How to Become a Social Media Manager: Your Step-by-Step Career Guide

Afoma Umesi, Contributor to the CareerFoundry blog

If you want to learn how to become a social media manager, you’re in good company. Social media has taken the world by storm and changed the way consumers find and buy products and services. As a result, many businesses have also changed the way they promote their brands. 

According to LinkedIn, the social media manager role is one of the top 10 in-demand roles as of March 2021. But before you begin pursuing this role, it’s wise to review what the job requires and to see if it matches your expectations and capabilities.

In this article, we’ll cover:

  1. What does a social media manager do? (Job description)
  2. What skills do you need to become a social media manager?
  3. What’s the average social media manager salary?
  4. Are you a good fit for a career as a social media manager?
  5. How to become a social media manager: Step-by-step plan
  6. Social media manager career FAQs (and answers)
  7. Key takeaways and next steps

Before we delve into the steps to becoming a social media manager, let’s first explore what a social media manager does.

1. What does a social media manager do? 

Social media managers create and maintain a brand’s social media identity. They work to promote a brand or business using effective social media marketing strategies and then monitor the results of those tactics to ensure that they’re effective. Here are two real life examples of social media job descriptions:

Social media manager job description (posted by Dribbble)

Here’s a job ad posted by Dribbble on LinkedIn for a social media manager:

A job ad for a social media manager, posted by Dribbble

Social media manager job description (posted by Condé Nast)

Here’s another example of a social media manager job description, taken from a job ad posted by Condé Nast:

A social media manager job ad, posted by Conde Nast

So, what are the typical tasks and responsibilities of a social media manager? Based on the screenshots we’ve shared and our additional research, here are some of the main duties you can expect to take on as a social media manager:

  • Developing a social media marketing strategy 
  • Creating a brand voice and identity for social media platforms
  • Designing visual content and digital assets to post on social media platforms
  • Filming videos or overseeing video production for social media platforms
  • Planning and posting content across all relevant social media platforms
  • Writing captions and descriptions for social media posts or collaborating closely with editorial team members who do
  • Analyzing social media content and campaign performance and adjusting social strategy accordingly
  • Reporting on social media performance to clients and supervisors
  • Liaising with brand sponsors and influencers to ensure effective content creation
  • Managing communities, if necessary

A social media manager working on a laptop, wearing headphones

2. What skills do you need to become a social media manager?

As fun as social media can be, the job of a social media manager is hard work. It demands a measured balance of creativity and analytical skills. If you’re interested in becoming a social media manager, here are some skills to brush up on:

Writing skills

You’ll need to craft content for social media posts across platforms from Twitter to Instagram to TikTok. Social media managers also write descriptions for YouTube posts and other video content.

Visuals and design

You’ll need to create digital assets to share on social media pages, so an eye for design is a must.

Tech savvy

Understanding how social media algorithms work, using graphic design software and applications, and navigating the internet all call for familiarity with technology.

Video creation and editing

Even if you work with videographers and script writers, you’ll need to oversee their work to ensure compliance with brand identity. In this era of the short video boom, social media managers also often need to conceptualize and create videos for Instagram Reels, TikTok videos, and YouTube Shorts on their own.

Marketing know-how

Social media managers need to be adept at using their marketing channel. You should understand the basics of social media marketing, running campaigns, and targeting customers.

Analytical thinking

This role is more than creating content; it also involves monitoring your strategies and keeping tabs on analytics. As a social media manager, you’ll need to ensure that your campaigns are growing a following. You’ll also need to keep followers engaged and move a percentage of viewers to purchase your products or services.

Communication

The ability to communicate both with team members, influencers, and clients is essential for keeping everyone in the loop as a social media manager.

Leadership

In larger organizations, social media managers may need to oversee other content creators such as videographers and graphic designers. In such circumstances, leadership skills are a must.

Community building

More and more organizations are looking for social media managers who can also build and moderate communities like Facebook groups, for instance. If you have strong community-building skills, it’ll be a welcome plus.

3. What’s the average social media manager salary?

Social media manager salaries vary depending on the country where you work and your level of experience. In our research, we found the following figures to be the average social media manager salary per annum in the U.S.:

These come to an average social media manager salary of $51,231. If you’re curious about a specific region or state in the U.S. or the average social media manager salary around the world, check out our social media manager salary guide.

A student on a laptop, wearing headphones, researching how to become a social media manager

4. Are you a good fit for a career as a social media manager?

You might like the salary, but are you a good fit for a career as a social media manager? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I enjoy strategizing content that inspires, educates, and promotes a brand on social media?
  • Would I be happy to pore over analytics and tweak my strategies to increase engagement and conversions?
  • How strong are my design skills? Do I balk at the idea of creating images or video content, if necessary?
  • Am I tech-savvy? Or am I intimidated by the prospect of learning to use several apps and software?
  • Would I consider myself a good writer?
  • How do I feel about making social media my job? Do I have strong enough boundaries to do this without being “switched on” to work and social media 24/7?

If you answered these questions in the affirmative, you might just be fit for the role! Now that you’re ready to get in, let’s look at some ways you can improve your chances of becoming a social media manager.

5. How to become a social media manager: Your step-by-step plan of action

Becoming a social media manager can seem impossible when you have zero experience or industry connections. But, with the right focus and training, you can certainly make it work. 

Follow these steps to become a social media manager:

Step 1: Consider a certification

While a certification is by no means necessary, it can help you become familiar with the industry much quicker than trying to learn everything on your own. If you’re a rookie to the world of social media and marketing, a certification is a great way to get instruction from a professional. 

Thankfully, there are several social media marketing certification courses aimed at prospective social media managers. Here are some excellent options:

For a broader introduction to the field of digital marketing, consider a digital marketing certification or a digital marketing bootcamp. Not convinced about the value of a bootcamp? Read through this exploration of whether digital marketing bootcamps are worth it before you decide.

Step 2: Hone your skills

Skills like writing, social media savvy, and design can be learned and refined with practice. The best way to practice is to use those skills. Want to hone your writing skills? Start a blog! Wish you had a better eye for design? Practice by designing graphics for your blog and social media and ask for feedback from your readers. You can also make videos for your social media accounts or consider starting a YouTube channel.

Another key step is to get familiar with the top social media management tools, as these will help you manage your workflow and do your job more efficiently. Sign up for some free trials and try a few different tools to see how they work and where they differ. 

Step 3: Build a social media presence

If you’re going to ask someone to hire you for social media, you’ll need to have a portfolio, and there’s no better portfolio than a social media account you run. We recommend creating an account on one or two social media platforms and growing them from scratch.

Whether it’s an Instagram, TikTok, or Pinterest account, choose a niche and follow through creating content for your community. This is a fantastic way to learn how analytics work, understand social media algorithms, and start building healthy boundaries with social media.

An aspiring social media manager filming on a camera

Step 4: Find a community

Part of thriving on social media is finding your people. A community is also a useful way to get client referrals and learn from the experience of industry leaders. Facebook groups work well for connecting with other social media managers and even finding jobs. A simple search for “social media managers” produces a list of options for you.

Different social media manager communities and groups on Facebook

You can also connect with more peers using the same search method on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

Step 5: Get an entry-level job (or internship)

Finally, after learning industry terms, honing your skills, building your portfolio and eavesdropping on group conversations, you’re ready for your first real job! Scour job opportunities from your peer groups, on LinkedIn, and other job search sites.

There’s nothing like learning on the job, so take advantage of the opportunity to grow your network and gain new skills. And, when you get to the interview stage, make sure you’re prepared to answer these common social media manager interview questions

6. Social media manager career FAQs (and answers)

Before we close out this guide, we’ll answer some common pressing questions about becoming a social media manager.

Do I need a marketing degree to become a social media manager?

No, you don’t. Of course, more power to you if you already have one, but you can succeed as a social media manager without a marketing degree. Experience, on the hand, is critical. So focus on polishing your social media marketing skills and building a strong marketing portfolio.

I don’t have any related experience. Can I still retrain as a social media manager?

Yes, everyone starts somewhere. As we discussed before, consider taking a certification course, hone your skills and use them to build a social media presence. Before long, you’ll build enough confidence and expertise for your first social media management job.

What kinds of companies do social media managers work in?

Any company! These days, more brands and businesses are building a social media presence, so you can work in any of the following industries:

  • Fashion
  • Media
  • Education
  • Consumer goods
  • Finance
  • Technology
  • Healthcare
  • Lifestyle

And that’s to name just a few. The world is your oyster!

Is social media marketing a good career path?

We would say so. Social media marketing is booming and a growing number of businesses now use this marketing channel. In 2019, over 80% of businesses stated that social media marketing is either somewhat important or very important in their overall marketing strategy.

A chart showing what portion of survey respondents said about the importance of social media marketing

If you’re seriously considering this career path, ride on.

What other social media jobs are there?

Perhaps you don’t want to be a social media manager, but would like to work in social media marketing? If so, there are several alternatives. Here are a few other social media jobs out there:

You can read more about these jobs and what skills they require in our complete guide to social media jobs and career paths.

7. Key takeaways and next steps

Social media marketing is changing the way brands and businesses promote and sell their products online. If you’re interested in becoming a social media manager, you’ll need to develop or polish your writing, design, community management, and analytical skills. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Consider taking a certification course
  2. Improve your relevant skills
  3. Build a social media presence (which doubles as a brilliant portfolio)
  4. Find a community of social media managers
  5. Get your first social media management job

We know you’re up to the task! Curious about the world of social media marketing? Learn more:

What You Should Do Now

  1. Get a hands-on introduction to digital marketing with a free, 5-day short course.

  2. Take part in one of our live online events about career change into tech.

  3. Talk to a program advisor to discuss career change and if digital marketing is right for you.

  4. Explore all our career-change programs and become an in-demand tech professional.