are required to create compelling graphics, photos and videos.
  • Ability to move quickly: Social media moves fast, and trends are significant, though sometimes fleeting. It’s essential to stay on top of pop culture trends, world events and breaking news to adjust content to be relevant or avoid coming across as offensive.
  • Analysis skills: To avoid stagnant growth, social media managers must understand specific social media analytics, what is essential to driving success and how to pivot when messaging or targeting isn’t producing results.

Developing the essential skills to become a social media manager doesn’t come easy. It requires studying, continuous learning and real-world experience. Internships and volunteer opportunities can help you perfect your skills as you earn your degree or plan to switch careers.

Marketing and brand management in social media

Social media management naturally falls into the greater whole of marketing and brand management. Because social media platforms are perceived as a personal extension of a brand, social media managers contribute significantly to the overall brand voice and reputation. Many customers turn to social media first for customer service help, personally messaging the brand for help. And they often expect a real person to respond!

Thus, an effective social media strategy plays a prominent role in contributing to business results. Like other marketing campaigns, such as print or digital advertising, social media managers may develop long-term and short-term strategies and campaigns.

Long-term vs. short-term social media strategies

In the long term, social media strategies focus on building brand awareness and managing the brand reputation. They often rely on reaching new customers and creating a positive sentiment in the market. Often, they are not created to sell products quickly but to ensure future success by building goodwill with current and potential customers.

Short-term social media strategies produce quick business results, such as selling specific products, raising awareness for new product lines or announcing important business news. These campaigns are specific to a product or service but may focus on something other than building general brand awareness with audiences.

As a social media manager, it’s essential to understand the difference in tactics for short-term and long-term strategies. Educating other internal stakeholders on the difference is vital while explaining how social media can contribute.

Career development and professionalism

Learning how to become a social media manager is the first step in creating a successful career path in the industry. Many social media managers have a similar path to climbing the social media career ladder, with similar titles and experience levels.

Here’s the most common career path for social media professionals

(Includes average national salaries)

  • Social media intern ($12.50/hour) – requires 0 years of experience
  • Social media coordinator, associate or specialist ($37,182/year) – requires 1-3 years of experience
  • Social media manager ($44,138/year) – requires 3-5 years of experience
  • Social media community manager ($44,232/year) – requires 4-6 years of experience
  • Social media strategist ($64,198/year) – requires 5-7 years of experience
  • Social media director ($107,934/year) – requires 7+ years of experience

As you progress in your career as a social media manager, you’ll find many career development opportunities to explore. These roles can take you into various departments within marketing and communications, such as the creative department, marketing executive and director-level opportunities or even public relations.

Entry-level positions and opportunities

Entry-level social media positions are in high demand and can offer quick opportunities to move up within a company. The average entry-level social media role earns between $42,000 and $62,000 annually.

For those seeking part-time or entry-level social media manager roles, explore local job boards, LinkedIn job postings and your personal network. Because of the high demand for social media managers, many companies continuously hire more staff to add to their teams.

Crafting effective social media strategies and campaigns

As a social media manager, an essential aspect of your job will be to plan strategic social media campaigns and effective communication strategies. To stand out among your competitors, you must be able to develop creative, unique ways of selling your brand. It’s important to avoid following the crowd or copying too closely to others in the market; standing out on social media is essential for success.

It’s also essential to understand all aspects of your audience. Your social media content efforts may not reach the intended customers if you don’t understand your target audience, where they spend their time, how they speak, what resonates with them and what makes them take action. For example, if you aim to target high school and college students, TikTok may be the platform for you, rather than Facebook.

Social media marketing expertise

Thanks to the technology aspect of social media marketing, the landscape is constantly evolving and changing daily. Trends come and go, platform algorithms update and content preferences change as audiences age. As generative AI and VR rise in popularity and technology changes to meet the demand, the social media industry will be required to adapt to new media. Social media platforms will soon integrate AI and VR for all users, and social media professionals must stay up-to-date with the latest technology. 

Staying ahead

To stay ahead in the field while developing expertise and relevance, paying attention to social media news is essential. Social Media Today is an industry favorite for all the latest platform updates and trends. Many social media professionals subscribe to marketing newsletters, such as The Daily Carnage and marketing conferences, such as Social Media Marketing World, provide continuing education and networking opportunities.

Now that you know how to become a social media manager, it’s time to use this knowledge to get your career started! We hope you’re encouraged to embark on the journey, as there are endless opportunities and growth potential within the industry and the marketing field in general.

Before you begin your career, reflecting on your skills and passions is important. Social media managers must have excellent communication skills, a passion for pop culture and marketing trends and analytical prowess to gain results. Creativity, an eye for aesthetics and flexibility are must-have characteristics for the most successful social media professionals.

Many social media managers will find the nature of the profession gratifying – and fun! While the job responsibilities can be entertaining and exciting, the ever-changing environment will keep you on your toes. Those who enjoy change and dynamic environments will love working in social media! 

Explore programs

To get started as a social media manager, explore college degree programs such as the Marketing track of the Business Administration major at Furman University. You can also explore online courses, such as free Meta Blueprint, earn certifications from LinkedIn and gain experience through various entry-level positions near you.

The perspectives and thoughts shared in the Furman Blog belong solely to the author and may not align with the official stance or policies of Furman University. All referenced sources were accurate as of the date of publication.