Social media marketing is a fast-growing industry. Most companies recognize the need for a social media presence as an essential part of a strong digital strategy to engage their audiences. Social media marketing skills are in high demand, and the salary range for a social media manager position in the U.S. spans between $40,000 to $72,000. Businesses in almost every industry need a social media presence, and the average social media manager salary sits at $51,000, making this a lucrative career choice.

If you want to work in a social media manager position, you’ll need to learn creative and technical skills that go a bit beyond adding a filter to an Instagram pic or sharing a video. Social media management requires a blend of creativity, emotional intelligence, technical savvy, and an ability to learn and react quickly. You must be able to post strategically on behalf of a brand in a way that aligns with the holistic marketing goals of the business and provides real value and entertainment to their target audience.

Working with social media channels can be rewarding. You get to help propel a company toward achieving its goals, interact with diverse personalities all day long, and craft marketing messages to impact consumers’ lives.

If you are interested in landing a social media manager job or similar role, here are 11 steps to building your expertise and acquiring the skills needed for a position in social media marketing.

1. Get familiar with social media platforms

Beyond a basic knowledge of popular social media platforms, a social media manager needs to be well-versed in how to best use each platform, strategies for building a following, and the type of content that performs well on each one.

The same content doesn’t perform well on Twitter as it does on Instagram or TikTok. You will need to familiarize yourself with the type of content and formats that work best (text, images, video, etc.) and the subject matter and tone of well-received content for the different platforms.

Employers will want to see that you can provide verifiable results on multiple platforms, meaning you need a strong understanding of the metrics that matter on various social networks. You should be able to identify metrics — such as followers, likes, and shares — explain how they are tracked, and how best to optimize a social media strategy with these metrics in mind.

Is it more important to strive for “followers” or “likes” on a company Instagram post? Do “replies” and “retweets” count with equal weight for a brand’s Twitter visibility, or do they have different value to marketing success? Understand how to optimize hashtags, titles, and metadata for posting on different platforms to expand your reach and improve each post’s success.

It is imperative to understand how to best utilize the most relevant social networks to your employer’s advantage.

2. Build up your writing skills

Writing is a regular part of social media management. A social media manager is a communicator at the core, working primarily with written and visual content to share it and make it visible across online channels. 

Creating engaging content is one of the most crucial methods for connecting with consumers on social media platforms. When done well, content marketing allows a brand to provide valuable information that consumers want and foster a positive relationship with their audience to build loyalty and customer retention. Social media platforms allow brands to interact directly with their consumers, and high-quality content fuels those interactions.

You should have a keen understanding of blogging best practices and writing styles, such as voice and tone, and how to research content topics and formats relevant to a company and its target audience.

Capturing the right writing style for your brand is key. Consumers want to be engaged. They want to feel there is someone at the other end of the line. If your messages sound too much like advertising or feature a pushy or scripted tone, it could be very off-putting to the target audience. Consumers look for feelings of authenticity, trust, and relatability from brands on social networks. Practice writing conversationally, with a tone that’s welcoming and professional without feeling too stiff.

3. Learn broader marketing skills

The goals and tactics of social media marketing go beyond the social feed. A social media manager’s job closely links content and email marketing, traditional marketing, customer service, and even sales. You will need a basic understanding of marketing, customer service, and sales strategies, as well as the goals and metrics for these roles.

To land a job as a social media manager, you’ll need to display an ability to connect your social media strategy to the business’s broader marketing goals. So, you should be familiar with the goals that digital marketers work toward, including website traffic, lead generation, search engine optimization (SEO), and more. 

It’s also essential to understand content marketing, so you can leverage content created for the web, email, and other digital channels to promote across the right social channels. Learn how to build a social media calendar, plan social campaigns, and connect it to a broader content calendar or editorial calendar. Ideally, a social media strategy can leverage resources from the brand’s content marketing strategy and vice versa.

Building your general marketing knowledge will not only help you tie your social media efforts to a company’s overarching marketing strategy, but it will also enable you to prove the value of your work to your executives. With a strong understanding of marketing and sales metrics, you’ll be able to speak to the ways your social media strategy impacts business goals, such as increasing customer retention and loyalty, driving sales, and generating revenue.

4. Pursue social media education

Earning a degree in communications or marketing can go a long way toward landing a job as a social media manager. That said, you don’t need a formal degree to pursue a career path in social media marketing.

Whether or not you have a degree, you can enhance your social media education through online courses on Udemy. Look for courses that can earn you certifications you can display on your resume and online portfolio. You can also find plenty of free resources online for self-directed learning.

The bottom line is employers want to see that you have an in-depth knowledge of social media tactics and how to optimize a brand’s presence across digital channels. Whether you’re self-educated or college-educated, you can land a role in social media if you can display your skills and knowledge.

5. Create an online portfolio to show employers

When you’re interviewing for a creative role, such as social media marketing, it helps to have samples of your work you can show during an interview. Take some time to build your online portfolio, showcasing social media posts and accounts you’ve managed, blogs you’ve written for, or digital content you’ve created.

Don’t forget that projects you’ve done as coursework can shine in your portfolio too. The goal is to showcase your creativity and ability to master the multi-faceted aspects of social media management. Connect your portfolio to your social profiles to show your firsthand experience in managing various platforms. 

You should be able to easily pull up your portfolio during a job interview or link to it in a job application. Make it easy for employers to find it so they can see for themselves that you’ve got what it takes to manage their social presence and help them reach their goals.

6. Market yourself as a brand

If you don’t yet have enough work experience to fill out an online portfolio, start your own blog or use your social media accounts to share content and build a following.

Whether you choose to start a side-hustle or use your personal accounts to build your own individual brand, you don’t need to wait for your first job to create work you can show off. 

Consider setting up a blog and email marketing platform yourself, and leverage those to create and share content on your own social media channels. Build a following on the social platforms that are most relevant to the companies you’d like to work with. That way, you can see what kind of following and tone they use, so you can practice your skills in optimizing strategies.

This will not only build out your online portfolio, but it also shows off your ability to market yourself, which is a crucial skill for any good marketer (or any modern professional, for that matter).

7. Volunteer to gain experience and portfolio work

Your online portfolio of work experience doesn’t necessarily need to be paid work. Remember, volunteer work is just as “real” as projects you’ve been paid for, and they are equally valuable to potential employers as an example of what you can do. 

If you have the time and resources, consider volunteering for a local nonprofit or an organization with a cause you feel connected to. Offer to help manage one or more of its social media accounts or create content it can use across social platforms. Track and save everything you work on for it to add to your work samples.

Nonprofits are often under-resourced, particularly in marketing and advertising, so they are likely to welcome an offer to help spread awareness and build engagement for their mission. This can be a great way to help out a worthy cause, test your social media skills in the “real world” through a brand that matters to you, and gain portfolio work that shows off your skills.

8. Follow brands that inspire you

Seek out and follow the social media accounts of brands you’d love to work for (even if they feel out of reach), companies in similar industries, and businesses you support and engage with on social media.

Watch what they post and pay close attention to which type of content gets more attention or engagement from their following. How have they set up their social media profiles? Try to identify specific marketing campaigns they are running — how do they differ at different times of the year? Which posts see the least engagement? This is a great way to continue your own self-guided education by trying to identify what you feel is and isn’t working about their strategies and why. 

Following brands can help inspire your social media work, give you fresh ideas, and identify examples of what to avoid. Plus, if your favorite brands post a job opening, you’ll know about it.

9. Stay in the loop and learn constantly

To succeed in social media marketing, you must have a love for learning. The landscape of social media changes as often as the ocean tides, driven by consumer sentiment and interests. The particular platforms that are popular with consumers rise and fall quickly — and with every change in consumer social media behavior comes a change in the tools and strategies that brands use to schedule posts, manage their social calendar, and promote themselves.

To succeed in a social media manager job, you must be continually learning. Stay well versed in the latest social media management tools and technologies; the social platforms your target audience spends the most time on; and your consumers’ interests, needs, and challenges. Read up on the latest software tools for scheduling posts, managing multi-channel social campaigns, tracking social media metrics, and more.

As a social media marketer, you must also stay up to date with news and current events. A large part of your job is sharing, commenting on, and keeping up with the latest news that matters to your industry and audience. Build time into your schedule to read news and follow your target audience’s channels so you can stay tapped into what matters most to them.

10. Hone your emotional intelligence

Successful social media managers not only have technical skills and marketing knowledge, but they also need a far less tangible quality: emotional intelligence. While part of your role will include optimizing social profiles, tracking metrics, and planning calendars, a major aspect of your role involves responding to users who comment or engage with your brand’s social content and keeping a sharp focus on the tone and message your brand puts out into the world.

If you approach social media marketing from a strictly analytical mindset, you risk inadvertently upsetting your audience. You can accidentally do this with an ill-placed remark, an insensitive joke, or content that comes off as tone-deaf to your target market. Even brands with large social media teams that work hard to refine their message have made missteps. An excellent social media manager has a strong understanding of their audience’s social expectations and will examine every post for relatability and sensitivity before sharing. 

A social media manager is well versed in what you can and cannot share. Not every bit of information is meant to be conveyed to the world. You have to have an awareness of and respect for your audience members and your company’s privacy. Certain things, such as regulatory issues, hiring practices, or individual vendors, are not usually meant for public knowledge. When in doubt, follow the adage: Less is more.

Brands rely on their social media experts to look out for and catch potentially sensitive, private, or otherwise distasteful content to prevent alienating their target audience or falling into a brand reputation crisis.

11. Be willing to experiment

Employers often want a social media manager who doesn’t need to be micromanaged. More than that, they usually look for someone who can advise the company on new trends, strategies, and best practices for their social media marketing.

Social media is a fast-moving landscape. The marketers who are willing to innovate and try new ideas are often rewarded with consumer engagement and a reputation for being in touch with the public. Because social media marketing takes place entirely online with real-time data available, it’s relatively easy to test out a strategy and pivot if it’s not working well.

In a social media manager position, your company will look to you to help identify new avenues to acquire customers, expand their market, and engage existing customers more deeply. You should be willing to collaborate with fellow marketers at your company and think outside of the box to develop fresh strategies and ideas for consumer engagement.

Ready to take the first step in becoming a social media manager?

As social media marketing continues to rise as the main avenue for businesses to foster connections with their audiences, employment in this field will likely continue to rise as well. If you want a job in a fast-paced tech field that combines analytics and optimization with social engagement and people skills, social media management may be your dream role.

Check out some of Udemy’s social media marketing courses to start learning the skills needed to become a top-notch social media manager.

Page Last Updated: December 2020

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