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  1. Blog
  2. Career Development

What Does a Social Media Manager Do?

“Sure, you can take an online course or a college course to learn how to be a social media manager, but nothing compares to actual, hands-on, experience from running accounts and diving into real analytics.”

Instagram login screen on an iPhone
Image courtesy of Solen Feyissa

This article is part of InHerSight's What Do You Do? series. This series explores the working lives of women by job title. Readers can get a glimpse of what it's like to work as an account executive, software developer, restaurant manager, and more.

Social media management and social media strategy are often misunderstood jobs. It’s much more than just making posts and responding to comments (though that’s often part of it)—it requires strong knowledge of PR, reputation management, digital marketing, customer acquisition, customer relations, design, copywriting, brand building, and more.

We spoke to three women in social media management and strategy at different points in their careers about what they do on the day-to-day, what it takes to do their job, and common misconceptions about the work. 

Beverley Theresa 

Social media strategist and consultant at Throwdown Social Media 

In social media management since 2010

What’s your background and how did you end up in this role?

My background is in market research analysis and digital marketing. I landed this role accidentally; I freelanced as a social media manager since 2010, doing it part-time in addition to working as an analyst at a market research firm. In 2015, I applied to be a digital marketing specialist at one of my province’s largest digital marketing agencies, but ended up starting the social media department. After almost two years, I left to start Throwdown Social Media after much demand to work directly with me one-on-one.

What do you do for the business as a social media manager/strategist? 

As a social media strategist, my job includes everything from consulting with business owners and in-house marketers to training people and teams to use social media to market their business. I also do social media management for select businesses on an ongoing basis.

What does a typical workday look like for you?  

My days can vary but since I’m my own boss and create my own schedule, but it usually looks something like this:

9:00 a.m.: Wake up, drink coffee, check emails, and check social media (mine and client accounts).

9:45 a.m.: Assign my virtual assistant tasks from the night before and any new tasks that have come up in my email or social media.

10:00 a.m.: This is the earliest time clients can book calls and training sessions, so usually I’d hop on one or two calls or video chats.

12:00 p.m.: Check in with my virtual assistant who works with me four hours every weekday. She helps with internal marketing and also some client work.

12:15 p.m.: Lunch time. I usually eat and play PC games to give my mind a break.

1:00 p.m.: Check client social media accounts again for any notifications that came through since the morning, give feedback to clients who have new posts on social media.

1:30 p.m.: Right now I’m working on a national fundraising campaign, so I’ve been dedicating a lot of my afternoons to creating content, ensuring sponsors get promoted, email marketing, and scheduling social media posts.

3:00 p.m.: Break time! Time for a stretch and to check my own social media accounts.

3:30 p.m.: Check in with my virtual assistant to make sure everything is on track for the day and important tasks have been completed.

4:00–5:00 p.m.: End-of-day wrap up. I will still work throughout the evening on and off. If I’m working on a strategy and planning document for a client, I find I can get more of it done in the evening hours as I’m more productive then.

What skills do you need to be a social media manager/strategist? 

In my opinion, you need really in-depth knowledge of how digital marketing works in general. Having knowledge of SEO, PPC, sales funnels, analytics, and email marketing is a tremendous strength. Even though you might “only” be executing social media work, you still have to know how each piece of digital marketing affects one another, and you have to be ready to admit that social media isn’t an end-all-be-all when it comes to marketing. You’ll most likely need help from other specialists, whether that’s just knowing certain people to refer to your client or telling your client what they’ll need in addition to social media to be successful.

There was this amazing tweet that shows what being a social media strategist requires:

Tweet about social media management

What’s the toughest part of being a social media strategist? 

Keeping up with trends and changes in the industry and changes with the platform can be tough. Social media changes at least daily, and reading blogs, watching videos, and following platform news releases is so important.

What do you like about your job?

I like that I’m lucky enough to be able to pick and choose which clients I want to work with, and I like the flexibility of being able to work from just a laptop (though I don’t do this as much anymore). I also love the light bulb that goes off in my clients’ brains once they wrap their heads around what they need to do to be successful on social media. I think some people make it more complicated than what it actually is.

What’s a common misconception about your job?

A common misconception is that “any young person can do social media.” I used to hear comments like, “My niece has lots of followers on Instagram, I’ll just ask her to handle my business’ LinkedIn.” *Face palm.* 

Doing social media for yourself is totally different than doing social media for a business. Why would you trust the mouthpiece of your business to someone who has no experience or knowledge of marketing a business—not just online—but in general? For most businesses, social media is the first touchpoint with potential customers, it can make or break your brand, find a professional to help guide you.

What would you say to someone who’s interested in being a social media manager/strategist? 

If you’re looking to become a social media manager, be learning constantly, and not just about social media, but digital marketing in general. Find a mentor. Volunteer with nonprofit organizations, and get your feet wet with experience any way you can. Sure, you can take an online course or a college course to learn how to be a social media manager, but nothing compares to actual, hands-on, experience from running accounts and diving into real analytics.

Sarah Vates headshot

Sarah Vates

Social strategist at Ogilvy, specifically in the influencer space

In social strategy since 2019

What’s your background and how did you end up in this role?

After college, I completed a postgraduate editorial and promotions internship with House Method, a Three Ships company. I spent a bit of time working in a sales job, but my passion was creating cutting-edge content. To keep my skills sharp, I did a lot of freelance work.

After spending eight months in my sales job, my entire team was let go. After that experience, I spent three months freelancing and applying to about 572 jobs. Three months later, I was hired by Ogilvy, and the rest is history.

What do you do for the business as a content strategist?

As a content strategist, I work on several clients to bring their social presence to life through influencers. At a bird’s-eye level, I ideate and execute social campaigns with an influencer social strategy component. This process involves creating and developing an overall social strategy for the overall client objectives and then building a supplemental influencer strategy for execution. 

What does a typical workday look like for you?

My typical workday is a full-on sprint from the moment I open my email (usually in bed still half asleep) to the moment I close my eyes. On any given day, I have creative meetings, brainstorms, strategy reviews, client status calls, brief creation and writing, content management, influencer contracting, influencer management, 397 emails, and anything else that could come my way.

What are the three most important parts of your job?

Strategic and innovation thinking: A strategist must have the ability to look at a problem or objective and then craft an integrated and targeted social strategy that includes all components of social (paid, influencer, and creative).

The ability to multitask: Being a social strategist in the influencer space is a fast-paced job. There are simply too many moving plates on a day to day basis. From having clients at all different phases in the social space to strategies in all different phases of execution, and influencers in various stages of contracting, content creation, and posting. There is a lot to keep up with a lot. 

Listening first: It is necessary to take a listening-first approach to social. To form thoughtful and unique points of view, you must first listen to the space, the audience, the client, and the great world around you. 

What skills do you need to be a content strategist?

You need to be pretty nimble and agile while also being open to new ideas and experimentation. One thing that is so important is the ability to "energized pivot" in any scenario, from switching creative ideas to changing social platforms mid-campaign. 

What's the toughest part of being a content strategist?

The toughest part of my job is straddling so many different departments. As influencer social strategists, we run the gamut for what we could do day-to-day. At any given time, we are writing contracts, working on creative content productions, executing paid media integrations, crafting strategies, managing talent relations, handling client communications, scoping our projects and clients, posting on clients' social channels, coordinating productions, and doing event production all optimized towards social.

What do you like about your job?

I love that I am tested in almost every skill set; there is rarely ever a slow day or period. I am constantly challenged to think critically, strategically, and innovatively. Each strategy and client has its own unique set of problems and solutions that allow me to learn and grow every day. 

What's something people might be surprised to find is part of your job?

Contract negotiations and paid media integration are enormous since we use influencer content across all of our client's digital and social platforms. We have to negotiate with influencer’s legal teams to use the content. We then work in parallel with creative and paid teams to ensure that the content is optimized for paid social while also serving creative needs and the overall strategy. It is so much more than just building a thoughtful strategy.

What would you say to someone who's interested in being a content strategist?

Be uncomfortable with the ever-changing social world. Working with influencers means that the digital landscape is changing underneath your feet. From FTC regulations to platforms variations, the challenges are endless. Staying on top of trends and forming thoughtful and informed strategies is so essential.

Read more: 3 Ways to Use Your Digital Network to Get a Great Job

Stephanie Carone headshot

Stephanie Carone

Head of global brand, social media, and public relations at Lionbridge

In social media strategy since 2014

What’s your background and how did you end up in this role? 

I majored in journalism in college with a marketing minor. Out of college, I took an opportunity at a financial institution to assist with writing business proposals, or responses to RFPs. I quickly learned a lot about how to write strong, demonstrative copy that articulates services in a controlled setting, as proposals have a lot of rules. It was an invaluable experience in business writing.  

After a few years in finance, I took an opportunity with Lionbridge to respond to proposals for a new business unit. That grew into developing marketing and sales enablement materials, as we needed an array of content to back up our proposal responses. From there, I continued to grow into several opportunities in corporate marketing and I now manage brand, social media, and public relations activities. 

What do you do for the business as a social media manager/strategist? 

At Lionbridge, we have a wide array of services for a diverse customer base. As the head of social, I ensure that we are sharing informative thought leadership that speaks to our prospects and customers every day. I support our marketing and sales teams by ensuring new content and events are shared in a timely fashion, as this is an important tenet of our content strategy. We also craft messages that our sales team can share to their own networks, which supports our engagement. 

Another part of the role is assisting any inquiries that come our way, whether that means someone interested in our services or someone interested in our remote job opportunities. It’s a bit of customer service and very important to our brand. 

What does a typical workday look like for you?  

I start most weeks by scheduling our social posts for both Twitter and LinkedIn. We use Hootsuite to schedule and I schedule out as many as I can. We have new content and events daily, so I often schedule those in once they go live on the same day to make sure we cycle through content as frequently as possible. A lot goes into a social post, including receiving content from the content team and the appropriate graphics from the design team. We align closely to ensure each post is thoughtful and impactful. 

I check our platforms frequently throughout the day to ensure we are monitoring posts and mentions and addressing any comments. I also track a lot of hashtags relevant to our industry to look for opportunities to participate in conversations where Lionbridge’s expertise can be helpful.  

At Lionbridge, we’ve also doubled down on virtual events this year as a result of the pandemic. This includes a lot of social engagement, including live tweeting our webinars. It has been a boost to our engagement and has opened us up to even more opportunities to connect with prospects on social. 

One thing that is for certain is that everyday is different. Great social presence requires a real time effort that cannot be scheduled and forgotten. 

What skills do you need to be a social media manager/strategist? 

It’s important to be well versed in the types of social platforms and what makes sense for the role you have or want. From a customer and prospect perspective, we focus on Twitter and LinkedIn and different messages work on each platform. It’s crucial to understand your intent, who the audience is on each platform, and how each channel lends itself to your strategy. 

Another important skill is to be a strong writer who understands how to adhere to brand standards. Lionbridge, like all brands, has a distinct voice and point of view. It is imperative that our content, no matter how it is shared, is consistent and meets standards. 

What’s the toughest part of being a social media manager/strategist? 

The toughest part of being a social media manager is that you have to be online everyday. The current social climate understandably has a lot of people rethinking their relationship with social and taking breaks. With this role, it’s just not possible. I check our profiles every day, including the weekends, and sometimes jump on opportunities to post relevant posts all day, every day. It’s really a role that does not turn off.

What do you like about your job?

The best part of my job is when a piece of content we’ve been working hard on connects with the audience and has high engagement. It is satisfying to provide thought leadership that supports the current needs of our clients and prospects. 

Another great part of my job is the campaigns that are relevant and meaningful, whether that be a response to a social issue or a free offer in a time of need, which we’ve seen more of in 2020. A bright spot is when these are executed elegantly and you can see the positive response firsthand. I love receiving positive feedback or responses in the form of a DM or a tweet that I can then share with our leadership team. Social really connects you to your audience in such a personal way with instant results. 

What’s a common misconception about your job?

A common misconception (especially to my parents!) is that social media managers just play around online all day. It is a fun job, but it’s certainly not playing around. There’s a lot of strategy, thought, and work that goes into our channels. 

What would you say to someone who’s interested in being a social media manager/strategist? 

Definitely be a personal user and lover of social channels. It’s important to understand the channels deeply in order to develop strategy that makes sense for your brand. Also, use your personal channels to help boost your corporate channels! 

Read more: 8 Career Quizzes to Help You Choose a New Path

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