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Career Guide

How to Become a Social Media Specialist

BrainStation’s Social Media Specialist career guide is intended to help you take the first steps toward a lucrative career in social media and digital marketing. The guide provides an in-depth overview of the data skills you should learn, the best digital marketing training options, career paths in social media, how to become a Social Media Specialist, and more.

How to Become a Social Media Specialist
Ready to start your career in Marketing? Find out more about BrainStation's Digital Marketing Bootcamp

How Do I Become a Social Media Specialist?

To become a Social Media Manager, you must first become adept at using social media platforms and industry tools and tech. Although you will likely need formal education or training of some kind, you can start down this career path by building your social media following and growing your personal brand.

Many working in the field today start with digital marketing courses or bootcamps, as these are the fastest ways to fast-track a career in social media. However, you can start on the path to a career in social media marketing by experimenting with your own passion projects, entrepreneurial endeavours, or by helping small businesses with their social media accounts. That’s a great way to build your resume while making connections that could pay dividends down the line.

How to become a Social Media Specialist in seven steps:

  1. Establish your social media presence
  2. Learn social media marketing fundamentals
  3. Measure social media campaigns with analytics
  4. Get creative with your social media content
  5. Stay flexible and be aware of social media trends
  6. Build a social media portfolio
  7. Apply to relevant social media jobs

1. Establish Your Social Media Presence

Before you can begin your career as a social media professional, you should take a close look at all your social media channels and make sure they represent you in the best possible light.

When you don’t have a big portfolio to wow employers with, the very first thing they’ll do when you apply for a job is Google you. If they see profiles associated with you with little-to-no activity – or, even worse, anything inappropriate – you can bet they’ll be looking elsewhere for their next social media pro.

But don’t think of this stage just as a time to manage risks. Polishing your social media channels until they shine – and we recommend getting a profile on every widely used platform, both for greater visibility and to give you more practice with the apps and platforms you’ll likely need to master later – is the best first step you can take toward showing an employer or potential client that although you don’t have years of experience, you have a knack for interesting and on-trend content.

Put time and effort into growing your following and interacting with the online community in a constructive and positive way. Community management is a big part of any Social Media Specialist’s job and it can only help if employers see how well you conduct yourself.

2. Learn Social Media Marketing Fundamentals

Whether you decide to go to a traditional four-year college or fast-track your studies with a social media marketing course or digital marketing bootcamp, a Social Media Specialist will likely require some kind of education, as well as at least a basic knowledge of many different forms of marketing, including paid advertising, SEO, SEM, influencer marketing, and email marketing.

Gaining a grasp on all forms of digital marketing will make you much more valuable to a company. Further, you’ll make valuable networking contacts with other social media professionals trying to break in.

BrainStation, as just one example, offers full-time diploma courses in Digital Marketing both online and in person, as well as part-time certification courses in Search Engine Marketing, Social Media Marketing, and Digital Marketing. Course curriculum focuses on building measurable, end-to-end social campaigns with a variety of platforms, including: Business Manager for Instagram and Facebook, and LinkedIn Campaign Manager.

In as little as 12 weeks, you will build a portfolio under the tutelage of industry experts and become deeply familiar with concepts like brand strategy, analytics, search marketing, and email marketing.

3. Measure Social Media Campaigns With Analytics

To be an effective Social Media Specialist, you have to master how to use analytic tools to track the reach and engagement of your posts.

In fact, despite the huge and constantly growing number of businesses using social media for marketing and branding, there is still a lingering perception that the effectiveness of social media is difficult to measure. According to eMarketer, 61 percent of Marketers say measuring ROI is their top challenge.

Further, three other challenges in the survey’s top five are directly related to ROI measurement:

  • Tying social to business goals (33 percent)
  • Tracking results via a dashboard (27 percent)
  • Understanding performance across social channels (25 percent)

In other words, you will need to be adept with analytics to improve the effectiveness of your campaigns and social content, and ultimately, to prove your value to a company.

4. Get Creative With Your Social Media Content

If you’re in the early phases of building your social media following, use this as an opportunity to experiment with what types of content truly connects with an audience. Pay close attention to what works and what doesn’t and refine your approach accordingly.

This is also a time to develop your unique voice. Although you might eventually need to adapt to fit the voice of whatever brand or company you’re creating content for, it’s still important to be able to demonstrate to an employer that you can post social media content across multiple platforms with a consistent voice.

Consistency really is key. Brands need to have a consistent voice across all social media platforms, so showing that you understand how to do that is crucial to showing potential employers that they can trust you to handle their accounts.

Research is a crucial part of any digital marketing job, but especially in the realm of social media. You must be constantly aware of what your competitors are doing, what people are talking about, what people are saying about you, and which design or content trends seem to be resonating. And you must be ready to pivot at a moment’s notice based on the news of the day.

Social media never stops or slows down, so it can be overwhelming trying to stay on top of everything. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools, apps, and platforms out there that help Social Media Specialists keep their fingers on the pulse of the Internet.

Google Trends helps you see what people are searching for on a macro level. Hootsuite will help you monitor trends across a number of different social media platforms, Geofeedia helps you see what’s trending in different regions, while Social Mention not only gives you the chance to see what people are talking about on different platforms, it can also tell you if the mentions of a certain keyword or phrase are associated with positive, negative or neutral sentiments.

You should also do research on which special awareness dates or other milestones tend to provoke a lot of reaction on social media and plan content ahead of time.

6. Build a Social Media Portfolio

You should be ready now to get your hands dirty with a project. Whether you can land a freelance assignment at this stage or you’ve decided to work on a passion project, you must begin to build your portfolio to eventually land a job as a Social Media Specialist.

Why not try launching a blog or website? Or try curating an eye-catching Instagram page or compelling YouTube channel. You could pen your own newsletter or start putting together an expert Pinterest board.

With Social Media Specialists in scarce supply and many companies still in the fledgling phase of establishing a really solid social media presence, there’s plenty of opportunity to be assertive and land freelance work contributing to a company’s social media strategy.

Indeed alone shows more than 3,500 freelance social media projects available, some paying as much as $100 an hour if you can demonstrate you have some experience.

7. Apply to Relevant Social Media Jobs

If you’ve built up a great portfolio – or just finished a social media course or bootcamp that allowed you to build up a great portfolio along the way – then you’re likely qualified to find a full-time position as a social media professional.

A common entry-level position is Social Media Coordinator. Social Media Coordinators draft and post content, including tweets and status messages. The Social Media Coordinator is usually also responsible for setting up alerts to manage responses and monitoring what is being said about clients. They also work alongside management to set the strategy for how to respond. Indeed shows more than 13500 Social Media Coordinator positions open in the U.S., with hourly wages of up to $21.15.

The next rung up the ladder is the Social Media Specialist, who will have more input into overall strategy and a bigger role in steering content from a creative point of view. It’s one of the hottest positions in digital marketing right now – Indeed shows nearly 13,500 jobs available with that title.

Finally, the management-level roles in social media are Social Media Manager and Social Media Director. Management-level roles for social media professionals are often more focused on strategy and less about posting status messages or determining which Facebook pages to like or which Twitter profiles to follow.

Duties differ based on a client’s needs. For example, some may focus more on contests to promote products, and others involve knowing more about competitors. Of course, Social Media Directors have the highest salaries, making over $66,000 on average in the U.S., with senior workers at big companies making much more.

Is Social Media a Growing Field?

Yes, social media is a field growing as fast as almost any other – Forrester forecasts that digital marketing spend will reach $146 billion by 2023 and social media and other digital marketing roles grew 30 percent faster from 2011 to 2016 than overall marketing postings.

There are now more than 3.6 billion social media users in the world, with 56 percent of all adults using more than one platform on a regular basis, and as much as 90 percent of all companies using social media for marketing. The number of users is expected to swell further – all the way to 4.4 billion people in 2025, according to numbers from Statista.

Facebook alone now has approximately 2.5 billion monthly active users. With Americans spending nearly two hours per day browsing social media, that’s a huge captive audience for companies to try to reach.

That explains why research from Burning Glass Technologies showed that four in 10 marketing job openings now call for digital marketing skills, and the number of postings calling for digital skills nearly doubled between 2011 and 2016. Further, digital marketing roles grew 30 percent faster over that period than overall marketing postings.

What Is the Salary of a Social Media Specialist?

According to Glassdoor, the average salary for a Social Media Specialist is just over $48,000 and can rise up to $66,000.

How Do I Become a Social Media Specialist With No Experience?

Even if you have no experience, there are many paths to becoming a Social Media Specialist, especially since there’s nothing stopping you from getting out there on your own, exploring the latest social media platforms and technology, learning how to create good content, and beginning to build your following.

That’s just the first step toward finding your niche as a Social Media Specialist. You will likely want to consider attending a social media marketing course or digital marketing bootcamp. It’s not uncommon for agencies or companies to hire people right upon completing a bootcamp, especially with such a high demand currently for Digital Marketers.

Many Marketers also start in generalist positions and decide to shift into social media as their specialty. Some even specialize in one specific platform, which can be an especially effective strategy when freelancing – a company may already have a Twitter or Facebook page but they might need someone particularly adept at TikTok, for example, to get their account off the ground.

If you don’t have experience and are starting from scratch, you’ll likely have to start at a more entry-level marketing role. Luckily, entry-level social media marketing positions are hardly scarce given the state of the industry, so if you have a knack for knowing how to communicate with an audience digitally, you’ll likely find yourself climbing the ladder in no time.

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