As a social media professional, I know the landscape of social media is prone to change, along with the functionality of individual platforms. When I first came to work at MIT, Google+, Periscope and Storify were all a part of a social media manager’s vernacular. And as I look at  Pod, Hive and Post, I wonder if I’ll be creating MIT Official accounts for any of them in the near future. Change is an omnipresent part of the industry. What I had not anticipated is how much my own role would change.

I will never forget the day almost all staff were sent home without any warning on March 12, 2020 due to coronavirus. We would all work remotely effective immediately. This was one of the first unprecedented actions on campus in what would amount to years of unprecedented times. Honestly, I miss precedented times.

Internal communications became everyone’s priority

That day in March everything changed. There was so much to communicate to our internal audience, and the messaging was changing daily—all of a sudden it was all hands-on deck for internal communications. As a person who managed very public facing channels, I had to strategize how to reach a very specific internal audience with those channels. Talk about a 180-degree turn in thinking. Prior to this day, we would decline posting content deemed “too internal.” Would our global audience appreciate this type of content? Turns out, they did.

Our global audience seemed to like a look into how we were handling our internal messaging and prioritizing our community, and my guess is, learning from it as well. Those who were considering coming to MIT or working at MIT were also given a chance to see how we rallied around our community during these unstable times. Because of this, we continue to post more internal focused content today.

Crisis after crisis

While we were dealing with what seemed to be an unending coronavirus crisis, oddly, other crises kept coming on the radar with social media at the center. And I couldn’t make the stuff up. Members of our community were accused of espionage, murder and other kinds of mayhem. There was almost a new crisis popping up every week–and one that needed to be monitored. In 2020 I was still hopeful my responsibilities would return to normal—the fairly uneventful managing of day to day social. I soon came to the stark realization that this was my new normal. Thus, crisis communications became a critical part of my current role and some days it still takes up the majority of my time.

I know there are a lot social media managers who are still waiting to be invited “into the room” where decisions are made, and rightfully so. Social media managers are on the front lines of public facing communications and often see audience feedback, criticism and breaking events before anyone else. It’s crucial for social media managers to relay information, make recommendations to senior officials and be one of the first to know when decisions are made.

However, what I did not realize, is once you’re invited to that room, how much time you will spend in there. This is not a complaint by any means. I’m one of the lucky ones who works for an organization that values my perspective and wants me present at meetings where I can help provide crucial information. I am just noting that strategic communications in general will also take up more and more of your time as a senior level social media professional.

Our job descriptions are betraying us

And while social media manager positions have evolved and continue to evolve, one major oversight within the profession is a vast majority of the job descriptions have not changed since the early 2000s. They are antiquated and do not illustrate the breadth of responsibilities we do on a daily basis. Because of that, social media managers are underpaid, overworked and are often entry level positions when they now require more senior level experience.

While those of us in the industry know how much our roles and responsibilities have changed, no one else seems to, and it’s up to us to do something about it.

It’s us. Hi. We’re the problem

I get it, in a profession that is highly demanding and reactive, who has time to rewrite a job description? There’s a lot of bureaucracy involved and it requires support from your boss and Human Resources. The truth is, your boss and Human Resources might not realize how much social media managers do daily and what they’re responsible for. Honestly, many of them have no idea. Working with them to re-write your job description may be the best way to educate them on just how much you do. And while the process might be arduous, the benefit may be a promotion and salary increase.

At the encouragement of a highly supportive boss, I went through this process myself in 2019 and it resulted in a new title later to be followed by a salary increase. It’s an eye-opening exercise to write down everything you’re doing and are responsible for.

If you’re a generalist and social media happens to be one of your responsibilities but you find it’s taking up more and more of your day—it’s time to uncouple social media from your duties and help to make it its own position. This requires having an honest conversation with the person you report to.

If having successful social media channels is a large part of the organization’s communications strategy, it’s time to allocate more resources toward managing social. Again, if you don’t do this, then nothing will change and the person hired to do your job after you will have to endure the same growing workload.

It’s up to each of us to help move the needle on advancing our profession

A LinkedIn post discussing social media manager responsibilities

If people who are not familiar with social media keep writing the job descriptions, chances are they will not fully represent the scope of the position, and they may ask for a social media “whiz,” “guru” or some other demeaning label that does not take the profession seriously. Or they will continue to seek a new intern every semester when what they really need is a seasoned professional.

According to Zippia, a recruitment service, the average age of an employed social media manager is 38-years-old. We are resourceful, cool under pressure, detail-oriented and strategic, to say the least. And that is due to our years of experience. I believe every pandemic year you’re a social media manager should be measured in dog years. And that experience is immeasurable.

I for one want future social media managers to have the respect and salary they deserve walking in the door on day one.

To help, use these tips and templates to upgrade the social media manager job descriptions at your organization.