8 Essential Skills a Social Media Manager Must Have

Social Media


There’s not one secret recipe to becoming an amazing social media manager (if only it were that easy), but making sure you have the full range of essential skills to do the job well certainly helps.

And it’s a good time to be getting in the game. “Social media manager” was number 42 in CNN and PayScale’s list of the top 100 careers with “big growth, great pay and satisfying work.”

It makes sense. As people look to connect with brands on social media, companies need social media managers who can help grow their business online.

Whether you’re already an experienced social media guru or you’re just getting started, by the end of this post you’ll have everything you need to create compelling content and understand how it relates to your business’s bottom line.

(P.S. If you’re a hiring manager looking to add a social media-savvy team member, these are the skills you want to look for.)

The most important skills for social media managers (and the tools to help you get there)

1. Writing and editing

Whether you’re writing Instagram posts or Pinterest captions, words matter. Good writing can boost engagement, extend your organic reach, and help social media managers create an unforgettable brand.

Think of a few brands with strong social media followings—All Birds, Old Spice, Taco Bell. Love these brands or hate them, a distinct writing style is part of why they gained a following online.

But fear not! If writing doesn’t come naturally to you, there are tools that can help. One of our favorites is the Hemingway App, which helps you eliminate extra words and get straight to the point.

And while there’s no substitute for a good, old-fashioned edit of your posts, creating a brand style guide may also help.

2. SEO

Understanding the link between search engine optimization (SEO) and social media reach can be a bit confusing. Google suggests that social signals do not overtly affect your SEO rankings, but the full picture is more complicated.

Content that has a high social reach and gets lots of shares, likes, and comments is likely going to get similar engagement metrics that will be read by Google’s algorithm and positively impact your rankings. This is a correlation rather than a causation, so while you don’t want to build your social media plan around SEO, it’s a good idea to be aware of the common mistakes that social media managers often make.

Luckily, there are some great SEO tools out there. LSI Graph will identify relevant keywords and phrases according to what’s been searched on Google along with your primary keyword. This comes in handy if you’re looking for related topics to write about.

But, if you feel overwhelmed by the intricacies of SEO, remember that it’s all about creating great content that people will like and share.

3. Customer service

I know I personally hate waiting on hold, so I often take to social media to engage with brands or air my complaints. And I’m not alone. According to a study by J.D. Power, 67 percent of consumers use social media to ask specific questions or find help resolving problems. That’s huge!

So it’s important for a social media manager to have some basic customer service skills like:

• Be timely. Over 72% of people who tweet their complains, expect a response within 1 hour.
• Know how to find and monitor conversations relevant to your business. (Tools like Hootsuite and Talkwalker allow you to set up social media streams that monitor conversations and keywords across several social networks.)
• Don’t wait for a complaint. Be proactive when it comes to engaging your followers.

And that’s just the beginning. Check out the full list of customer service skills here.

It helps that consumers love brands who respond to them. A customer who enjoys a positive service experience with a brand on social is nearly three times as likely to recommend the brand to a friend.

So being active when it comes to customer service actually helps the other half of a social media manager’s job—connecting with consumers to build brand awareness.

The bottom line? The job of a social media manager is also to be a community manager, so acing customer service is win-win for your customers and your business.

4. Design and photo editing

Thanks to the smartphones we all carry in our pockets, anyone can be a photographer now. That’s why it’s more important than ever for a social media manager to have a good eye for design and the ability to recognize and create images that are on-brand.

After all, people remember 65 percent of a message when it’s accompanied by an image and only 10 percent when it’s not.

But you don’t necessarily need to have a degree in graphic design to create awesome visual content for your social feeds. As a starting point, there are tons of sites that offer free stock photography and there are lots of other tools to help with data visualization, fonts, and much more.

Hootsuite Enhance is a free tool that takes the pain out of remembering optimal image sizes for every different social network and can help automatically crop and store images for all your social media accounts. Easy peasy.

5. Analytics and reporting

Business is a results driven, well, business. So being able to prove a return on investment is a must-have skill for social media managers.

With a tool like Hootsuite Impact, social media managers can accurately measure the ROI of social media across paid, owned, and earned social channels. The tool connects to existing analytics systems so you can integrate social data with the rest of your business metrics. It also makes it easy to produce executive reports, and delivers plain-language recommendations to optimize your social media strategy.

Understanding how to prove and improve return on investment is also a huge selling point when it comes to landing a job as a social media manager.

6. Video creation

Video content is unquestionably an important way to reach your audience.

Over 500 million people are watching video on Facebook every day, according to Cisco’s research into global IP video traffic. And four years from now, video content is poised to account for 80 percent of all consumer internet traffic.

The bottom line? Social media managers need the skills to create compelling content for platforms like Instagram Stories, Facebook Live broadcasts, and Snapchat Stories. And with all these options, you’ll also need to know how to optimize video for all of your different social media channels.

A tool like Animoto can help beginners create compelling video content. But check out the rest of our social video toolkit here for even more tools that will have you mastering video in no time. Did I just hear someone say Spielberg?

7. Paid social basics

Understanding the relationship between organic and paid social is a huge asset for a social media manager. After all, one of the most powerful marketing tools at your disposal is your organic social presence.

You’ve got a focus group at your fingertips that isn’t afraid to let you know when they like something and when they don’t. And this lets you test new ideas and products, and ultimately put your advertising money behind the best one.

So whether you’re running a paid social ad campaign or just trying to figure out which posts to boost, understanding how you can use social ads to increase your reach or boost your organic ads is a powerful skill for any social media marketing professional to have.

You might also want to invest in a tool like AdEspresso, which lets you create and test hundred of ads in minutes. You’ll never have to wonder if a different headline or photo might have made all the difference in your campaign.

8. Research and planning

If you thought research skills stopped being useful once you left high school, think again. After all, you can’t tailor content to your audience if you don’t know who they are or what they want.

Plus, as a social marketer and expert in your field, your reputation is on the line. Make sure that all your data and ideas come from credible sources.

We’ve got some tips and tricks that’ll make it easier to find results you can trust. But, when it comes to online searches, the best tool, or at least the best place to start, is learning how to refine your results. This will not only save you time, but make your results more accurate.

The other half of research is understanding how your findings fit in to a larger plan both for your social media accounts and for your business as a whole.

This may seem obvious, but things move fast in the world of social media and sometimes it’s easy to get swept up in the right-this-second. Regular planning will help you keep your eyes on the big picture and ensure that your social media goals are aligned with your business goals.

Need help getting started with some planning tools? Check out these helpful templates to start building your own social media strategy and editorial calendar.

Master these 8 essential skills and you’ll be one step closer to becoming a social media manager. Use Hootsuite to easily manage all your social channels, collect real-time data, and engage with your audience across networks. Try it free today.

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