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Advice / Career Paths / Exploring Careers

5 Skills to Master Before You Even Think About Applying for a Social Media Job

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Just a few years ago, the job title “social media manager” didn’t exist. Fast forward to today, and almost every company has someone on staff who is responsible for social media. At smaller companies, the person who manages it might be the same person who handles public relations or marketing. At bigger companies, there is usually a dedicated employee who could command a salary of $50K or more.

So, what exactly does a social media manager do? Most people tend to think that social media management means simply answering customer questions on Facebook and Twitter. And while that kind of engagement is a large piece of the puzzle, the job actually goes far beyond answering questions and garnering follows, likes, comments, and shares.

In my experience running, I’ve come to realize that social media efforts should be managed by someone who knows how to expertly track, measure, and improve social media efforts—not by someone who merely knows how to use Facebook and Twitter.

Whether you’re looking to get hired or you’re currently recruiting for the position, here are five skills every social media manager should have—plus a few tools that will make the job much easier.

1. Targeted Communication

The purpose of social media is to be a voice for your brand and to communicate with your customers—existing and potential. But it shouldn’t be one generic blanket of information over the entire social media spectrum; the content you share on each platform should be slightly different.

The challenge is to understand what content is best suited for Facebook and what’s better for Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or any number of other channels. Then, you should be able to craft posts that are effective for each specific platform.

For inspiration, take a look at the social media strategy of a big brand like Starbucks or Clinique. The companies promote the exact same products on the two channels, but the image and copy are slightly different, and the message tends to be more overtly sales-oriented on Facebook than on Instagram.

To make this easier, there are many tools available that can help you find, share, and promote great content. Two of my favorites are BuzzSumo and Buffer. BuzzSumo tracks content on all social networks, ranks it based on the number of shares it’s received across every network, and suggests which platform the content is best suited for.

Buffer is a scheduling and sharing platform that allows you to schedule your posts across your social networks, as well as follow the feeds of your favorite blogs and websites.

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2. Creativity

While writing is a major part of the job, the ability to create visual content is just as important. Eight out of 10 small businesses use social media to drive growth. That means there’s a lot of competition for eyeballs.

To stand out in the crowd, you need to have the ability to create a powerful visual brand across all your social channels, and you need to have a posting strategy that includes a variety of creative and eclectic content, including images, videos, ebooks, promotions, and landing pages. The more diverse your content portfolio is, the better chance you have of being a successful social media manager.

One of my favorite tools for this kind of content is Canva, an easy-to-use design tool for creating photos for Facebook posts and ads to images for your social profiles, presentations, blog, business cards, posters, and invitations.

3. Marketing and Advertising Know-How

Any job description for social media management is guaranteed to include an expectation along the lines of “interact and engage with existing and potential customers.” Engagement includes responding to comments, inspiring conversation, and getting your audience to share your content. You’ll need to know how to talk to customers in a way that’s appropriate for the company.

However, a big part of engaging your audience is making sure they see your posts—which is where Facebook’s advanced ads-creation tool, Power Editor, will come in handy. You can use Power Editor to create ads with extensive copy—much more copy than is allowed when you create ads in Facebook’s Ads Manager.

In general, anyone entering the industry should have a thorough knowledge of Facebook ads. If you need help learning how to use them effectively, I recommend checking out Jon Loomer. He’s been training businesses on how to use Facebook ads effectively since Facebook’s ad program first launched, so any question you have is likely addressed in his blog.

4. Intuition

Long gone are the days where businesses are on social channels to simply grow their following. Social networks hold a vast amount of customer information that’s just waiting to be discovered by brands.

As a social media manager, you’ll need to have an understanding of what kind of customer information is most valuable for your business or brand. For example, do you need to collect email addresses for future marketing efforts? Could crowdsourcing help you figure out what kinds of products and services your existing customers might be interested in?

The easiest way to collect this data is to run promotions and giveaways. People are generally willing to share certain information about themselves—especially email contact information—if there is the potential of a prize in it for them.

If you take the time to learn how to build and host a contest, giveaway, or sign-up form (which you can do using a tool such as, you’ll be golden.

5. Critical Thinking

The last piece to the puzzle is the ability to analyze the results of your efforts. A social media manager should be able to determine, for example, the times of day and days of the week posts get the best engagement, whether your followers like videos more than photos, or if you see a spike in new followers when you host a giveaway. These are the types of insights that will ensure a brand’s content is seen by as wide an audience as possible.

When businesses first started using social media, there were limited tools available for measuring the success of campaigns and other efforts, but now, social media managers are expected to be familiar with multiple analytics tools.

Each platform has its own analytics tools, but there also plenty of third-party tools, including Google Analytics. Aspiring social media managers should take the time to learn how to use a few different options, as each one will provide different value to a company. I recommend starting with Facebook Insights, Google Analytics, Buffer, and BuzzSumo.

The role of social media manager has become a necessity for businesses, so keep your resume and skills fresh and up to date by staying on top of the latest trends, tools, and best practices—and you’ll have better odds of landing the job you want.