Job Spotlight: Social Media Manager
The Social Networkers
In the last decade or so, a new role has emerged to help agencies organize and capitalize on the expanding possibilities offered by social media. So – do social media managers spend their day tooling around online? Not really. We spoke with four people at the heart of the industry.
What is the role of a social media manager?
Brittany Lewis, Social Editor, 72 & Sunny, LA: Social media managers wear many hats. We put on our thinking caps in order to develop effective strategies. We collaborate with various departments in order to create beautiful and engaging content. We channel our inner copywriting skills to give clarity and context. When all that is done we turn the other portion of our brain on to deliver analytic and competitive reports. Social Media roles can of course vary, but overall our goal is to share stories – stories about culture, products, companies, and people.
Charlotte Giraud, Social Media Manager, Rosapark, Paris: The role of a social media manager is to ensure that the client is well-positioned on social networks from both a strategic and a creative point of view. Strategically, this means ensuring consistency between social media presence and the global brand mission.
Creatively, the social media manager oversees all content creation on the various social networks. These can be ongoing (day to day content) as well as social media activations and campaign amplification. Finally, he or she has a management role, overseeing the social media project manager and community manager.
Nick Mangiapane, Community Manager, Sid Lee, LA: The role changes from company to company and even project to project. It can involve anything from pitching ideas to creating content, copywriting to social listening, reporting to audience engaging. One of the biggest part of the job is understanding the clients' needs and nurturing that relationship.
James Stewart-Meudt, Social Media Strategist, MRM//McCann, New York: I help brands align social media with their overall brand marketing objectives. This can apply to how they manage their day-to-day social media channels, such as what they talk about and when, or how best to execute social media campaigns. We leverage everything from social listening to the latest platform performance data to make informed recommendations and guide brands to success on social media.
What skills are required?
Brittany: Social media is constantly evolving so you need to be able to tap into both sides of your brain – the analytical, as well as the creative. Therefore, it is super important to be a great communicator, multi-tasker and always take a learner’s stance.
Charlotte: This position requires a very good knowledge of the creative and technical formats of the different platforms. It is about being rigorous, creative and proactive.
Nick: Organization is key because many times a social media manager is working on multiple projects at once. Also, being able to adapt quickly to last-minute changes is a must. Organization makes adapting much easier as well.
James: Aside from having great attention to detail, you need to always stay up to date with the latest trends in social media – new ad types, best practices, the types of content best suited for each platform, etc. Every day, you’re working with copy writers, designers, analysts, and, of course, various client teams to manage projects from the planning stage through execution. It’s important to be able to keep everything adhered to the planned strategy so that everything is done with an overall objective in mind.
How has the job evolved since you began?
Brittany: I started working in social media six years ago and it has evolved immensely. From the development of different platforms, the constant shifts in capabilities to the ever growing number of users. As all of these variables change, the job of a social media manager must constantly modernize.
Charlotte: Social media management has evolved in line with the technical evolutions of social networks and new formats. For example, I arrived at Rosapark when Instagram was launching Stories, which is now a media in its own right, massively used by Instagram users.
The business is also expanding as customers become more aware of the importance of using social media to get closer to their customers and recruit new prospects. This is particularly evident when you look at how advertisers have increased their budget devoted to social media.
Nick: When I first started working in the social space, there weren't as many diverse roles within social marketing. Now, there are so many different roles specializing in different aspects of social marketing – from paid media managers to strategists, creatives to analysts.
James: The biggest change has been just how quickly social media has grown from just a cool way to connect with your classmates to how most people communicate, stay in touch, and get their news and information. Over time, strategies have developed for how best to leverage social media to accomplish marketing objectives, and while we know what may or may not work, you can never truly guarantee success. Since the landscape is always changing, as new capabilities and platforms emerge, the role of a social strategist is constantly evolving.
How did your education and career path lead to your job?
Brittany: I studied Electronic Media and received a minor in Marketing. This is where I learned about social media, blogging, coding, advertising, and all that millennial jazz. When I moved to LA in 2013, I started my first job as a Social Media Manager. I actually didn’t come from an advertising background. I was working in entertainment as a Social Media Manager when 72andSunny reached out via LinkedIn. See? Not all social media is bad!
Charlotte: I initially studied literature, then media, information and communication. This led to a Master’s in Communication Management, after which I joined Rosapark full-time.
Nick: I graduated from Florida Atlantic University with my Bachelors in Marketing. I minored in digital marketing which helped spark my interest in social marketing. My senior year of college, I interned at a small social agency and got my first taste of the industry. The rest is history.
James: I was always interested in language and how it can be used to inform and connect people. I studied journalism before the advent of social media as a tool for communications, before any brands were using it, and over time I fell in love with what social media could do for people. I’ve held several roles over the years, beginning as a copywriter before moving on to social media management and eventually my work as a strategist.
What are the challenges/satisfactions of the job?
Brittany: I love taking a creative idea and making it happen through various artistic mediums. The challenges are when you share those ideas and pray to the algorithm gods that they are seen and positively received.
Charlotte: It’s a very interesting position because we have to deal with extremely different subjects but always in a creative way. Satisfaction is linked to how campaigns perform and the immediate feedback we get from users about its creativity: quantity (likes) and quality (comments and the relaying of campaigns by users or media).
Nick: One of the most satisfying things about the job is creating content that goes viral. A big challenge is when some of the larger clients have many levels of red tape restricting the creative process. The best clients are those that trust the social media agency to deliver a top-notch campaign with minimal restrictions.
James: You’ll sometimes find yourself working for brands with a deep, rich history, which may give you a lot of great content to work with, but also may mean a reluctance to innovate. So it’s important to find a strategy that allows you to be nimble and try new things, while also keeping in mind what clients want. As far as satisfactions, when you have a hypothesis and ground your work in that idea and the strategy it’s built on, execute that strategy, and see it succeed, that can be very gratifying – everyone wants to be right! At the same time, there’s something to be said from not being afraid to fail, but you have to be sure to learn from that.
How much of your job is planned and how much is reacting to day-to-day news & events?
Brittany: 50/50. You can plan to your best ability, but you must be comfortable knowing that everything can change or shift at any moment. Stay flexible!
Nick: It really depends on the project. Some clients have many levels of approvals before a post goes live, which inhibits reactionary content. Others trust the agency to represent their brand in the moment. Long story short, I would say 75% planned, 25% reactionary.
James: In general, everything we do is deeply rooted in strategy, which of course has been carefully planned. However, it is also important to remain nimble and able to react quickly to events that may impact brands or campaigns, and adjust accordingly. By paying attention not only to social media, but also general news, we can identify any opportunity to adjust a campaign based on current events.
What advice would you give to new or aspiring social media manager?
Brittany: You will hear things like this a lot, “social media never sleeps” or “social media is always on,” but you must learn to manage your time properly and set boundaries so you stay in a creative and healthy mindset.
Charlotte : Be curious, creative and responsive to current events so you can be a part of people's daily lives at the right time, in the right place and with the right message.
Nick: Get your foot in the door at an agency to start. You will touch so many different types of projects and learn so many valuable skills. You may find that you enjoy working with brands or you may find that you enjoy working in entertainment. It's a great place to discover your passions.
James: The best thing is to understand how important it is to learn. Social media is always changing; there’s always something new you can do and the more you learn, the more you stay up to date on the latest and greatest, the easier it will be for you to deliver the best results for your clients. So make connections and read everything you can.
Social media is causing more concern these days for consumers, especially after the Cambridge Analytica affair. Has that had an impact on your job?
Brittany: It has not had an impact on my job specifically, but I am very curious to see where the future of social media is heading and how users will adapt in regards to trust and mental health.
Charlotte: Scandals about the use of data have forced advertisers to be beyond reproach today, which has impacted the strategy of targeting our content on social networks. The major challenge is to address people in a personalized way without polluting them with information that does not interest them.
Nick: The Cambridge Analytica disaster has affected my job in one area mainly – reporting. Facebook and Instagram have since limited many sites which analyze social performance and audience information. Although some of the analytics are no longer available, most of the information is still available through the social platforms themselves, but it takes longer to analyze manually.
James: From a consumer perspective, people are more empowered than ever to pay attention to how social platforms are using their data. But at the same time, fun products that get users engaged, for example FaceApp, can still get a ton of engagement. From a brand perspective, brand safety is always important, and we need to make sure we’re focusing our efforts in the right places. For the most part, however, we’ve seen consumers will still choose to participate on social despite news stories like Cambridge Analytica. The key is giving them a reason to engage and participate, which is where the strategy comes in.