One of the most effective ways for brands to build trust and promote their products and services is through social media. Engaging with existing and potential customers, future business partners, influencers, and even other brands can have a powerful impact on an organization’s marketing efforts.
According to DataReportal’s Digital Global Overview Report, there were an estimated 4.62 billion active social media users worldwide in January 2022. While not all these billions of users are on social media on a daily basis, many are. And this is no small factor in why social media management is one of the fastest growing areas of digital marketing.
Since social media management requires many professional skills, you may wonder how to become a social media manager with no experience. In this post, we’ll explore this in depth, looking at the steps you can take, and the skills you’ll need to learn. We’ll cover:
- Is it possible to become a social media manager with no previous experience?
- How to become a social media manager with no experience: a step-by-step guide
- Know your transferable skills
- Develop your digital marketing skills
- Network and meet others in the industry
- Next steps
If you’re new to the topic, we recommend starting with this post: what does a social media manager actually do? But if you’re ready to learn how to become a social media manager with no experience, let’s go!
1. Is it possible to become a social media manager with no previous experience?
Let’s cut to the chase: can you become a social media manager without prior experience? The answer is yes! However, a word of caution: there’s a common misconception that anyone can ‘do’ social media, simply because we all use it. And although a passion for social media is a must-have, using social media in a professional context is quite different from how we use it in our personal lives.
Nevertheless, while more senior social media management positions may require on-the-job expertise, it’s rarely a requirement for entry-level roles. Employers might expect new hires to have a degree, but this doesn’t necessarily need to be in a field directly related to social media management (or even digital marketing). So long as you’re a self-starter, love learning new things, and are willing to put in the effort to develop the skills needed to get going, then you’re covered. Developing the skills could mean taking a course or carrying out some other kind of training. With that in mind, how should you prepare for a new role in social media management? Let’s take a look.
2. How to become a social media manager with no experience: a step-by-step guide
As we’ve established, on-the-job experience isn’t strictly necessary to become a social media manager. However, no experience is not the same as having no plan! To succeed, you’ll need a solid roadmap for developing your skill set, building connections, and keeping up to date with the latest techniques and trends.
Here’s our practical step-by-step guide on how to become a social media manager with no experience.
How to become a social media manager with no experience: Learn the basics
First and foremost, ensure that you know what social media management involves. We can all be seduced by influencers lying on sun loungers sipping cocktails, but this is just one small subsection of social media marketing: showing the glamor without the hard work! In reality, social media management is hard graft, and a lot goes on behind the scenes. So, where to get started?
First, it helps to understand that not all social media platforms are created equal. While you may already use platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, Twitter, Reddit, or Pinterest, you should learn more about each platform to understand how businesses use them. A clothing brand, for example, will likely be better suited to a platform like Instagram (which is more visual) than one like LinkedIn (which could be better suited to a business-to-business software company). Each brand will also cater to audiences that use different social media platforms.
On top of these fundamentals, familiarize yourself with social media marketing techniques, from customer research, influencer marketing, and content development, to competitor analysis and organic social media marketing. You’ll also need to know the metrics you can use to measure engagement and return on investment. We’ll cover some of these digital skills in more detail in section 4.
Further reading: What Does a Digital Marketing Analyst Do?
How to become a social media manager with no experience: Freelance or full-time?
While you don’t have to make a decision immediately, it helps to determine your career objectives. This might mean choosing a sector you want to work in or a platform you are most keen on using. For many, however, the first question is deciding whether to go it alone as a freelance social media manager or to secure a full-time job.
If you’re a complete beginner, prefer working in teams, or have always aspired to work for your dream brand, securing a full-time role can be a great start. It’ll allow you to build your expertise surrounded by other experienced professionals before using this as a launchpad for the rest of your career.
Meanwhile, if you already have a business or digital marketing background and enjoy the hustle of a new challenge, diving straight in as a freelance social media manager is also an option. Although it poses different challenges, it provides the option of choosing your client base, setting your rates, and being your own boss.
We can’t decide for you—it’s down to your personal preference and circumstances. But whichever you choose, you aren’t committing to it forever. Many full-time employees go on to work for themselves, while freelancers will sometimes take on full-time positions. Nevertheless, when career planning, it helps to have a rough idea of where you want to go.
How to become a social media manager with no experience: Learn the tools
Whether you want to work full-time or prefer the idea of going freelance, you’ll need to learn the more common social media management tools. There’s quite a broad array available, from smaller tools that cater to different aspects of the role, to comprehensive suites that cover everything. The various social media management tasks will become clear as you conduct your initial research into social media marketing. However, it includes scheduling posts, managing multiple accounts, measuring engagement, and social listening.
Hootsuite was once the most popular free social media management tool. It offered basic scheduling, social media replies, direct messaging, and analytics across numerous platforms. While no longer free, it remains one of the more cost-effective tools on the market but faces stiff competition from similar providers such as Buffer, Sprout Social, and HubSpot. While we think the best way to learn the tools is to get hands-on with them, you can read more about the different tools and their features by checking out the top social media management tools.
How to become a social media manager with no experience: Grow your social media presence
If you want to land a social media manager role with no experience, it helps to have some social media accounts of your own. Aim to create a unified presence (otherwise known as your personal brand) across numerous platforms, ideally, those that your hoped-for clients or eventual employer currently use. Unless you have a particular niche in mind, a good place to start is with the major platforms, namely: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Developing your social media presence has several benefits. Firstly, it allows you to practice different content strategies and social media techniques in a safe environment. Using several platforms also lets you practice using various social media management tools. Most importantly, it shows potential employers or clients what you are capable of, perfecting your skills and helping you figure out where your strengths and weaknesses lie.
Think of it as part of your digital marketing portfolio!
In this video, Brittni Bowering helps you harness the power of your personal brand.
How to become a social media manager with no experience: Hone your managerial skills
Social media management is rarely a one-person job but requires input from graphic designers, copywriters, data analysts, and senior executives. In addition to meticulous planning, you’ll also need to demonstrate excellent people skills. You can hone your managerial skills in many ways: you might want to volunteer for a local charity or non-profit organization, or perhaps you already have these skills from past business roles. We’ll explore the types of transferable skills you might want to develop in detail in section 3.
How to become a social media manager with no experience: Consider a course
One of the quickest ways to develop all the skills you need—both managerial and digital skills—is to enroll in an online course. Social media management and digital marketing courses are not usually free but are worth the investment since they provide targeted training in your chosen area. The best courses are also certified, providing evidence of your skill set that employers and clients will find valuable.
You might opt for a social media-specific course, or perhaps a broader course covering a range of digital marketing skills that will be useful for social media management. To get started, check out this list of free digital marketing courses. If they appeal to you, here are some further options to consider investing in.
How to become a social media manager with no experience: Apply for jobs
Last but not least, it’s time to start applying for jobs! If you’re looking for an entry-level full-time social media management position, it’s worth checking out the usual suspect job sites such as Indeed, Monster, Glassdoor, or LinkedIn. Even if you’re not looking for a full-time job, it’s worth browsing job descriptions to see what they share in common and where the differences lie. For freelance positions, it’s worth checking out sites like Upwork or We Work Remotely.
As you apply for jobs, you’ll need to create a carefully crafted covering letter, resume, and potentially a portfolio of your work. If you don’t have any experience, the social media portfolio isn’t a must, though. If you do create one, keep it relatively focused, perhaps outlining how you developed your own social media presence. The main thing is to highlight your existing skills and how these apply to social media marketing.
3. Know your transferable skills
Along with the practical steps outlined in section 2, it’s vital to understand where your transferable skills lie. Chances are, you already have practical skills from past roles.
While social media management requires some particular digital marketing skills (check out section 4) employers also value transferable skills.
Transferable skills include things like creativity, planning, and strategic thinking. The reason they’re valuable is that they are hard to train and require time to bed in. Yet, once mastered, they are transferable between disciplines. Look out for the following common skills that will set you ahead of the competition as you launch your social media career:
- Community building: Building communities is what social media management is all about but isn’t exclusive to the role. Gregarious, enthusiastic individuals often naturally have a flair for this. From delivering projects with a team of co-workers to knowing how to get a crowd behind a digital marketing campaign, you’ll know how to build relationships and rapport, whatever scale you’re working at.
- Communication: Being able to convince others, presenting fresh ideas in compelling ways, actively listening to colleagues and customers, and giving and receiving feedback are all invaluable social media management skills. For instance, you’ll often receive criticism (whether you ask for it or not!) so you’ll need to know how to manage both positive and negative feedback.
- Writing: Strong writing skills are essential for social media managers. We’re not just talking about writing social media posts and comments (although that, too) but developing external content, internal communications, reports, and campaign material. Even if you outsource your content development, you’ll still need strong editing skills to ensure the quality of the content you’re putting out there.
- Organizational skills: You’ll be highly organized, love planning and creating strategies, and will probably get excited by scheduling campaigns using calendars and Excel spreadsheets. Again, these skills are suitable for many roles but are ideal for social media managers, too.
- Customer service: Social media is often the first place people go when they have questions or complaints. As such, you’ll need to prioritize customers, answering their queries in a timely and helpful way. You’ll also need to know how to satisfactorily deal with difficult customers, keeping a cool head while resolving their problems. Given the public nature of social media, this is especially important for reputation management.
- Flexibility and agility: No two days are the same on social media. You never know what’ll happen next! Maybe a world event will impact your business or scupper your carefully laid campaign plans. Or perhaps you’ll need to jump on a piece of unexpectedly viral content, devising a last-minute plan to amplify it. You should be as flexible and adaptive as possible to cater to all outcomes.
- Research and data analysis: Wherever possible, your planning, writing, and other social media activities should be underpinned by careful customer research and data analysis. Engagement, click-through rates, numbers of shares, and likes are all social media metrics to track and report on. Analyzing these data is a broader skill that requires the ability to think critically. You’ll need to be able to spot patterns and trends to ensure your social media efforts are hitting the right mark.
While you’ll find many other transferable skills useful for social media, these are the key ones. But what about specific digital marketing skills?
4. Develop your digital marketing skills
In addition to transferable skills, the following digital marketing skills are invaluable if you wish to succeed as a social media manager:
- Content management and creation: You’ll need to understand how content marketing works, carefully researching your target audiences’ interests, desires and dislikes. This will help you devise content plans and create compelling blogs, images, and videos that social media users will (hopefully!) share far and wide.
- Principles of social media platforms: It might sound obvious, but you need to know about the different social media platforms relevant to your business. Learn the general principles of how each works, and where its nuances and quirks lie. You should also be aware of which ones your customers use and more general principles of social media management, such as the best times to post new content.
- Social media analytics: While knowing about the different platforms is a good start, you’ll need a deeper understanding of social media than a casual user. This means being familiar with each platform’s analytics and monitoring functions, e.g. Twitter or Facebook analytics and other associated tools.
- Return on investment/ goal setting: Having a great idea is one thing, but it must always be driven by a clear objective. Setting goals (often financial ones, such as increases in revenue) will help focus your mind, target your social media efforts at the right audience and minimize ballooning costs on things like social advertising.
- Search engine optimization (SEO): SEO is a digital marketing discipline in its own right and social media managers aren’t usually expected to be intimately familiar with it. However, a solid understanding of SEO’s general principles (in particular how they impact social media content) is valuable. Sounding unfamiliar so far? This beginner’s guide to SEO basics has you covered!
- Curating third-party content: OK, so this isn’t technically a digital marketing skill but it’s a useful tip when you have a small team or tight deadlines. In an ideal world, you’ll create all your own fantastic content. One way to solve the issue of limited resources, however, is to source relevant third-party material to engage your users. Who knows? Maybe you’ll learn something new along the way, too!
Get these basics down, and you’ll soon have a solid foundation to build on as you venture into social media for the first time.
5. Network and meet others in the industry
Last but not least, in addition to all the tips and skills we’ve outlined, you should be a good networker. The most important thing you can do when launching your social media career is to connect with others in your industry and within the social media discipline at large.
To start with, you can try building networks via social media. However, you might also want to attend:
- Online seminars
- Industry or social media marketing conferences (both on and offline)
- Local business networking events
- Social media-specific meetups with like minded enthusiasts
- Coffee mornings or lunch-and-learns with other professionals at work
While networking is invaluable for any job, it’s particularly essential for this role. Social media management is all about the hustle, building communities, and communicating with all sorts of people. You never know which connection you make today might be beneficial tomorrow!
6. Next steps
There we have it! In this post, we’ve explored how to become a social media manager with no experience. From freelance roles to full-time jobs, nothing is stopping you from entering the social media fray. As long as you are enthusiastic about learning, willing to pick up the requisite skills, and driven to find the right opportunities, you’ll have a great foundation on which to build an exciting new career.
To learn more about a potential career as a social media manager, check out this free, 5-day Intro to Digital Marketing short course to receive a lesson a day straight to your inbox. You can also read the following introductory guides: