What It Really Means to Be a Social Media Manager

There is a lot of allure behind what it means to be a “social media manager.” Do these people just sit on Instagram all day, angsting over filters? Or do they spend hours defending the merits of Snapchat while shamelessly snapping selfies every other sentence?

The reality is being a “social media manager” has this aura of mystery because it wasn’t a job that was prevalent five year ago and certainly didn’t exist 10 years ago. Explaining to your parents that Facebook is a powerful platform that isn’t just for them to comment on your photos is enough of an impossible conversation; now try telling them you want to do that for a living.

And even if you have the most enviable grid amongst your friends and followers, does that make you skilled enough to be a social media manager? (Sorry to break the news, but probably not.) That’s because behind each brand’s social presence is a person (or team) analyzing data, planning, reading, writing, brainstorming, and more. Basically, it’s more than knowing the perfect photo editing apps.

So the pull back the veil on what it all means, we sat down with Sarah Desiderio, CollegeFashionista’s very own social media manager, to talk about all the ins and outs of her position. Check out her double-tap worthy advice, perfect for any budding social media stars out there!

On describing what a “social media manager” is to your parents: For starters I don’t think my parents have ever seen or used Snapchat. They think Tumblr is something you serve a glass of wine in. And the idea of being “on brand” is entirely foreign to them. So, when I describe my job I give them the basics: I represent and promote the brand across our different social platforms and work to grow our audience in doing so. 

What a “typical” day as a social media manager looks like: My days vary but one thing is for sure is that it constantly involves maintaining a “presence” on social. First thing I typically do is check the performance of posts from the prior day. Then I start scheduling out posts for the current and coming days, all while interacting with the CF community and anyone engaging with our posts, while simultaneously staying up-to-date on anything timely happening and making sure everything is relevant, fits the aesthetic, and is performing. (That run-on sentence gives you just a small glimpse on how you have to constantly be multitasking as a social media manager.)

I also look through growth stats for the different platforms to track how we’re doing, how and where we can improve, and identify any patterns that we can replicate or take advantage of. It’s definitely an exciting job that allows you to be super creative and experimental, but it’s also pretty 24/7 which means being aware what’s happening on social at all times and being really, really organized. 

It’s weird because some days I explain my job to people and they’re like “You’re so lucky that you get paid to do this” and I think to myself, “Yeah, wait who did I trick to get here?” But then I look at the clock thinking it’s going to be an hour into the work day and it’s already 3 p.m. and I have so much still to do. So it really does require more work than it seems at face value. But it’s so fun and rewarding. 

Here are the skills you need to be successful as a social media manager: You have to definitely be both data-driven and creatively-minded, which seems vague but I think it’s at the core of a position like this. You can’t get cynical and only be motivated by numbers because your followers will catch on and you’ll lose touch with your audience. But you also need to be mindful of what performs well, why, and how you can use that information to do something really exciting and unique that not only engages your audience but further develops your brand reputation and reach.

What classes in college will prepare you for a job in social media? I’m so glad I learned how to write a 12-page research paper the same day it was due in college… that’s really come in handy. (Note the sarcasm…) But seriously, the classes I would’ve loved to take, especially for this job are in things like Photoshop, Final Cut, Illustrator, and different data analytics tools. Those are skills that are just incredibly valuable and expedite the process of having to send something off to someone else to be taken care of when you could just do it yourself. There’s certainly a lot of things that you could teach yourself or learn over time, but I really wish I could’ve developed a lot of those skills over the years so they were more innate and not as much of a plug and chug method of completing things when I started a new job.

On the apps that are key (and not just the major social platforms): Some other apps I use are DashHudson, Hootsuite, Parse.ly, PeopleMap, Chartio, and Crowdtangle. DashHudson is like my religion now—it’s incredible! It allows you to schedule out Instagram posts, look into audience and performance insights, aggregate user generated content, and a million and one other things that I’m still learning every day. Hootsuite is a tool that you can use to schedule tweets and Facebook posts that really comes in handy for many purposes. Parse.ly is a way of tracking traffic and engagement in a way more user-friendly way than Google Analytics (No hate, GA; it’s not you, it’s me). PeopleMap and Crowdtangle are useful for comparing to competitors as well as seeing who is interacting with your brand. And Chartio is great for tracking your audience growth all in one place. These apps are so incredibly interesting and helpful in tracking audience growth and behavior and maintaining a social media presence, and all of them I learned about simply from working in this industry.

How to stay up-to-date with the ever-changing social landscape: I think one of the cool things about being a Social Media Manager is that social media is such a constant part of our lives. So while it can be hard sometimes feeling like you need to be constantly “plugged in,” it kind of comes naturally. Just like anyone else, I scroll through my own feeds during my commute or before bed; so I’m just as much a user as I am a creator. That allows me to constantly brainstorm new ideas by just thinking about how I interact with different brands and outlets on a personal level or what sort of things my friends are sharing with me or tagging me in. It’s something we all take part in and whether I’m the first to hear about some new platform or my friends are or I learn it at work, social media is this ongoing conversation where we all have feelers out for new discoveries amidst our day-to-day feeds; constantly growing and evolving.

The definitive answer of if Snapchat is dead: I remember in college when Twitter really was on the rise and everyone said Facebook was dead and here we are still ironically poking each other and throwing a like here and there. Sure, Facebook’s definitely not as popular as it once was but I also don’t think it’s going anywhere. And I think that’s true for all of these “titan” platforms so to speak; they’re so engrained in our habits that while their purposes and popularity may shift, they’re here to stay at least for now. So no, I don’t think Snapchat is over, i’s still a fun, interactive space to send impressively horrifying selfies to your friends and check up on what people are doing in their day-to-day lives. In my opinion, it’s the not-so-glossy/edited version of Instagram and I think there’s value in that because sometimes life doesn’t have a filter on it and isn’t some #instaworthy meal but is in fact a really fat French bull dog walking down the street that you think the world needs to see, preferably with some nice zoom action. (RIP MySpace though—the true OG.)

What other questions do you have about working in social media? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll answer them!