What a Social Media Manager Is (& Isn't)

Social media is everywhere.

Seriously, look at where you’re reading this article right now.

Social. Is. Everywhere.

With the explosion of social media there’s also been a large burst of people responsible for managing and wrangling social presences. 

Meet the Social Media Manager.

Some people think all Social Media Managers do is post funny memes and others think we spend all day figuring out how to match Snap, Inc. glasses to our outfits. Admittedly, I’m one of those people who literally thinks a title is only a title. If you have the title of fry cook, that doesn’t mean you won’t occasionally have to take an order or two. If you’re an accountant, it doesn’t mean you won’t ever have to handle customer service-related issues. My point? Your title doesn’t define everything that you do. However, as someone who spends 27 waking hours (it has happened before) monitoring, managing, creating and engaging on social media, I think it’s important to provide clarity on what a Social Media Manager is and (most importantly) isn’t.

A Note to my fellow social media managers: Feel free to send this article to your parents so they can see that you don’t just twiddle on the InternetS (yes, plural) all day. Social media is strategic, tedious (but ridiculously fun and rewarding) hard work.

  • Social Media Managers Are NOT Graphic Designer/Video Editor- Listen, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no graphic designer. It’s the reason I always gravitated towards the written word vs. the canvas. It’s just not my strong suit. Ask me to write a status or blog post? I’m your girl. Ask me to create graphic and I’ll draw a stick figure. There are different sects of creativity and we can’t all be Photoshop wielding chiefs. Some of us have to be the Indians who know when to ask for help. A social media manager should be fluent in making videos and graphics social-friendly. If they ARE gifted and can do both? Kudos.
  • Social Media Managers Are Natural Writers- Relax. Just because you’re a social media manager doesn’t mean you should have necessarily penned six books (*shameless plug*) by now. Being a Social Media Manager merely means you have the gift of putting words together to help tell the brand’s story. Some platforms have character limits; others don’t. And let’s not even get started on hashtags. Either way, you should be able to create engaging content that grabs people and keeps them interested.
  • Social Media Managers Are NOT Your ENTIRE marketing plan- I’ve worked for businesses as small as 2 people and as large as they come. I get it. Marketing is expensive. However, your entire marketing existence should not rest solely on social media. Depending one thing for marketing success is like lifting one 5-pound dumbbell over and over at the gym and expecting abs the next day. Not going to happen. Learn how to maximize your presence/message on social, pair it with other initiatives and run with it.
  • Social Media Managers Are Trend spotters- You see them tinkering around with a brand new platform, or app and think they’re bored. They look at you and wonder when you’ll catch on. Social Media Managers are naturally inquisitive, especially when it comes to emerging trends. They know and can tell you all about the latest Facebook algorithm change (*sigh) and meme, all in the same breath.
  • Social Media Managers Are NOT an afterthought- Social is an integral part of business. The last thing ANY Social Media Manager wants to hear is “Just put it on social” as an afterthought. Integrate social media into every part of your planning. Early. You can plan for so much more social impact by including social early on than you can by just slapping it on a social channel when all the work is done. After all, you can’t expect social to work if you don’t do your part to include social to the table.
  • Social Media Managers Are Flexible and Organized- Here’s a (not so secretive) secret: Very few social media profiles “wake up like that”. It takes organization, flexibility and time to seem “flawless” (Don’t tell the Beyhive). You know those social media statuses you share and crack up at? Most of the time it’s taken a social media manager weeks or months to come up with. They might have had it pegged for one day and, at the last minute, had to make a switch to accommodate for brand changes, time-sensitive emergencies or breaking news updates. Flexibility is a Social Media Manager’s BFF (besides caffeine). Ask any Social Media Manager and I’m sure they can tell you a few times they’ve created content on a whim (*raises hand slowly*), but, for the most part, coming up with worthwhile content takes research, organization and lots and lots of patience (hey, writer’s block. Nice to see you again.)
  • Social Media Managers Are NOT A PR Agency- I have a degree in Public Relations, so take what I’m saying with love. Social will garner attention, but the likelihood of that being enough to have media outlets knocking on your door? Slim. Don’t expect your Social Media Manager to be the one who sends releases, media requests, pitches and schedules interviews. Social is a great part of public relations, but it is NOT public relations. Weird, yes. Make sense? I hope.
  • Social Media Managers Are your modern day front desk staff. Yes, your customer service/support/success team IS the team that officially handles customer complaints and concerns, but it’s 2017…where’s the first place most people go when they have an issue with a product/brand? Yep. Social media. An effective Social Media Manager understands that social is more than just statuses and cute kitten GIFs. It’s a vital tool that helps connect customers to brands. Replying quickly, knowledgably and with empathy lets customers know the brand cares. When replying there are no attitudes or emoji eye rolls in sight.
  • Social Media Managers Are Not miracle workers. My hairdresser as a teenager always said women would come in with ripped out photos of celebrities and puppy dog eyes, asking her to transform them into their favorite celebrity. That’s not how any of this works. You are you and they are them. Social media is very much like a celebrity everyone wants to emulate. The truth? It takes consistency, really great content and lots and lots of testing big and little things to find the balance of your brand’s own version of social media superstardom. Social Media Managers can do some really miracle-like things…but we can only work with what they’re able to extract and create. They can’t strategize and create what they aren’t in the know about (which goes back to my point about including social media in every element of your planning).
  • Social Media Managers Are Strategists- To the amateur eye, content can be posted at any given time. To a social media manager, it’s very apparent that timing and strategy are everything.  It’s important that your posts/content is seen by as many eyes as possible. Posting at 3am might work if you’re selling something insomnia-related, but if you’re announcing a new feature, you might completely miss the mark. It’s all about finding what works for YOUR audience and messaging. But, again, this all takes strategy. Building the plane while you’re flying it can only work for so long.
  • Social Media Managers Are More than status writers, blog posters and image and article searchers. Social media managers are community managers, online image protectors, brand enthusiast flame wavers, crisis averters and, most importantly, your brand’s holistic voice on social media.

This list is not all-inclusive and could probably go on forever, but this is a running start. I’d love to hear more of what you think a social media manager is or isn’t. 

Ebonee, Founder of The Persona Agency

Ebonee Thompson