What Skills Do I Need to Be a Social Media Manager?

Like any senior marketing role, a good social media manager needs a wide range of skills to allow them to create engaging content that converts as many of their followers as possible into loyal customers.

If you're an aspiring social media manager but you're not sure where to start, this blog will help you to identify the essential skills you should hone for a successful career in social media management.

What is a Social Media Manager?

Typically, a social media manager is the person within an organization who is trusted with monitoring, executing, filtering and measuring the social media presence of a product, brand, corporation or even individual. Social media managers are often called the “voice of the company.” The social media manager role may also be referred to as “community manager” (though this title has become slightly outdated). Before the internet, the most similar role was “public relations representative.”

What Do Social Media Managers Do?

Social media managers create and maintain brand promotions, company information and marketing campaigns for their company across several different social media networks. They also monitor social media analytics using free or paid tools and respond to questions and comments according to the company’s voice and guidelines. Social media managers work daily to produce new content for their companies, constantly innovating to push new ideas and formats and measuring how well those ideas perform.

Social media managers may report to a social media director (in larger organizations) or the head of content or brand. They work with other creative groups such as marketing and public relations, as well as the legal department, to coordinate campaigns with ongoing company initiatives and execute current marketing campaigns. A social media manager is expected to keep up with new trends and company and industry news.

Social media manager positions typically require a bachelor’s degree in marketing, public relations or similar. According to Glassdoor, social media managers earn an average salary of $47,000 in the U.S.

This infographic from Meltwater shows all of the tasks that a social media manager might do in one day. 

A day in the life of a social media manager. Credit: Meltwater

Every day, a social media manager might be responsible for setting the strategy for an upcoming product launch, creating a video,,designing gifs, coordinating messaging with internal communications teams, running paid advertisements and more. 

7 Skills You Need to be a Great Social Media Manager

Now that you know what the role of social media manager involves, here are some of the skills you’ll need to do your best in this role. 

  1. Copywriting

Social media managers do a lot of writing, sometimes more than a dozen posts each day. Each different social network requires a slightly different style of writing. Linkedin, for example, requires a more professional tone, while Facebook is more light and fun. SEO copywriting knowledge is also helpful. (More on this later!) You must be able to create messages that are quickly understood by your brand’s audience and promote a positive sentiment for the brand. As Forbes explains, your social media manager “will be communicating with customers on a daily basis – and 99 percent of this communication will be in writing.” Some important types of writing include:

  • Short and effective headline writing
  • Engaging introductions
  • Structuring text for easy only reading. (Because consumers will be skimming and scanning, subtitles, bullet points and numbering are absolutely necessary!)

2. Research

Social media managers must stay up-to-date with the ever-changing world of social and digital media, the new measurement tools others are using and what competitors are posting on a daily basis.Great social media managers set up G o ogle Alerts on popular topics and use tools like Feedly and BuzzSumo to keep up with trending content. The Twitter Trends sidebar and Facebook Trending sidebar are also useful areas, and hashtag research can help, too..Here are some current trends that you’ll want to track:

  • The rise and role of mobile
  • The emergence of “pay to play” with Facebook how it reduces organic reach
  • The rise of visual marketing on platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest

3. SEO Knowledge

Though SEO is often considered a separate department within organizations, it should have a large amount of influence on other areas of the organization, particularly content and social media. In fact, according to Hootsuite, SEO has great impact on your social media strategy. A great social media manager knows this and strives to always optimize content on social networks with SEO in mind. When you embrace SEO as part of your social media strategy, you attract a larger audience, leading to more potential customers. As Forbes explains, “content is the cornerstone of your SEO strategy, and your social media manager is the gatekeeper and promoter of much of this content.” When thinking about combining SEO and social media, task yourself the following questions:

  • Do you understand the connection between exposure on social media and increased rankings in the SERPs?
  • How will you promote your blog content on social media?
  • Do you know how driving traffic to your company’s website impacts revenue?

4. Social Media Expertise

It may seem obvious, but a social media manager needs to have social media skills. And though these can be learned over time through research and experimentation, if you’re aiming for a job at a large company, you’ll need a few years of experience under your belt. The type of knowledge you’ll need includes:

  • Knowing what type of content works best on what platform
  • Understanding how to optimize content based on platform
  • Ability to engage an audience through social posts

The graphic below shows how consumer sentiment varies based on social media content types. 

Consumer sentiment on brand behaviors on social. Source: SproutSocial

5. Customer Services Skills

When 34.5% of customers refer social media as their customer care option, social media managers need to make sure they have the skills to match. Customers often look to social media accounts for help answering questions about products and services, and if no one is there to answer those questions (even on nights and weekends!), their impressions of that brand will likely sour. As Forbes explains, “A successful social media manager knows that your social media presence is your brand’s face online; that everything they say or do on social media is a representation of the brand – for good or for bad.”

People's top choice for customer care. Source: SproutSocial

Here are some stats on the importance of customer service and social media from a great infographic from Help Scout. Highlights include:

  • 86 percent of consumers quit doing business with a company because of a bad social media experience.
  • 78 percent of online customers recommend a brand to friends and other contacts after a great customer experience.
  • 80 percent of companies think they are delivering superior customer service, where only 8 percent of customers believe they are.

While the role of social media manager is often defined as 9-to-5, these individuals should be available to respond to comments and questions at any time. Most social media managers keep access to their company accounts on their mobile devices so they can respond when necessary. If there’s no one to take over social media while you’re on vacation or out sick, you may still be on the hook--even when you schedule posts ahead of time.

Sprout Social’s publishing calendar allows you to schedule posts ahead of time and work as a team to make sure no work s duplicated and you’re always covered on your content. Source: SproutSocial

6. Visual Intelligence 

While much of the content you’ll put on social media will be written, visual content is also crucial.The right gif or photo can be shared hundreds, or even thousands of times, and you need to understand the types of images that work well on each social network. It’s valuable for social media managers to have general knowledge of design so that you can create visually appealing graphics to complement your posts. Know Your Meme can be helpful in keeping up with daily development of new memes (if appropriate for your company).

Video is also an important component, so if you can gain skills in that area, it will be extremely helpful. As Hoostsuite explains, a great social media manager will “know great video when they see it, and most importantly have a firm grasp of social video trends and how they fit into each major network. Certain networks, like Vine and live-streaming tools Meerkat and Periscope, also have a far lower expectation of quality, so the average smartphone user can become a video content creator for your brand.”

Struggling with creativity? Try taking some online classes from software companies like Adobe, or check out some local in-person art classes. 

7. Adaptive 

Flexibility is important in any marketing role, but even more so in social media management. The social media landscape moves so quickly that being adaptive is an absolute necessity. It’s not enough to be able to schedule posts. You must be able to try out new features and change things up based on new trends and the continual testing and analytics that you should be running on your posts. Once you have the analytics in front of you, you also need the flexibility to try new things to make your social media work best for you. A/B testing (writing posts in multiple ways, with different images) can help you quickly determine which types of images and copy are working for your company - and which aren’t.

Looking for help in becoming a great social media manager? Our Specialist Diploma is Social Media Marketing can help, or take things further and go for your Professional Diploma in Digital Marketing.