What Does a Social Media Manager Do?

“What do you do? Social media? Ohhh, the Twitter and Facebook thing. “


“My teenage daughter’s all over Twitter, she’d love that job.”

<more stare>

“I work in an office all day.”

Yep, you got it, all I do…all day long…is play on Facebook while you use skills and work.


At least I get paid for it, right?

Sure, I can also hook up your wife or girlfriend so she can do what I do, too. No, really, it’s okay that you asked. You’re the 12th person this week. While we’re on the subject, can you hook up my 12-year-old with a job? He’s available and has always wanted to be a computer repairman/nurse/cable guy..because you know we can all just do whatever job sounds good, right? No training necessary, right?


Somedays I can’t decide if I’m more annoyed at the people who think that you can’t really be working if you’re at home all day or the people who think a social media job is tweeting and updating clever statuses while propped up on the bed watching Lifetime, one hand in the bon-bon box as your numbers rise because you are oh so funny. Have a Facebook account for a year with 3,211 close, personal friends and a Twitter account with 28 followers and you’re ready for the big time, right?

Not so fast.

Social media is a lot more than increasing Likes and witty repartee.

In reality, it’s brand and reputation management with a big side of marketing. It takes patience and persistence, creativity and insight. Logic, the ability to listen and enough humility to know when to say “I’m sorry,” even when it’s not your fault. And it needs to be genuine.

The skill to craft an appealing tweet is a good thing to have – a necessity in the field of social media – but so is being open-minded, willing to learn, with a serious attention to detail.

You know when you send your friend a text and your intended phrase, “that sucks” turns into “that sucka” and you laugh? Social media management is like that..except you can’t use the word “sucks” and any typo you make is seen by tens of thousands, if not more.

Misspell something? You’ll get called on it, and if it’s not right away, don’t get excited that you’re off the hook. Someone WILL notice.

That first typo or spelling error? You’ll want to die a thousand deaths.

Numbers matter a lot in social media, so if you don’t like math – even the kind you can do on a calculator – this may not be your field. Good social media tools will provide percentages and stats, but you’ll still need a decent grasp on basic math skills. You also have to be able to analyze them and turn them into actionable insights.

Don’t like to read? Run in the opposite direction. Quickly. Things move fast in social media and you’ll need to know how to research white papers and industry news. You’ll spend a fair amount of time keeping up-to-date on the field of social media overall, success stories and fails, and learning from social media pros with experience to share. Then there are conferences and meet-and-greets. (Which I happen to love…)

Details bore you? Another reason to back away from the “submit my resume” button. Being a good social media manager means you do a lot of listening, and I don’t mean <much> with your ears. You’ll need to be all over the internet, watching for mentions of your brand and finding places to promote and engage…of course without spamming. Listen for what works and what doesn’t, notate it and keep it for future reference and comparison.

Speaking of comparison, you’ll spend time daily seeing what has changed for your brand and doing your best to ascertain why. You’ll also keep an eye on your competitors. (If I have to tell you why…..) Lots of new Likes? Why? Numbers went way down? Why? Repeat.

Can you juggle? You’ll need to as a social media manager. You’ll have numerous projects up in the air at once – the things I’ve mentioned above in addition to reports, developing editorial calendars, meeting with other departments..the list goes on.

Oh, yeah, and content. Blog content, interactive tweets, Facebook status updates and conversational replies, Pinterest photos and pinning of others’, and remembering your Google+ account and Instagram as well. All at the same time AND while you’re doing the aforementioned juggling of other projects.

You’ll want to buy stock in steno pads and pens for To Do lists and ideas you come up with at 3am.

You have to like people, because you may need to develop a team of volunteer leaders, people who will help be a brand ambassador or contribute content. You’ll have to be a diplomatic mediator and be quick about removing spam…but be sure you’re right, because what at first glance may seem like a pyramid scheme may very well be a sanctioned and related partner mention.

Social media happens 24/7, so you won’t necessarily be off-duty at 5pm. All throughout your normal day, you have to be diligently watching the feeds on all your channels – not only for that listening I mentioned above – but to thank your followers, answer questions, and handle customer service. If you don’t have a thick skin, it can be hard when someone goes rogue and makes it their personal mission to singlehandedly notify the entire Twittersphere that the product they bought from you didn’t meet their expectations or delivery took just a little longer. Then no matter what you do to quickly resolve the situation – because that’s the right thing to do – don’t expect them to come back and notify those who have been watching the saga that you rock and are the coolest social media manager ever for arranging free overnight shipping.

In fact, you may hear crickets after you resolve it, and you have to be okay with that.

While more and more people are using social media to praise and thank, take a look around and you’ll still see more negative commentary directed towards many businesses than positive. Enjoy that burger you ordered for dinner tonight? Cool, throw away the wrapper, wipe off the table and go about your business. Did you bite into a pickle despite telling them no pickles? Head to Twitter and tell everyone. When the restaurant gives you a free replacement meal next time you want it, it’d be cool if you were as loud online to share that the company tried their best to meet your satisfaction, but if you did, you’d be in the minority. Keep that in mind when you resolve a problem and let that be enough to make you feel good about your job.

Writing skills matter, too. You have to be able to get your point across in 140-characters without omitting one of the slashes in a url or a letter in a handle, or worse yet, a hashtag. It has to make sense. It also has to fit the face that you’ve put out there – if you aren’t yourself, people may think you are numerous people pretending to be one – so you need to be comfortable with your persona and stick with it. Formal? Casual? Snarky? Own it. Nervous? It’ll show. (On that note, let me just say that the first time I posted to calm a community fight and my first Twitter both ranked up there as OMG what did I get myself into moments. Stagefright. It’s normal, but you can’t let it cripple you. Social media isn’t for the skittish.)

Organization. Curiosity. Thinking on the fly. An artistic bent so you can come up with unique ideas for promotion or image creation.

Most importantly? You have to…without a doubt…you must enjoy talking with others. You must enjoy the big picture, the feeling of community and the knowledge that without community, social media channels don’t function as they were intended. You have to care about people, as true concern and interest in helping others can’t be faked. If you try, chances are it will be obvious.

And last but not least, teamwork. Even if you’re a social media marketing team of one, you’ll work with other departments. You’ll pass along feedback and tech issues to your IT team. You’ll let your sales team know if their newest initiative is a hit or a miss. Business Development may rely on you to help seed a new idea and gauge interest or provide feedback to a prospective partnership. Managers of other departments will need to know what you’re learning and ask you to help them share their own projects, news or sponsorships.

In other words, social media is a heck of a lot more than meets the eye..and I’ve not even covered it all. Social media management positions are widely varied and some companies add more, take away some or mix in another position altogether. No matter what the job description is, it’s come a long way and is now an integral part of a successful business interested in growing their audience and meeting their needs in a way traditional marketing no longer can do.

Still interested in me setting your wife up so she can do what I do while still having your house clean and dinner on the table when you come home? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

We didn’t eat until 7p tonight but I do have a sparkly office. Like the zebra stripes? Yeah, they do indeed cover up the treadmill off to the right that takes away from the professional look and feel I’m so striving for! 😉  (I even had sparkles on the photo but decided I was having too much fun with Pixlr-O-Matic and needed to dial it down a notch.)

my office

I didn’t answer non-work-related calls today but once, I didn’t get to the mailbox and that trip to Fresh and Easy? Maybe tomorrow night. Maybe not. But I did put in a productive day at work, give my son a snack after school, and contribute to the family budget. Not a bad gig at all for a mom in a day and age where people say moms can’t have it all. It’s not easy, but I get pretty close. I’m lucky to have 17+ years now in a field I enjoy, and that’s cool enough for me. (And I really am cool…just ask my kids…)

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    1. I love it, but some days are definitely busier than others! It’s fun when you see the big picture coming together. Building relationships — that’s exactly it! It’s not about putting the info out there, but putting the info out there that visitors want and need. Thanks! 🙂

  1. Wow
    All I can say is you deserve a mani/pedi spa day
    The University of Florida contacted me regarding their new Masters program in Social Media. Amazing how things are progressing. I felt so over whelmed by their expectations I said thank you but NO thanks.
    When I tell my family I’m working on my blog they think I just write some cute little story add a picture and I’m done…and they’re the supportive ones. Tell anyone with a “real job” what I’m dong and I get the oh that’s cute formatted reply
    Sorry for the rant
    Thanks for putting it all out there

    1. o m g, yes! “awww, how cute that you have a blahg” “no, it’s B L O G, like log with a b” Some people have no clue, and I try to remember that not nearly everyon’s as plugged-in as I am but the condescending tone is over the top. They totally wouldn’t do it with another field. Social media is a real career thoice, and that masters program would be amazing! I may go back to school in January, but it won’t be at a fast-enough pace for anything too big. Thanks for posting!

  2. This is a great post for showing people how much work it takes to work with Social Media. I agree, most feel it is a cake walk, and it can’t be further from the truth. I love that our connected world makes it easier for moms to be home for their kids while contributing financially to their families.

    1. I think families would be so much better if more people were allowed to work from home! I think I may work even harder at home than in an office — there’s always that feeling that you want people to be sure to know that you are productive. Thanks for posting!

    1. Yep, totally! Sure, sit down, because I didn’t go to college or read for hours daily or attend a bazillion trainings or conferences to learn this or anything… And if I had a dollar for every time someone asked me to watch their kid, pick up their kid, go to the store, you name it, I wouldn’t have to work at all! Isn’t it crazy? It’s so great to see people who ‘get it’ here! 🙂

  3. Social Media is HARD WORK. You should see the way people look at me or respond to me when I tell them I work in social media management. Crikey. Your post really covers what it is like to be a social media manager, albeit as you said, there are many more aspects to the job you didn’t mention.

    1. Isn’t it though? I love it but there are days I feel like I barely had time to get up from the desk as there’s always more to learn and you know that things will happen the two minutes you use the restroom! I keep thinking of things to add to the list and just haven’t edited..no time! 😉 (And I didn’t go away for lunch today!)

  4. I love the looks on people’s faces myself. But then again, it amuses me. But the “how can I do that” or “how do you actually make money doing that” questions are very annoying. No one wants to hear that you make money by working your butt off, they want to think that we sit around and play all day. Great post!

    1. Ugh, the money part — I’ve gotten that too! I have to then explain that my social media management job is actually a salaried position with benefits similar to what they get for being in an office all day long. Sometimes I still get the “you have a third eye in the middle of your forehead” look but all you can do is try!

  5. As you know, I also work in social media. I’m the content developer and project manager for a number of great clients. It’s wonderful work but its NOT easy!!

    The typos? I know exactly what you mean. Add in dealing with the native names of people and places that you have no ties to- I do a TON of research. And, I work my tail off.

    Working from home has its perks- but it also has its downfalls- especially in a business that is literally 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There are slow periods but social media never stops- and managing multiple accounts often means that I don’t either.

    There are no physical boundaries either. My home office is adjacent to my bedroom. In fact, if I want to use the ladies room I have to walk through my office from my bedroom. Sometimes I get an email that sends me flying to one of my two computers and I’m gone for hours.

    The day before yesterday, I got started at 5:30 am because I had a lot to do. At 10:30 pm I finally gave it a rest. I just couldn’t see straight anymore and any work from that point on would have been loaded with those horrendous spelling errors and embarassing workmanship.

    And, yes!!! Oh yes!! There are two things that make me absolutely insane! One, the “let’s do lunch” or “I’ll just pop in and say hello” or “why aren’t you answering my texts” or whatever it might be- as the person on the other side of the situation seems to assume that because I work from home I don’t really WORK.

    And of course, the expectations to have dinner cooked, the house cleaned, the laundry put away- um- no. I don’t have time to shower two days out of three! Literally, I have showered at 2 am because I never got around to it during the day.

    And, two. Oh, where can I get a job working online? Who can I talk to to do what you do? Honestly, I have this “online” gig (a few of them actually) because I have been busting my butt in the industry for YEARS! Since before Twitter existed and Facebook allowed anyone but a college student. So, no. There really isn’t anyone I can dump you on without any kind of experience. Thanks.

    Thank you SO much for this post! I live it too… and not many people truly understand!

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