What Does a Social Media Manager Do Anyway?

A Social Media Manager (SMM) is a fairly recent hybrid. They can also be called a Social Media Content Manager, Online or Digital Brand Manager, Digital Marketing Manager, Content Marketing Manager, Digital Community Manager or Customer Experience Manager. Basically, the role – whatever it is called — revolves around managing a company’s brand across all of their social media platforms, creating or curating online content and interacting with customers, the public and other brands. Some companies slot this role into the Marketing Department, others into Communications.

A SMM combines aspects of communication and marketing, public relations and sales. A SMM controls a company’s (or non-profit’s) voice and brand in the digital space, interacting with customers, increasing the brand’s presence and raising its profile and (theoretically) increasing market share, sales or donations. They do this by working with other divisions within a company, such as creative, communications, media and strategy, promoting sales and marketing strategies and goals online through carefully curated [re-posted] or made content, and driving customer service excellence, with the end goal of increasing customer retention and revenue.

‘Social media has become the go-to channel for customer care, content curation and branding for modern businesses,’ wrote Brent Barnhart on the Sprout Social blog. Sprout Social is a social media software and social platform management firm. Barnhart sums up the role of a SMM: ‘They spend a majority of their time responding to and helping customers, followed by strategizing & executing [social media] content, then analyzing their successes and meeting with the team to discuss next steps.”

Even though a direct link between online presence and increased revenue is still difficult to prove, organisations that do well on social media see this success translate into increased sales or donations. Also, being able to point to strong social media figures and interaction rates across a brand’s various online platforms will persuade advertisers and funders to invest in that brand.

A SMM generally won’t come up with a marketing strategy themselves, although they are likely to give feedback or reports to the strategists and may share in strategy sessions. Within a small, dynamic environment where roles overlap, such as a start-up, SMMs may have key strategy roles or be people who have leading roles in the company, such as a CEO or Head of Marketing, and who are either self-taught or have prior experience in social media.

The role is likely to be held by someone who has a marketing degree or background, but not always. Journalists and writers can become SMMs because of their training and expertise in communication. Good communication and excellent customer service skills, as well as social media experience, are key attributes for the role. Other important factors are constantly learning about social media and always improving skills.

While many brands look for SMMs that have experience – three to five years is the standard requirement — many companies will also accept people who have created considerable online influence or have experience building up their own personal brand, i.e. travel bloggers, Instagram stars or LinkedIn influencers.

Here are three job descriptions for Social Media Managers taken recently from jobs posted on LinkedIn:


A non-profit:

The social media manager’s role will be to support all facets of outbound campaigns working as part of an integrated team comprised of creative, media and strategy functions. The role will focus on campaign preparedness and execution across multiple channels such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram, and will span campaign planning and execution, channel and content optimization, paid media planning and buying, influencer marketing, measurement, and reporting.


A media organization:

Manage all social media channels and campaigns to sustain an engaging audience experience and to increase audience satisfaction for the organisation’s news-based websites. Researches and analyses social media trends, including social media ad revenue and web visitor data, to improve social media presence and campaign efficacy. Works with editorial, video and marketing teams to promote the organisation’s media properties and related events.


A for-profit business:

Drive the social media strategy on social media sites, relevant forums and prominent blogs. Whether using local sites or international platforms, the Digital Marketing & Social Media Manager should develop clear yearly strategy and innovative viral marketing actions to develop the esteem of the brand in line with HQ Guidelines yet adapting to local market sensitivities and relevance.

Why is an experienced, savvy SMM so important? In 2016, Sprout Social, a digital analytics service provider, conducted a survey of over a thousand social media users on what they expected from brands in the digital space. They discovered that over 90% of the people they surveyed used social media to reach out directly to a company, preferring it to any other channel. Sprout Social then looked at how thousands of companies across 15 different industries behaved in the digital space. They found a huge disparity: while consumers were increasingly using social media to communicate directly with brands, brands were using social media primarily as ‘broadcast outlets,’ that is, sending messages out without actually engaging with consumers, and that their listening rates were poor: ’brands send 23 promotional messages for every one response given to their audience,’ according to the survey.

Another disparity was found in response times, with customers expecting to hear within four hours, but brands not responding before ten. (This, in my estimation is generous: when I post on a company social media site, I expect to hear back within an hour, during business hours.) The survey also found that 73% of people reported a negative brand experience on social media, a third said they would switch to a competitor if they didn’t get a response and almost 40% of respondents had used social media to publicly humiliate a company for poor customer service.

By contrast, the same study showed that 75% of people were willing to share a positive customer service experience on their own social media and continue to use that brand’s products.

So if you are a company or non-profit venturing into the digital space, definitely consider adding a SMM to your team or train an existing staff member for the role. Online influence will only continue to become more and more important.



Email Liz at LizinBali@gmail.com


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