Priya Sharma Shaikh
Demystifying Careers: What does a Social Media Manager do?
The word 'proliferate' means to grow quickly in large numbers. This is not an article on English Literature but I felt it essential to share the exact meaning of the word because of its very relevant use in the next sentence. If there is one role that has proliferated in the last few years, it’s that of a Social Media Manager. You got that right ... it is almost like a buzz phrase of sorts!
And I'm not kidding when I make that claim. To prove my point I urge you to do a cursory search for the role on any job portal and TA DA ... the screen will be flooded with hundreds of openings for the role of a social media manager or for social media marketing, both of which are used interchangeably by companies and recruiters.
This is the first in a series of articles focused on demystifying job roles.
WHAT IS THE JOB ABOUT?
As the name suggests, social media executives or managers are responsible for managing the social media accounts of companies and brands. Last few years have seen a boom in the usage of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest and others and brands have been leveraging the reach of these platforms to promote themselves. This involves communicating their brand ethos, creating awareness about their products/services, promoting them using offers and contests, engaging the customer to get product feedback and responding to customer queries and complaints as fast as possible.
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Social media executives usually start with managing one or more of a brand’s social media accounts. This involves creating content for updates and posting them online on a regular basis. While this sounds pretty straight forward, there are nuances to the job that you learn only from experience. Brands use social media for various ends and that affects their strategy online. As a social media executive you need to know who the target audience is and you need to be able to write good copy. Updates also include images, videos and GIF’s and while most brands might have a separate team creating these, as the person-in-charge for the platform you need to know what will work and what won’t.
The role might also involve paid promotions, which would require a quantitative bent of mind to go with the creative sensibility required for managing a page. Platforms like Facebook provide an easy-to-use back end for promotions, which can be mastered relatively quickly. Over time, you’ll need to develop a sense of what to promote, to and how much to spend on any given target audience.
Media agencies usually segregate the roles for page management and paid promotions so you don’t have to do both at the same time. However, if you are working in a start-up or even in a bigger organization where the Social Media team is a part of the overall marketing team, chances are that you will be doing both.
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGER
The day usually starts with a look at the previous day’s performance. Most companies will have a standard framework to measure and compare the effectiveness of their communication. There will be key metrics (like reach, impressions, cost per impression, engagement rate, conversion %, ROI) that you’ll have to track on a daily basis.
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Once you have the report, you’ll be able to see what went right and what didn’t. This is when you start with creating and scheduling your posts for the day. You may decide to change or edit the posts you are promoting based on their performance. Chances are that you have a fixed schedule of content that needs to go up on various platforms. This schedule too will drive your content creation.
If there’s a separate team creating images, GIF’s or videos, you’ll have to follow up with them. If you don’t have that luxury, you end up creating or finding content on your own. This content will have to be ably supported by the right copy.
There are various apps online like Buffer and Hootsuite to help you schedule and monitor your posts in one place. If you work in a media agency, there’s a good chance that you will be on the phone co-ordinating with unhappy clients pushing you to get better results on their promotions. There will be presentations to be made to clients or your seniors on a regular basis. These will either be about the performance of previous campaigns or pitches for more client business. Even if you don’t work in an agency, you will still have to present these to your marketing or business heads.
Social media management requires you to be on top of what’s happening around. You never know what can be used to the advantage of your brand. So you will be online all day monitoring trends and news. Comments and complaints on your accounts will need to be immediately responded to. Hopefully there will be set protocols for doing that, but either ways you will have to be prompt as well as tactful.
Reading up on developments in the field is important not just for your work but for your own career development. Social media is an extremely dynamic space with platforms evolving at break-neck speed. You need to be on top of that. Most people won’t be able to take the time out to read, but any one invested in his/her career will do it. The importance of time-management cannot be over-emphasized. Unless you prioritize your tasks to be done, you will be lost in a maze of work.
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The day will typically end with a final look at the paid promotions running online to check their performance and see if anything needs to be changed. Truth be said, this is a 24x7 job, which means you could be tracking performance all the time on your smartphone.
THE SKILLS SET NEEDED
Social media executives need to have a good aesthetic sensibility, be able to write good copy, be conversant with Photoshop, and be internet and social media savvy.
While these are the basic skills necessary, you have to acquire more if you wish to grow in the role. Good social media managers should develop an ability to discern trends and analyze situations to leverage them for the brand’s benefit. There are times when you need to think fast on your feet. Coming up with creative solutions to leverage the platforms is an essential part of the social media manager’s job.
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Like I said above, paid promotions need an ability to make sense of numbers. As you go up the hierarchy, this ability will be tested. Another ability that you’ll have to develop is the ability to deal patiently with clients and work with them to solve or achieve campaign objectives. When you start leading teams, you will need team-management skills as well as the ability to pitch for and bring in new business.
POSSIBLE CAREER PROGRESSION
You usually start with managing a social media page or an account for a client or a brand. Depending on how fast you learn and how fast the brand grows, things could change very fast. But also beware that there are a lot of people out there working as hard, if not harder. Competition is intense.
There’s no standard rule here, but with 2-4 years of experience, you might upgrade to managing accounts, doing paid promotions and providing strategic inputs. As you go higher up in the value chain, you will be expected to manage a team of social media executives, define the brand’s social media strategy and drive it within the allocated budget. This usually takes from 6-10 years of working in the space depending on the kind and size of business you are handling. In agencies, this would also involve pitching and bringing in business. In case of start-ups, this time-span might be radically altered.
WHERE CAN I FIND WORK?
Almost every brand today is on social media. From beverage brands to banks to smartphone companies to start-ups, everyone has a social media team. However, the importance of social media might vary from company to company.
Most large companies will however outsource the execution of their social media strategy to an agency, most of which have a social media team. There are specialist social media agencies like Foxymoron or Glitch that work across platforms and do some of the most exciting cutting-edge marketing work in India. Apart from these, there are many smaller digital agencies that are constantly looking for candidates with an interest in and skills for the job.
Start-ups are a great place to learn and grow fast. No start-up today can afford not to have a social media strategy. You might have to multi-task but the freedom to experiment will shorten your learning curve by years.