Learning how to become a social media manager can lead to a flexible, exciting, and fast-paced job that you can do from home. But not that long ago, social media manager was virtually a non-existent role.
These days, social media managers are in high demand everywhere from large companies to solopreneurs, like bloggers or consultants. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are a massive part of a brand's marketing strategy, and social media managers can help business owners leverage those platforms to increase their exposure.
What’s great about learning how to become a social media manager is that you don’t need a degree to work most social media management jobs from home. It does require working knowledge and the ability to find clients, but that’s exactly what I’m going to help you with today.
A social media manager is the person responsible for executing and supervising a brand’s presence across social media platforms. They take one message, spread it across multiple platforms, and ensure that message comes across as a cohesive voice.
Social media managers have a variety of responsibilities:
- Setting up social media accounts
- Scheduling posts – updates, sales information, blog posts, etc.
- Replying to comments and customer issues
- Creating images for posts
- Implementing a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy
- Reporting and analyzing data on traffic, reach, growth, etc.
- Running ads
- Moderating private Facebook groups
- Developing a brand identity
- Ensuring brand consistency in images, logos, and other visuals
Their jobs are part public relations, part marketing, and part customer service because a social media manager is often in charge of the public face or voice of a company’s marketing plan.
If you’ve ever felt like a brand has an online persona, that’s the work of a good social media manager.
IMO, trolling other companies, like Old Spice and Taco Bell have done, would be the best part of being a social media manager.
Your exact social media manager job description will depend on the platform(s) you’re managing, your clients, and their marketing needs.
It’s a fast-paced job because social media managers have to respond to real-time comments and issues in a rapidly changing landscape. And a good social media manager will be able to quickly adapt and implement changes.
If you want to become a social media manager you need more than just a casual knowledge of social media platforms. You need to be an expert for your clients.
Fortunately, the accessibility of social media platforms means you can master them by creating and growing your own social media presence. Your social media profiles can act as a portfolio for your skills, and you can learn a lot of the most valuable skills, like interpreting analytical data, by working on your own account.
Start by creating an account on each of the major platforms – think Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. But also think about which platforms you want to work on or where your ideal clients are. Maybe you want to work with a younger demographic on TikTok or a more professional base on LinkedIn.
You don’t need to master every platform at once. You can focus on mastering one at a time and then move to the next one when you feel comfortable.
As you’re creating your own social media presence, work on these things:
Think of yourself as a brand – be consistent across all platforms with logos, colors, slogans, images, and messaging.
Your spelling, punctuation, and grammar need to be on point. Grammarly can be a huge help.
Respond to comments, like other people’s posts, retweet, share stories, etc. You’re trying to build your own following, so engage with other users.
2. Get good at time management
Social media is set up to draw you in and keep you scrolling, which isn’t ideal if you’re there to get work done. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve opened up Facebook to post something in my M$M group but have found myself mindlessly scrolling 30 minutes later.
That habit is something you’ll have to break ASAP if you want to become a professional social media manager. You’re there to work.
A social media manager job requires you to be good at multitasking. Some days you’ll have ten tabs open, trying to quickly respond to comments while sending a DM, all while trying to run analytics.
That might be an exaggeration, but you will have a lot going on at the same time and you can’t get lost.
To get better at time management, focus on prioritizing the tasks with the highest importance. You can also set time limits for yourself and take small breaks when you need to.
One thing that’s helped me the most is starting my day with high-level tasks, saving monotonous and less important work for the afternoon. Science suggests the morning is the best time for the most time consuming and high-level work.
3. Understand how algorithms work
Social media algorithms sort posts in users’ feeds and prioritize some content over others. Each social media platform has a slightly different algorithm, and it will be your job as a social media manager to know how to leverage them for your clients.
One of the best ways to do that is to engage your client’s audience. Focus on creating engaging content that gets likes, comments, and shares. Algorithms love content that engages people, and posts with more engagement get pushed to the top of people’s feeds.
Learning how to tag other accounts and use the right hashtags is important too. There are even factors like the day and time you share and how often that affect whether or not your content is seen.
For example, according to engagement research done by Sprout Social, Wednesday at 3 p.m. EST is the best time for posting consumer goods on Instagram. But Friday at 9 a.m. EST is better for media companies.
Social media algorithms have also gotten really good at spotting content that feels spammy. Posts that are obviously transactional – think: “BUY NOW!” – don’t do well.
Algorithms are kind of controversial because they impact whose content gets seen, but the reality is that they exist and you need to understand how they work.
4. Keep up with the industry
The social media industry is constantly changing. There are new platforms, algorithms change, trends, and more. One of the reasons becoming a social media manager is so fast-paced because you have to keep up with an ever-shifting landscape.
To stay up-to-date on things, you can:
- Follow Social Media Today and Social Media Examiner – these two sites regularly publish articles about the state of the industry and trends
- Subscribe to podcasts specifically about social media, like Social Media Today and The Next Web Daily Dose
- Follow social media gurus on Twitter, like Mashable (@mashable/social-media) and TechCrunch (@techcrunch)
Social media managers are known for finding and using opportunities to create engaging and timely content. Use the holidays, sporting events, awards shows, and even election season (if you’re okay with getting political on your page).
When you start working with clients, you’ll need to be aware of industry or niche-specific seasonal events. For example, back-to-school time will be important for those working in the parenting niche.
Social media managers are also good at creating opportunities for engagement. You can host AMAs (ask me anything), use Twitter to host weekly conversations about one of your hobbies, use Facebook Live to give real-time reactions to TV shows, etc.
Creating opportunities is something you can start doing now to promote engagement even with a small audience on your own account. You can document everything and add it to your portfolio to show prospective clients.
6. Be ready to adapt and learn
I’ve talked about how the social media landscape is constantly changing and that you’ll need to keep up with everything. But to become a social media manager, you need to go even farther and be ready to learn new things.
It’s really easy to stick with what you know, but the industry changes too much to stay comfortable all the time.
There could be new technology and services you need to learn how to use. It could be video editing software for TikTok, analytics tools, or post scheduling services like Tailwind for Pinterest or Buffer Publish.
Being open to new things is in the best interest of your client, and it ensures your relevancy and value.
7. Become a customer service pro
More and more people are turning to social media to contact brands for general customer service issues. Instead of calling or emailing, they @ the brand’s social media account and expect to be heard.
Social media is convenient for customers, so you might spend a lot of your time fielding questions or complaints. And because these conversations are happening on public social media sites, how you respond can impact how your brand is seen.
In a study done by Sprout Social, 50% of consumers said they would boycott a brand over a poor response. 41% said they would share their experience publicly.
It’s clear how important good customer service is with social media management, and the best thing you can do is be calm and empathetic.
One way the social media teams for big brands handle things is by developing a customer service voice and tone guide. Creating a framework for communications can help social media managers figure out how to switch between funny posts or tweets and conciliatory ones to deal with customer issues.
8. Learn how to collect and analyze data
Social media managers rely on data to tell them if their strategies are working or not. You’ll need to know how to use data to your advantage, and how to interpret it for your clients.
Most platforms require you to have a business account before you can start looking at analytics, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start learning about the different kinds of data and insights you’ll be looking at.
Here are some of the key performance indicators (KPIs) you’ll need to understand as a social media manager:
- New followers
- URL clicks
- Keyword analysis
- Hashtag usage
That just scratches the surface. Each platform you use will offer different insights and metrics to track.
9. Follow brands you admire
If there are brands you would love to work with, start following them on social media. Keep an eye on what they’re doing, what kind of effect it has on their audience, and look for opportunities to improve.
You can learn a lot by watching other social media accounts, but it also presents the possibility for work in the future. Think about what you can bring to the table, and when you feel confident and have honed your skills, reach out to them.
10. Clean up your accounts
I’ve talked a bit about using your personal social media accounts as a way to learn how to become a social media manager, but don’t forget about the cringey and potentially problematic things that might be lurking on your personal page.
Everything you share on social media, especially as you become a social media manager, has the potential to make people feel something. A lot of the time it’s really good stuff, like making someone laugh or smile, but it can go the opposite direction too.
You can do a personal audit on your social media accounts by:
- Google yourself and see what pops up to see what kind of information is available and where.
- Delete profiles and pages from old and outdated platforms (think MySpace).
- If you don’t want everything public, consider creating a personal account and setting it to private.
- Consider deleting posts that involve things you would be embarrassed if a work colleague saw – this could include posts about drug use, alcohol, or just any negative and mean-spirited comments, etc.
11. Get into the think-before-you-post mindset
You may have some serious “what the heck was I thinking!?” thoughts as you go through and clean up your accounts. Let that be a reminder that you always, always, always need to think before you post.
Think about how each of your posts will come across to your audience. You’re training yourself for when you start working with clients, and it’s good to get into that mindset before you’re working for anyone.
Even well-intentioned professional social media managers make mistakes on occasion, like this one below from Chase Bank.
Chase thought they were being clever, but many people saw it as the bank teasing its customers and coming off as completely out of touch. It only got worse when Senator Elizabeth Warren dunked on the tweet.
While I understand what Chase was trying to do, they definitely missed the mark. Eventually, Chase responded with this:
That had to be a bad day for Chase’s social media management team, but it’s a good teaching moment for anyone who wants to learn how to become a social media manager.
You may make a mistake on behalf of your clients, and you need to be ready to correct the situation to protect your client’s brand and your business.
12. Do some volunteer work
One way to bolster your portfolio is to volunteer your social media services. You could offer to run the social media accounts for your kid’s school or a local non-profit organization.
You’ll benefit from the real-world experience of running someone else’s account, and they benefit from having someone motivated and growth-minded at the helm.
13. Create a website
Your clients are probably going to find you on social media, but creating a website is where they will learn more about you and your services. Here’s what your website should include:
- Short bio: Give potential clients a chance to get to know and start connecting with you.
- Links to your social media accounts: If they found you on Facebook, you want to give them a chance to see what you can do on other platforms.
- Contact information: Make it easy for potential clients to contact you. Either include your email address or a contact form (WordPress has a free easy-to-use contact form widget).
- Service packages: This is a list of the service options you offer. Listing three, from basic to comprehensive is a good place to start. I’ll explain more about this in the next section.
There are tons of different services you can offer, and the best way to list your services is by creating a series of packages. Each package will contain different kinds of services, starting with the most basic ones.
Here’s an example of three different service packages you can offer:
- Content only: Provide content (and only content) services on one platform, with a set number of posts per day, week, or month. This could be daily Instagram posts, 3 posts per week on Facebook, etc.
- Content and interaction: In addition to posting content, you interact with followers by commenting, liking, retweeting, or sharing their content or interactions. Interaction would also be based on a certain number of times per day, week, or month.
- Outreach: This package helps your client gain new followers, partners, and media attention.
- Strategy: Researching analytics and providing your clients with reports, tweaking things as needed, and constantly working to grow.
You can come up with names for each service, like Level I, II, and III, or Silver, Gold, and Platinum. How you structure and name your packages is up to you, but make sure that you’re clear about what each package includes.
When you set the price for your packages, make sure you are considering how much time and work it takes. There are things you can automate – for example, you can write posts in advance and schedule them. Think about how much time you’ll spend on research, strategizing, and changes.
Once you gain more experience, you can start offering a la carte services like product photos, blog posts, Facebook ads, etc.
When you’re first learning how to become a social media manager, you’ll want to balance your experience with the value you’re bringing to your clients. Don’t undervalue yourself and what you can bring to the table.
Once you’ve got your website up and running and have hammered out details on what services you’ll offer, now it’s time to find some clients. Below are some of the best ways to find your first social media management clients.
Pitching is probably the fastest way to gain your first freelance clients. You should start by identifying some potential clients, getting to know their brand, and then coming up with an idea of how you can help them.
Then write a cold email that explains what you can do for them. The email should be crafted just for that client because you want to show that you know who they are. And it can be really simple:
Dear Bobby Hoyt,
Hi, my name is _________, and I’m a social media manager. I’ve been following your blog for a while, and I love how you’re helping people gain control of their money. I wanted to talk to you about how I can help you grow your social media presence.
If you’re interested in learning more, please get in touch.
This email cuts right to the chase and tells me that the person has done a little background research. Make sure to include your social media handles and your website. There are lots of great cold email formulas and templates online if you want more ideas.
The internet has made it much easier to network with others in your field or in niches you’d like to work with. There are conferences and Facebook groups for nearly every industry. You can find these networking opportunities with a little research, and then start getting to know the people you’d like to work with.
You never want to come off as spammy. Be genuine and helpful, and you’ll start finding some leads.
Use job websites
Fiverr is a good place to start finding freelance clients. You can create a profile and start listing your services for free. You can even create custom bids for clients who contact you. Fiverr does take a cut of what you make through the site, but it’s a way to start building your client list.
Because social media keeps changing – algorithms, policies, new platforms, etc. – you’ll have to keep growing your knowledge base. Stagnation is going to be the biggest downfall for a social media manager.
Fortunately, there is a lot you can learn on your own. You can build your knowledge using your own accounts, through courses, and by good old fashioned research.