Social media careers are taking off. Just a decade ago, the only role associated with the channel was “intern.” Now, social media professionals are in line for the C-suite.
This rapid growth can make navigating a once linear career path a bit more challenging. Now you can choose from several specialties under the social umbrella, each requiring different interests and skill sets. You need to understand your options to know which one to pick.
To help you navigate this evolving profession, we put together this guide to jobs in social media. Keep reading to find out which skills you need, where to look and which jobs to consider as you enter and advance through the field of social.
What is the current state of social media careers?
Over the past few years, social has become the go-to channel for everything from product discovery to sharing reviews. To tap into this growing opportunity, marketers are rethinking the structure of their social teams.
According to data from the 2022 Sprout Social Index™, 88% of marketers expect to hire another social team member over the next two years. More than half (62%) anticipate expanding their social teams by 2-6 positions within the same period of time.
This rapid change in headcount is likely due to the increasingly collaborative nature of social media jobs. The channel is being used to support several business functions, including human resources, customer service and product development. Meeting internal and external demands requires a diversified team of specialists, strategists and managers.
Today, there’s a world of opportunities available for those working in social. So much so, that it’s driving up competition for employers. More than half of marketers (52%) say that finding experienced talent is their number one challenge this year.
What skills do social media careers require?
The journey to becoming a social media professional varies. Some get their start with an internship or customer service role. Others may go as far as earning a social media master’s degree.
These variations in career paths actually create more opportunity for those interested in social media marketing careers. It may make your start in the industry feel ambiguous, but it also means you don’t have to adhere to a single, linear career path. Use this to your advantage and build on these core social media skills:
1. Industry-specific skills
Social moves fast. A successful career in social media hinges on your ability to keep up.
“What matters most is that you know your stuff,” Sprout’s Social Media Manager Rachael Samuels tells us. “Domain and customer knowledge is a matter of research. Hiring managers want to know that you can speak on social media without relying on buzzwords or jargon.”
Incorporate reading trade publications like Social Media Today or AdWeek’s Social Pro Daily into your daily routine. These will help you stay up to date on the trends that motivate how consumers are using their favorite social media platforms.
You’ll also need to spend quality time with priority networks as well to understand what’s driving patterns of engagement. Most jobs may discourage on-the-clock scrolling but in social media careers, it’s critical to building your expertise.
Social allows brands to get more experimental with their voice. For example, it’s difficult to imagine Auntie Anne’s using this writing style in an email.
It's time to order pretzels
— Auntie Anne’s (@AuntieAnnes) May 2, 2022
Copywriting for social is an act of translation. In a social media role, it’s up to you to determine how to translate your brand persona into a social identity.
You don’t need to wait until you land your first social role to build on this skill. Practice writing the same message for different brands. How would companies like Harley Davidson or Ford make an announcement compared to Apple or Microsoft? Understanding those nuances is the key to writing attention-grabbing, on-brand copy that connects with your audience.
3. Data analysis
More than half of organizations use social data daily and 29% use it on a weekly basis as well.
Social analytics are driving proactive decision-making at top brands, impacting everything from marketing revenue to customer experience. As a social professional, you’ll be tasked with providing these insights to a whole slew of internal stakeholders. That’s why you need to be able to communicate the story behind any given data set.
4. Creative direction
Think of your favorite social media campaign. It probably went a step beyond a few posts here and there, right?
On social, the campaigns that manage to rise above the noise have one thing in common: clear creative direction. This extends well beyond visuals alone. Creative direction also applies to:
- Campaign pacing
- Network-specific approaches
- Voice and tone
- Copy and multimedia formats
Keep your creative skills sharp by maintaining a steady stream of inspiration from a variety of sources. Most social media hiring processes include some kind of brainstorming exercise, so this will help you be ready to flex your talents at a moment’s notice.
5. Customer service
Four out of five executives agree that social media will soon become the primary channel for customer service and support.
Consumers are turning to brands’ public profiles to seek help, air grievances and everything in between. Those seeking careers in social media will have to tap into their inner customer service representative to handle these requests.
That goes a step beyond responding to comments and DMs in a polite and timely fashion. Given the varied nature of social customer care, you’ll also have to know how to create a company-specific escalation management strategy to share with your team.
Where to look for jobs in social media
As more companies look to expand their social media teams, knowing where to look for jobs becomes a competitive edge in itself. If you’ve scanned the careers section of your favorite companies to no avail, don’t fret. Try these sites instead:
Employers use job boards like LinkedIn and Glassdoor to promote open positions to a wider pool of job seekers. These sites are indispensable in a world that’s shifting toward more remote work options. Use their filters to set your sights well beyond your own city or even state.
If you’re looking for a more curated approach to your job search, try industry newsletters like Rachel Karten’s Link in Bio or SocialMedia.org’s The Shortlist. These sources provide round ups of some exciting roles available in social media marketing. They’re perfect for someone looking for roles that require more strategic or creative skills.
Online marketing communities are the job hunter’s secret weapon. Members aren’t constantly posting every vacant role they know of, but if you ask, many are more than happy to provide job leads. Look for groups specific to social media marketing for the best results, like Sprout’s Social Marketers’ Exchange, for example.
7 social media careers to explore
We’ve come a long way from the “social media intern” stereotype. Many social media roles don’t even have the word “social media” in the title anymore.
These roles are specialized and compensation can vary widely by location and experience. On average, social media managers can expect to make $53,000 a year.
“When I started my career, the breadth of social media management roles was a lot more limited,” says Samuels. “Now, there are so many different areas to specialize in. My advice to those just starting out in their social career is to find what you like and figure out ways to keep rounding out that skill set. If you can identify what you enjoy and use that to create success for an organization, you’ll both be happy.”
Understanding your options is the key to choosing a career path that gets you excited to log on each morning. Here are some job titles to check out if you’re interested in a career in social media.
1. Social media specialist jobs
A social media specialist job is a great way to gain exposure to the wild world of social media marketing. In these roles, you’ll get a full primer on all the basics, like content creation, scheduling and engagement.
These jobs tend to vary by company and industry. For example, a specialist working in the hospitality industry might have more customer care-related duties than someone working in real estate or recruiting.
Job listings typically give an overview of what to expect in the role, but always do your own research. Scan the social feeds of prospective job opportunities to get a realistic idea of what your day-to-day responsibilities might look like.
You’ll enjoy a social media specialist role if:
- The idea of owning a monthly content calendar fills you with a sense of opportunity.
- You want to be involved in the full process, from the first brainstorm to hitting publish.
- You want to grow your strategic marketing and collaboration skills.
2. Social media manager jobs
Social media manager jobs are a common next step for those who have a few years of social experience under their belt. As a social media manager, your focus will shift from publishing social content to managing a team that oversees most of the execution. You’ll provide direction, support and feedback to direct reports and work with your team to develop their professional growth.
Alongside people management duties, these roles typically call for a more analytical mindset. You’ll spend a lot more time creating reports and analyzing them to figure out what’s working and what’s not. These findings will inform ongoing strategic decisions for you and your team.
Consider this role if:
- You’re looking to move into a more hands-off role that is still closely involved in the social media landscape.
- You’re passionate about nurturing the growth of those around you.
- You’re a data-driven critical thinker and know how to establish frameworks that help tie social efforts to business impact.
3. Social community management jobs
For those attracted to the connectivity of social, community management is where it’s at. These roles are focused on fostering relationships with your brand’s audience through an owned channel (like a Facebook Group, for example).
As a community manager, you’ll be responsible for the growth and day-to-day maintenance of a social media community. Driving community engagement will play a key factor in your success in this role. You want to get people talking so they can work, learn and grow together.
Consider this role if:
- You want to grow and nurture a community that contributes to long-term business impact.
- You enjoy interacting with people online and prioritize customer trust above all else.
- You have strong internal and external communication skills.
4. Influencer marketing jobs
Influencer marketing is an offshoot of social media management that involves seeking and securing endorsements from individuals with a strong online following. These roles are particularly popular within retail industries like cosmetics, for example.
In an influencer marketing role, you’ll support the ongoing management of influencer programs. This might include elements of account management, events management and budgeting, alongside some standard social media responsibilities.
Consider a role in influencer marketing if:
- You love building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships, both internally and externally.
- You know the ins and outs of all major social networks and can easily identify influencers of all follower counts.
- You have excellent organizational and communication skills.
5. Content creator jobs
If you’ve ever spoken directly to your front-facing camera in public and not thought much of it, you may want to consider becoming a content creator.
Content creators (AKA digital creators) create and distribute content across various networks like TikTok, Instagram, YouTube and more. In-house content creators tend to be heavily focused on video, as opposed to text or image-based posts. Basically, you’ll spend quite a bit of time recording, editing and posting as the face of a brand account.
This role might be right for you if:
- You’re always thinking about clever ways brands can get in on the latest social trend.
- You’ve never shied away from the limelight and you love encouraging others to do the same.
- When tasked with a project, you always come up with a clear creative vision to execute.
6. Social media consulting jobs
As you grow in your social media expertise, you may eventually consider a career as a social media consultant. In this role, you’ll manage multiple client relationships and advise a variety of brands on how to build and deploy their social strategies. As a consultant, you’ll be helping clients develop their presence online and directly impact goals like raising awareness and increasing website traffic.
(Source: Mini Media Marketing)
Consultants are excellent at identifying problems and coming up with solutions. If that’s you, it may be time to research the ins and outs of owning your own business, along with the market demand for your skills. Or, if you prefer to work with a team, look for strategist roles at an agency where you’ll work with a range of clients.
This role is right for you if:
- You enjoy helping others solve hard problems and bringing thoughtful solutions to the table.
- You’re able to flex to different industries or business needs and support others in achieving their long-term social goals.
- You’re a social media expert and know how to supplement your knowledge with additional research.
7. Social media intelligence jobs
Social media intelligence is kind of like the FBI of social, according to Kate O’Hagan, Senior Specialist of Social Media Intelligence at United Airlines.
“We cover the behind the scenes of what you see in your feed,” says O’Hagan. “We monitor online chatter for any trends and threats to the airline to protect the brand.”
O’Hagan and her team work closely with United’s social engagement, public relations, global response and executive solutions teams to keep an eye on the expansive world of social media. For a business as large as United Airlines, that can mean tracking conversations on anything from the launch of a new route to helping the government with an emergency shipment of baby formula.
“There is no ‘normal day’ in social media intelligence,” explains O’Hagan. “It all depends on what’s going on with the airline. We also run sentiment analysis reports on certain things for potential upcoming projects. For example, if we wanted to partner with a celebrity, we look into their history and what the internet thinks of the person to see if it’s a good match for our brand.”
A career in social media intelligence might be right for you if:
- You live and breathe data—all of your decisions are backed by numbers.
- You enjoy pouring over large data sets to identify trends and opportunities.
- You want to mitigate crises before they happen—and if they do, you know how to keep your cool.
Kickstart your career in social media
If you love brainstorming, creating content and connecting with audiences, then a career in social media might just be the job for you. The great news is, there’s never been a better time to break into the field.
Set yourself apart from the rest of the applicant pool with this guide to crafting a data-driven social media resume. It’ll show you all the do’s and don’ts of landing your next dream job.
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