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How to Become a Social Media Specialist

What Is a Social Media Specialist?

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A Social Media Specialist creates, plans and posts social media content across all social media platforms with the goal of boosting brand awareness, growing a customer base, increasing customer engagement, and eventually increasing sales and company revenue.

A Social Media Specialist might also oversee strategy, community management, data analysis, and copywriting, while constantly monitoring site metrics to ensure the social media strategy is meeting its objectives. A good Social Media Specialist knows how to create compelling content specific to each social media platform that will resonate with a company’s target audience.

What Are Social Media Specialist Job Responsibilities?

Social Media Specialist responsibilities could vary depending on the job and the size and configuration of the overall digital marketing team, but the standard Social Media Specialist job description on most job boards will likely list all or most of the following job responsibilities:

  • Develop, implement and manage our social media strategy after conducting competitive research, platform determination, messaging and audience identification

  • Plan, create, publish and share new content (including original text, images, video and code) on a daily basis that builds meaningful customer connections, increases brand awareness and encourages community members to engage with the brand

  • Collaborate with sales and marketing teams to develop social media campaigns

  • Stay up to date with the latest social media best practices and technologies

  • Set up and optimize company pages within each platform to increase the visibility of company’s social content

  • Monitor SEO and customer engagement and suggest content optimization

  • Moderate user-generated content in line with the moderation policy

  • Collaborate with sales, web design, web development, digital marketing, customer relations and product development teams

  • Create editorial calendars and syndication schedules

  • Capture and analyze the appropriate social data/metrics, insights and social media best practices to measure the success of every social media campaign, then use that information to refine future campaigns

  • Work with copywriters and designers to ensure content is informative and appealing

  • Bolster your network by interacting with industry professionals and influencers via social media

Social Media Education

A Social Media Specialist can come from a variety of educational and professional backgrounds, with some possessing a degree in marketing, others instead getting the job after completing a bootcamp or certificate course, and others becoming social media professionals after first building major audiences with their own social media accounts.

A Social Media Specialist job description will usually call for a degree, although not necessarily a marketing degree – degrees in subjects like communications, public relations and even journalism could be viewed positively as well. Even those with a traditional degree will need a portfolio of strong work and a proven social media presence.

And a traditional four-year college degree might not be the right career path for those who feel certain that social media marketing is their specific area of interest. Bootcamps or certification courses are more focused on the specific skills you would need to thrive now and in the future as a Social Media Specialist, and they can get you up and running in your new career far faster.

Characteristics of a Successful Social Media Specialist

Social media professionals tend to have a lot in common. These are the nine characteristics every successful Social Media Specialist seems to share:

1. They Love Social Media

Social Media Specialists spend an inordinate amount of time reading, browsing, scrolling, posting, responding, and interacting on social media. They live their lives on social media and rarely step away from their feeds.

An effective Social Media Specialist genuinely loves jumping in on online discussions, growing communities, and interacting with others on the job.

From there, the best digital marketing pros become experts in their field, standing out from the pack by writing thought-provoking blog posts, speaking at events and conferences, and networking with other influencers and thought-leaders.

That raises their profile and in turn makes them more valuable to prospective digital marketing employers who see the extent of their influence and social media experience.

2. They Understand How to Communicate With Different Audiences

There’s no getting around it: succeeding as a social media pro requires top-notch communication skills. Social Media Specialist job duties will require that you know how to communicate clearly and courteously when replying to comments from customers or community members. Social media pros have to know how to be warm, friendly and helpful while staying true to the brand voice that’s been established.

An effective Social Media Specialist is almost like a public relations expert, and will know the brand’s audience inside and out – while also understanding how that demographic will change depending on the specific social media channels being used. Ensuring customers and users only have a positive experience is one of the biggest Social Media Specialist job responsibilities.

3. They Know How to Write

Again, writing and communication skills are another must for any social media job.

With the surplus of information swirling on the Internet, you need to know how to write clear, concise and compelling content that will engage a reader (and, if you’re writing blog posts for a company website, your writing must also incorporate keywords and search terms to leverage SEO tactics).

It is important for businesses on social media to maintain a steady flow of well-written, accurate and timely content. It’s the social media marketing professional’s job to ensure that the brand’s pages stay relevant by publishing share-worthy content.

4. They “Get” Pop Culture

Every effective social media pro needs to have their finger on the pulse of pop culture, sports, politics and everything else that’s going on in the “real world.”

Any trending topic could potentially affect the social content that you’re planning, promoting and programming. In a world where scheduled tweets collide with real-time marketing and real world events, a social media pro has to be completely on top of everything that’s happening to both identify opportunities and also spot any huge reputational risks that could come with an ill-timed tweet or post.

Further, being “in” on discussions that are happening will lead to fun ideas for highly shareable content.

5. They’re Creative Thinkers

Social media platforms give brands the opportunity to showcase what makes them unique. Standing out in a crowded social media landscape means thinking outside the box.

A Social Media Specialist has an eye for fresh and relevant material. Consumers have their own systems of filtering out and unfollowing content and brands that do not hold any relevance for them. This also means having the time management skills to post content while it's still timely. In an age of instantaneous information, your social media profiles must provide strong material that followers aren’t seeing elsewhere or you'll fall to the wayside.

6. They Have an Eye for Design

It’s rare that you’ll simply be posting text to social media. Research has found that social media posts with images receive much more engagement and roughly half of consumers want to experience more video content in the future.

Designing and creating eye-catching visual content is becoming an essential part of any social media management job.

7. They’re Analytical

Every great social media strategist keeps numbers top of mind. They define KPIs and monitor whether or not they are meeting their job goals at every step of a social media campaign, sometimes adjusting course if their content isn’t connecting the way it should be.

Every Social Media Specialist needs to understand how to leverage data, not just to improve their content and unearth insights about their customers, but also to prove the social ROI of the work you’ve been doing.

If math isn’t your thing, there are lots of social media marketing tools that can simplify analytics. Using those in combination with Google Analytics should give you a great view of how your campaign is performing.

8. They’re Savvy About Business

Being able to author viral content is great -- but understanding how your social media marketing strategy fits within a larger overall business strategy is even better. A social media pro who really sees the big picture and understands his or her role within it would be extremely valuable to any digital marketing team.

Effective social media marketing experts understand which metrics are most relevant to the business and how a social media marketing strategy can help to boost them.

9. They’re Dedicated to Learning

Knowledge is power no matter which industry or profession you’re working in, but in fields as fast-changing as social media and digital marketing, certainly it requires a dedication to lifelong learning to thrive.

You’ll need to constantly stay updated about the latest social media tool updates, algorithm changes, and SEO trends. You should also stay open to upskilling with additional training, an online certification course or a bootcamp. BrainStation’s 2020 Digital Skills Training Survey found that 89 percent of digital marketing professionals said they would benefit from additional training, so adopting that attitude would be a wise thing for any would-be Social Media Specialist to do.

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 thier 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.

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 per cent 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.

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.

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