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2021 Career Guide

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.

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What Is a Social Media Specialist?

A Social Media Specialist is responsible for planning, creating, and publishing content on all social media platforms to build an audience, boost brand awareness and ensure customer engagement. Depending on the role, size of the company, and salary level, Social Media Specialist could also oversee higher-level social media strategy, monitor site metrics and data, handle responding directly to customer feedback (otherwise known as community management), and personally craft creative content.

Given the quantity and variety of social media channels, a Social Media Specialist must also understand how to create and plan content that caters to the specific audience of each social media app or platform – for instance, what works on Facebook will not necessarily be effective on Twitter or Instagram.

What Does a Social Media Specialist Do?

A Social Media Specialist plans and carries out social media strategies, crafts and publishes social media content, handles community engagement and customer service, and sifts through analytic metrics to measure their success.

Across pretty much any job, the ultimate goal of a Social Media Specialist is to create or plan content on all social media channels that will lead to high levels of engagement with target audiences, increases in various platform-specific metrics (for example, likes on Facebook or Instagram or followers on Twitter), boosts to company website traffic, and ultimately an increase in revenue for a business.

A Social Media Specialist will also monitor broader cultural trends – specific to each social media platform – and identify opportunities for a brand to jump into larger conversations or create content with the potential to go viral based on of-the-moment social media trends.

To summarize, a Social Media Specialist job will typically include some or all of the following responsibilities:

  • Create and implement social media strategies after conducting thorough research
  • Create compelling, highly shareable new content
  • Communicate directly with customers (community management)
  • Create editorial calendars and syndication schedules
  • Capture social media data and metrics and create reports for company stakeholders
  • Build social media networks by targeting industry professionals and influencers

Click here to find out more about what a Social Media Specialist does.

Most Popular Social Media Platforms

Although we typically group many very different platforms under the broad social media umbrella, a Social Media Specialist should understand the differences between the types of social media platforms and the ways in which their users differ.

Although some social media platforms might straddle the line between a few categories, here are the main types of social media that any Social Media Specialist should master:

  • Image-sharing sites. Platforms including Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest are all about the visuals – and recent reports indicate that visual content garners more engagement than written content on social media.
  • Social networking sites. At their core, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other platforms in this category are about connecting with others, and these social media channels are used by pretty much every demographic around the world.
  • Video sharing sites. YouTube is so ubiquitous and widely used that it almost doesn’t register as a social media channel, while Vimeo – used by many professionals – is also worth the time of any social media marketing professional.
  • Social blogging. It’s been found that a brand can see real dividends from blogging, and sites like Tumblr and Medium support a wide variety of content on a wide variety of topics.
  • Social community sites. Forums and discussion boards have been a mainstay on the Internet since before Social Media Specialists existed. With Reddit now leading the way, there are many social media platforms and channels based around discussing news and current events or requesting help or information.

The Benefits of Social Media

With the audience of people interacting with social media – practically everyone – it stands to reason that any smart company already knows how important social media is to overall success. Still, there may be other benefits of social media that some companies are still undervaluing or overlooking, including:

  • Easy competitive analysis. Want to know what your competition in business is up to? Ask your Social Media Specialist.
  • Better customer service. Not only will social media teams directly interact with anyone who reaches out for help, they’ll also use social listening tools to anticipate concerns or gather feedback on what is or isn’t working.
  • Learn more about customers. Social media is one of the best ways to get an authentic look at your audience and customer base. Plus, a smart brand will curate its social media around customer content and photos to boost engagement.
  • Appeal to younger clients. Although age demographics vary by platform, social media is generally still a solid way to reach young people.
  • Deepen connection to your brand. Social media users are selective with whom they follow, so a company’s social media following says a lot about how it’s perceived.
  • Boost sales. There’s no getting around it – social media influences how people spend money (studies have shown that nearly 80 percent of Pinterest users make purchases based on what they see on the platform).

Click here to find out more about what a Social Media Specialist does.

Who Does a Social Media Specialist Work With?

Most Social Media Specialists are a part of digital marketing teams. Those digital marketing teams tend to not be very big – our survey found that 64 percent worked on a team of ten or fewer – though since digital marketing roles are in high demand, that could slowly change.

Beyond their immediate teams, a Social Media Specialist might work with many other departments within a company, including sales, IT, web development, web design, customer service, and product teams.

Social Media Specialist Salaries

The average salary for a Social Media Specialist in the United States is just over $48,000. With more experience, a Social Media Manager can make an average salary of anywhere between $63,000 and $97,000, with a much higher salary figure in certain locations of the United States.

Click here to find how much a Social Media Specialist makes.

Demand for Social Media Specialists

Reports show that there’s high demand and low supply for skilled Social Media Specialists and other social media professionals. Even beyond Social Media Specialist job descriptions, digital marketing jobs are beginning to outpace traditional marketing jobs, and all digital marketing jobs call for some level of social media skills.

In fact, communications jobs also now regularly call for social media skills, given how important a company’s social media presence is to its overall PR strategy.

Click here to learn more about the demand for social media marketing.

Reasons to Become a Social Media Specialist

Since many are curious about exploring career paths in digital marketing, these are a few of the best reasons to become a Social Media Specialist:

  • Get paid to do something you love. Chances are, you spend a lot of time on social media already the average person spends more than two hours every day scrolling social. Turning that hobby into a job could be a more natural transition than you think. Friends might be envious when they see that your day-to-day work duties involve monitoring the account of influencers or joining in on fun trending topics.
  • Indulge your creative side. A top Social Media Manager brings together strong storytelling instincts, a keen design eye, and a sense of humor to create shareable content that is relevant and resonates on an emotional level. Being able to have a creative job is something that many people find really rewarding.
  • You’re always in the know. Since being an effective social media expert means living and breathing trending topics, you’ll soon be that person at the party who is an expert on pretty much everything. And not only will you have your finger permanently on the pulse, but you’ll also be in a rare position to understand exactly what’s happening within your company. Since your job has you on the frontlines of potential PR disasters and customer service issues, your company will keep you in the loop while others might be left in the dark.
  • You won’t have to wonder how you’re doing. With all of the analytic tools and technology at your fingertips to evaluate the performance of the social media accounts you’re running, you won’t have to be left in the dark about whether you’re meeting your goals and objectives. Seeing real-time engagement through analytics tools can be a great motivator – not to mention provide a feeling of instant gratification.
  • You could go viral. Does the prospect of seeing social media content you created being shared and enjoyed by people all around the world excite you? Each day brings the potential for one of your posts to resonate with millions worldwide. With that comes great responsibility as well, of course, but if being able to reach a massive worldwide audience with something you made is exciting to you, you might be well-suited for a career in social media management.

What Tools Do Social Media Specialists Use?

Social Media Specialists and Social Media Managers have a range of largely free tools to perform tasks like scheduling content posts, creating eye-catching new social media images, getting data about social media performance across a variety of metrics, and more.

Some of the most popular tools for Social Media Specialists include:

  • Google Analytics. One of the easiest methods to track campaign performance.
  • Hootsuite. Create, schedule, track and analyze social media posts across practically any platform.
  • Facebook Insights. Look here for a deep dive into your performance on one of the most important social media platforms.
  • Buffer. Like Hootsuite, a free social media manager with a range of helpful features including scheduling posts.
  • Canva. Social media image creation made easy.
  • Sendible. Favored for lead generation, Sendible has a tool that lets you select which keywords you want to target and where posts were made.
  • HubSpot. A popular social listening tool, Hubspot is an all-in-one tool to help build social media marketing campaigns.

Click here to learn more about the tools Social Media Specialists use .

What Skills do Social Media Specialists Need?

Though the specifics vary with different jobs, there are some skills that every Social Media Specialist needs to have:

  • Strong visual sense. It helps if you have experience using content creation tools such as Canva, Giphy, or the Adobe suite.
  • Good customer service skills. A Social Media Specialist will be interacting directly with the public, which carries a lot of risk for a company.
  • Awareness of trends. Social media professionals are always on top of the latest trends and news, and they know how a brand can best interact with what’s happening.
  • Embracing channel diversity. No two social media platforms can be approached the same way.
  • Understanding SEO. Although the debate rages over the relationship between social media and SEO, any digital marketing specialist needs at least an understanding of both.
  • Mind for numbers. Most social media platforms and third-party tools offer robust data analytics, so determining the most important metrics and KPIs is a huge part of effectively steering social media strategy.

Click here to learn more about what skills Social Media Specialists need.

Social Media Specialist Career Paths

Given how integral social media has become to the strategy of virtually any company in any industry, a Social Media Specialist has a lot of options when it comes to selecting a career path.

Especially within a bigger company, there will be a variety of highly niche roles within a larger digital marketing or social media marketing team. A Social Media Specialist who relishes dealing with the public might explore roles that focus specifically on managing a community, or another with a flair for creative design might focus on content creation.

Given how crucial brand consciousness is to a Social Media Specialist’s job responsibility, it’s not surprising that many social media pros choose to transition into brand consultancy. Becoming a social media consultant is another common path (one that typically comes with a high salary).

Others with a background in social media choose to dig deeper into data analysis or market research.

Finally, there’s always the option to become more of a digital marketing generalist and apply for jobs with titles like Digital Marketing Manager.

Social Media Jobs

The following job descriptions share some qualities with the Social Media Specialist role:

  • Digital Marketing Manager: Of course, social media marketing is a subset of digital marketing. Depending on the size of a company or digital marketing team, digital marketers typically handle various types of online marketing as part of their job, spanning SEO, SEM, PPC, and social media. Regardless of their areas of expertise, Digital Marketing Managers create and execute marketing strategies, manage content, and leverage social media to drive traffic and sales.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Manager: SEO Managers are experts on what makes Google tick. They know how to change the language, layout, and organization of sites so that algorithms will send them straight to the top of the search engine results page (SERP). SEO Managers help content creators craft a content strategy that will boost visibility on social media and the SERP.
  • Search Engine Marketer: SEO and search engine marketing (SEM) are commonly confused. SEM spans strategies including Pay Per Click marketing (PPC), advertising, and customer relationship management. Search Engine Marketers need to have experience with platforms like Google AdWords and Bing AdWords.
  • Email Marketing Specialist: Another role within digital marketing, Email Marketing Specialists write copy and put together email flyers that they hope customers might actually open and look at. Email is considered one of the best ways to reach committed target audiences, so companies are placing increasing importance on creating compelling copy that won’t be swiped into someone’s junk folder.

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