How to Become a Social Media Manager: A Quick Guide to Winning the Internet


Think you’d like to get a job in social media? If you’re a tech-savvy trend-setter with an eye for detail and an understanding of customers’ wants and needs, this industry could be a good fit for you.

You don’t need a degree in social media to learn the skills and become a rock star in this industry. But you do need to understand exactly what a social media manager does. (Hint: There’s more to it than playing on Pinterest all day.)

Here’s a quick breakdown.

General duties:

  • Comprehend who the client is/what the company does.

  • Identify the client’s target audience.

  • Research other industry players.

  • Keep an eye out for the latest trends.

  • Use analytics to measure traffic generated through social media networks.

  • Create and deliver presentations to clients.

  • Use data to create a strategy for each individual network.

  • Handle crises and disasters with grace and competence.

On a daily basis:

  • Maintain an active presence on each social media platform.

  • Find relevant content to share with followers.

  • Host social media campaigns like giveaways and contests.

  • Pitch ideas to company or client.

  • Engage in conversations with followers and respond to questions or complaints.

  • Use analytics to tweak social media strategy.

Want more details? We explain each task a little further in our post, “Everything You Need to Know About Working as a Social Media Manager.”

Now that you have a small idea of what goes on in the life of a social media manager, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of working in this field.

What are the pros of working in social media?

⍏ Let your creative juices flow! You get to come up with innovative and unique strategies for campaigns and ways to present content on each individual platform.

⍏ You’re paid to know “what’s cool”!

⍏ The world of social media is constantly evolving, so it’s pretty difficult to get bored.

What are the cons of working in social media?

– Stressful deadlines and the fact that you might be expected to be available 24/7.

– Difficult to show clients the immediate results/R.O.I of your work since social media marketing is about creating relationships over time and THEN pitching (Seriously, sometimes it can feel as though Gary Vaynerchuk is the only one who understands you).

– Your work is scrutinized not just by your client but potentially millions of social users.

Do the pros outweigh the cons? Awesome. Let’s keep going.

Now we’re going to break everything down for you step-by-step. We’ll take a look at each of the different platforms you’ll be working with and what you need to know about each.


  • Character limit: 140

This means you have to be creative enough to draw your reader in with a limited number of words. This also means that you should become familiar with link-shortening websites like bitly.

  • Hashtag:

What was once known as the “number symbol” or the “pound sign” is now more commonly referred to as a hashtag. Hashtags should be used within your tweets to categorize and identify the topic(s) involved in your message. Need an example? Here are Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake speaking only in hashtags.

Also, a hashtag will break off if you add any sort of punctuation—including apostrophes, so be careful not to include any type of punctuation in your tags.

  • Managing Platforms:

You should become familiar with Twitter managing platforms like Hootsuite and Buffer. You’re going to want to keep your account(s) organized and Hootsuite allows you to do just that. By creating different streams, you can keep track of tweets you’ve sent, retweets from others, tweets that mention you, as well as others on Twitter that influence your content. You can also schedule tweets to go out at certain times. This means after you research the optimal tweeting times for your audience you can schedule your most important tweets for that time.

  • Retweets:

When someone “retweets” you, it means that they’ve read your tweet or saw the link (or both) and liked it! When a person retweets you, your audience suddenly increases from just your followers to that person’s followers as well. Retweets can dramatically increase your traffic. Be aware of which of your tweets get the most retweets. You’ll want to tweet that type of content as much as you can.

  • What’s with the @?:

One of the best parts about Twitter is that you can talk to just about anyone (not very many people have private Twitter profiles). Finding their Twitter handle allows you to give them a personal shout-out over the internet. With the “@” symbol you are tagging them in your tweet and they will be notified of this. It’s called a “mention.”

This is great for reaching out to those you admire, those who share good content, and those who are featured in your content.

What to keep in mind: “Mentioning” someone who is featured in your content not only allows them to read it, but may also inspire them to retweet it to their followers. Remember what I said about retweets? Yeah. That’s a good thing.

Here’s the tricky (or not so tricky) part. If you start a tweet with the “@” sign, then the only person who will see your message is the person you’re tweeting at. If your tweet links to something you think others in the Twittersphere may want to see, then make sure there is something in front of that “@.” It can be as simple as a “.” or as complicated as #thisisthebesttweetyoullreadallday.


Tweet only @AfterCollegesbiggestfanever can see:

“@AfterCollegesbiggestfanever Thank you for reading our blog and using us to find your super awesome job #winning #yeahyou”

Tweets that everyone can see:

“.@AfterCollegesbiggestfanever Thanks for your blog comment. Did you see this other post that tells you exactly how to become a sky diving monkey trainer? bitlylink1234”

“#reallyoushouldreadthistweet @AfterCollegesbiggestfanever we just announced 69 new scholarships available through the AfterCollege site: bitlylink2410”


  • Character limit: Unlimited.

But BEWARE. People are not on Facebook to read novels… They want compelling pictures and quick content to go along with it.

  • Boosting Posts:

Facebook has developed an algorithm that drives popular content to be more popular. This means that the more people who interact with your content, the more people Facebook will allow to see it.

You may want to choose to “boost” a post. This means that you’ll pay Facebook a little extra to spread your content further and allow more users to see it. But don’t think this can make up for content that is subpar. I like to think of it like those boosts you used to get when you went through the rainbow blocks in Mario Kart. You’d get that huge burst of speed for a short while but then it would die out and you’d have to rely on your driving skills to win the race. Your content = your kart-driving skills. A little boost can give you an edge, but if your driving skills are horrible you’re still going to lose.

So, be sure to create content that users will want to interact with (like and share on their own pages) and use a Facebook boost to give it some extra “oomph.”

Boosts are definitely something to factor into your social media marketing budget.


  • Character limit: (When posting a discussion in a group) 200 characters

  • Tone of Voice:

I think the most important thing to keep in mind on this network is that it is the most “business-y” of all the online social platforms. This is not a place to be posting a funky lyric status or a new bikini-clad profile picture every other day. This is a time to connect with other professionals, share content that other business people would be interested in, and participate in discussions that have to do with your own content.

  • Groups:

Unlike Facebook, LinkedIn does not allow you to “write on connections’ walls.” If you want to write to someone, you have to send them an InMail message. This is fine if what you’re saying only applies to that one person. If however, you would like to involve more people in the conversation, then it’s important to belong to a group.

Groups are communities on LinkedIn where people can come together and have discussions about topics that concern and interest them. Here you can start and contribute to these conversations and engage with anyone who is a member of the group.


  • Character limit: Unlimited.

Once again, be careful. Remember that Pinterest is ALL about the pictures. People aren’t coming here to read. They’re coming here for creative, inspiring ideas they can use for themselves. The picture has to be impressive enough to lead them to the content. Not the other way around.

  • Pinterest Boards:

Pinterest is an online collaging platform. Instead of cutting out images from magazines you can now pin pictures from websites. You’ll create boards to categorize your pins and fill them with pictures that are not only visually appealing, but also lead to posts and articles that explain them.

  • Pin button:

There’s a little pin button that can be added to your browser. This allows you to pin from nearly every website that you go to. If you see something that your followers would enjoy, you can just click that little “P” button and choose which image you want for one of your boards. Just be sure to credit the original website!

  • Following Boards:

On Pinterest, you’re going to want to follow boards and other users that complement your own tastes (or your company’s). Following these people will enhance your own Pinterest board because you can re-pin photos from them.


  • Character limit: Unlimited

Okay. Here we go again. Sure, Tumblr can sport the occasional blog post. BUT if you’re doing the social media for a company, I’m going to tell you that it’s not about the words. It’s about the high-quality photo or (even better) gif. Catch their attention and then link to whatever content you’re looking to share.

Bonus info: Gif is actually pronounced like the peanut butter “Jiff.” Here’s the creator telling us himself.

  • What is a gif??

A gif is a moving picture that expresses a feeling way better than any stationary photo could. Tumblr is the perfect platform for gifs. Use them.

  • Who to follow:

This is similar to Pinterest. On Tumblr, you have a dashboard. Instead of seeing everyone’s boards individually, you see a stream of posts from every one of the bloggers you follow. You want to choose to follow people who have content that will complement yours. That way you can re-blog gifs, links, pictures etc. that your own followers would be interested in.

  • Hashtags:

There are hashtags on Tumblr, too! You should definitely keep track of what’s trending so that you can incorporate those topics and hashtags into your Tumblr posts.


  • Character limit: Unlimited

Do we really have to go through this again? Please do not use any social media network to write out novels. Be creative enough to produce short copy that keeps your audience engaged.

  • Circles:

So Google+ is all about circles. It’s cool because you can choose which circles can see what you share. This means that you can customize your posts to be targeted toward specific audiences.

  • Google loves Google:

Google is a big fan of Google. Why shouldn’t they be? I mean have you seen that campus?! When you have a Google+ account you have the ability to establish Google authorship for posts that you write. Google authorship can help to boost how your page ranks in search engine results. That means that when people search on Google, your post has a higher chance of showing up at the top of the results page.


  • Photo Quality:

It is all about the photo quality here. Better quality photos will lead to better responses from followers. Want to know a little secret? You don’t have to take your Instagram photos with your phone. If you have a camera that you KNOW takes excellent pictures (like a DSLR), use that and then email yourself the photos.

  • Hashtags:

Hashtags are back for another round in social media. Just like on Twitter and Tumblr, hashtags can be used on Instagram to categorize your photograph. Become comfortable exploring different hashtags on Instagram and learn to see what your audience is looking for. Then you can begin to tag your photos accordingly. But please (and this goes for every hashtag-compatible platform) do not abuse the power…

What else should you know?

Google Analytics

Matt LeBeau of Room 214 suggests that you become familiar with Google Analytics. In our interview with him about working in social media, he mentions that students may not be expected to have mastered Google Analytics but it should be something they’ve experimented with.

Here’s a quick run-down of a few of the services offered by Google Analytics:

  • Audience –

This is where you can find numbers about how many visits your site has gotten, how many of those are new visitors, where those views are coming from, the average time spent on a page, and bounce rates.

  • Acquisition –

Acquisition is an important part of Google Analytics because it will show you what brought viewers to your page. You can see what the leading source of traffic is as well as check out Keywords that were typed into the Google search bar that then led viewers to your page.

  • Behavior –

Behavior allows you to take a closer look at how users interacted with your site. What pages led them to other pages on your site? How long did they spend on each page? What content has elicited the most views?

There is so much more that Google Analytics has to offer. Short videos are provided at the top of the page that can help you to get a better understanding of each individual section. I suggest you check them out.

Stay on Top of Trends

Not only should you have an understanding of Google Analytics, but Matt and our other social media experts say that one of the most important qualities of a social media candidate is their ability to stay on top of trends. He comments on how disappointing it is when a candidate is not up-to-date. When a platform gets a new feature (like Snapchat’s new font options or Vine’s personal URLs) you should know about it and have an opinion forming on how it can be used.

Put Experience on Your Résumé

You should also have something to show on your résumé that is directly related to the field of social media. If you can’t get an internship, that shouldn’t stop you from starting your own blog, volunteering, or helping out a family member or friend. Many people who have small side businesses don’t have time (or know how) to do the social media marketing.

Help your college club expand its Facebook network for a bigger turnout at the annual performance event. Help your friend’s jewelry business get exposure by composing tweets and watching trends. Bring in a larger audience to your local theater by posting Instagram pics of the upcoming shows. Those are all experiences that can be put onto your résumé. Just because they weren’t full-time jobs, that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t working with social media.

Get Noticed Online

Reed Pankratz, former Account Manager at Social Media Agency Room 214 strongly suggests that students and recent graduates start building an online presence. Start tweeting and show that you know what’s going on. Create a blog. Build your presence on LinkedIn by entering into discussions.

What Not to Do

On the other end of the spectrum, in our interview, “How to Get a Job as a Social Media Manager,” Ben Castelli, Agency Director at Social Media Agency Room 214, tells us what causes him to send résumés directly into the “No” pile.

We also asked Ben to look over a real student’s résumé and to critique it from a hiring manager’s perspective. You can see that résumé and Ben’s comments here.

Just because you didn’t get a degree in social media marketing, doesn’t mean that you can’t get a job in the field. Start familiarizing yourself with everything that’s out there, conduct informational interviews with social media managers, volunteer to help with someone’s social media, and start building your online presence.

Homework time! Still have some concerns about starting your social media job search? We’ve got piles and piles of content written just for you. Head on over to the social media section of our blog.

P.S. Have anything else to add to this post? Leave a comment below telling us what you think it takes to work in social media today.


3 Responses to “How to Become a Social Media Manager: A Quick Guide to Winning the Internet”

  1. Avi Levine

    This is a question we were also pondering. So, we took to some of Chicago’s most influential social media professionals. These social media professionals lent their voices and provided us with some amazing tips to help anybody in this sort of situation. Here’s a free guide on “How to Become a Social Media Manager”:

    We hope you find this helpful as we are proud of the advice we were able to receive from such amazing social media influencers.

    • Melissa Suzuno

      Hi Avi, thanks for sharing this resource. It sounds like these experts believe that connecting in the real world is just as important as connecting virtually.


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