Social media teams should brace for high turnover rates over the next few years.

According to a Q2 2023 Sprout pulse survey, 42% of marketers plan to stop working in social media within the next two years, and 20% want to change careers within the next 12 months. Social media job longevity is on the decline, and solving the issue won’t be an easy fix.

A lasting career in social media requires more than just enthusiasm for the job. Even the channel’s biggest enthusiasts may pursue other roles at the promise of career growth opportunities or a better work-life balance. Unfortunately, when we lose social media managers to other marketing disciplines, we lose valuable historical knowledge that is crucial for developing stronger strategies.

Why social media pros are looking for new opportunities

The Great Resignation may be over, but that’s not stopping seasoned social media professionals from plotting their exit strategies. Here are three reasons social media managers plan to move on, even in the face of a competitive job market and shaky macroeconomic conditions.

Moving up the corporate ladder

The professionals looking to leave their social media careers behind don’t plan on exiting the field entirely. Many are exploring new marketing disciplines with higher capacities for career development.

A data visualization titled “What roles will social media professionals pursue next?”. The most common roles marketer’s are considering after working in social media include Brand Manager (36%), Social Media Manager (31), Creative Director (30%), Influencer Manager (25%), Digital Strategist (24%), Data Analyst (17%).

Several survey respondents mentioned an interest in areas with more straightforward avenues to growth, like demand generation or corporate communications. That said, many still hope to make their way up the corporate ladder through brand marketing roles.

When we shared these findings with the Sprout LinkedIn community, a few social media professionals voiced their opinions on why this might be.

A comment from Alex Sorrell, Sr. Digital Marketing Associate at Western Alliance Bank, that says, " From what I see, the ones who want to stay are probably working for large brands with dedicated social media/content teams where there are resources and growth. In my experience, with most orgs there is a limit to growth only doing social media. That "Chief Social Officer" position doesn't exist, so you need to leave social media for other marketing areas that do lead up to leadership positions."

Career stagnation is the biggest threat to developing social media talent. However, this threat can become an opportunity if your company has a well-established internal mobility process.

A rising tide lifts all ships. When social pros move on to other areas of your marketing department, their historical knowledge enriches the entire team, resulting in a fresh batch of social advocates who can help create more cohesive and robust strategies.

Dreaming of a higher salary

Money can’t buy happiness, but amidst hyperinflation and a global cost of living crisis, it can get you the next best thing: stability.

Compensation was a significant motivator for many respondents. Social media managers are looking for higher salaries and better benefits, and they’re willing to ditch their titles to get there.

Job hopping—moving through multiple positions during a short time period—is not the resume faux pas it once was. Today, it’s how savvy employees are gaining competitive wages and higher job satisfaction. As it becomes more normalized, we’ll continue to see more professionals in social media and beyond opting for shorter tenures.

Feeling burnt out and overwhelmed

Being “always on” isn’t the badge of honor it once was. Survey respondents listed burnout as the third most common reason to leave a career in social.

According to a Q1 2023 Sprout pulse survey, more than half of social media professionals are either experiencing burnout or have experienced it within one to three months. At these rates, it’s no wonder people are seriously considering their next move.

A text-based graphic that says, “63%. More than half of social media professionals have experienced burnout within the last three months.”

The scope of a social media manager’s responsibilities grows with every passing algorithm update and feature rollout. Without adequate buy-in and support from senior leadership, sometimes the only way to win the battle against social media burnout is to walk away.

That may be why so many social professionals are looking for roles that prioritize strategy over execution. As influencer managers or creative directors, marketers can focus on shaping and guiding social initiatives rather than getting caught up in day-to-day content creation. This aspiration reflects a desire for a more sustainable career path that relies more on exercising big-picture thinking and less on a constant stream of new ideas.

What’s making some stay

Like with any job, there are pros and cons to working in social media. Employers need to understand their employees’ motivations to ensure the former outweighs the latter.

A ranked list of marketer motivations for continuing a career in social. The top reason is financial incentive, followed by passion and enjoyment, growth and career advancement, creativity and innovation, and impact and influence.

In a perfect world, budgets would be limitless, and managers would be able to throw money at potential flight risks to prevent them from leaving. In reality, we all know that’s simply not feasible.

However, there are options for managers looking to bolster social media job longevity. Start by comparing your social media team’s compensation against the going market rates for their experience level and location. Understanding the size of your company’s pay gap is the first step to closing it.

Another way to encourage social media team satisfaction is to make space for regular, candid conversations about potential career trajectories. Social media jobs are constantly evolving, offering a world of possibilities in favor of a well-defined avenue to advancement. Creatives may want to expand their skills by pursuing roles in brand marketing. Team members who live for a well-organized dashboard could be laying the groundwork for a position in social media intelligence. The opportunities are endless.

Encourage your employees to consider the potential of certain roles, even if those positions aren’t currently available at your workplace. These discussions can slice through lingering feelings of stagnation, creating a clear path for development and growth.

At the end of the day, change is inevitable in any career path. The trick is to retain your star players for as long as possible. However, if their passion for the channel has waned, the best thing you can do is cheer them on for their next move.

The marketing department of tomorrow is built today

It may sound counterintuitive, but future-proofing your social media team can sometimes mean giving them the space to explore other options.

Social media is more than a marketing channel. It’s where trends are born, important conversations take place and consumer sentiments are shaped. It doesn’t change with the times—it’s a change driver.

When tenured social media pros take on other roles within your greater marketing department, they enrich those functions with hands-on, social-first expertise. These are the moves that challenge old conventions and push businesses into their next phase of growth.

Find out how business leaders plan to elevate the role of social media within their organizations. Download The 2023 State of Social Media Report for more stats and insights on how leading brands are investing in a social-first future.