The sheer volume of content on social media—87% of which is posted by some guy you don’t remember from high school—combined with social media companies’ push for advertising dollars, have made it extremely difficult for brands to get noticed.
Enter the social media manager, a person whose job is to help you break through all the noise and get eyeballs and likes on your posts. Building an effective social media strategy—whether it’s for yourself or for a company—takes a lot of time, effort, and creativity. It also requires using the right tools.
What do social media managers do?
Put simply, social media managers develop and execute a social media strategy, usually to gain followers or drive engagement. A lot more goes into that than simply uploading an iPhone photo or reposting a meme.
Tune into internet culture
If you’re sharing content online, you should be able to speak the language and understand the latest trends in order to connect with your audience. As an eight-year social media veteran and Descript’s Creator Partner Manager, my colleague Marilyn Moser believes getting involved in internet culture is one of the most important elements of the job. “If there’s a popular meme or some weird new filter on TikTok that’s blowing up, you want to be the person who can explain it to your team members.”
For Marilyn, that means logging into each of the major apps, including Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok, for at least a few minutes every day. This can help you stay on top of trends and monitor what your competitors are up to, which will guide your own social media strategy.
Create scroll-stopping content
Whether it’s taking photos on your phone, pulling the right images from your brand’s portfolio, or editing and repurposing audio and video from larger campaigns, a social media manager must constantly find and create content to share with their social network.
According to Marilyn, there’s no more avoiding video on almost any platform. “In the very early days, Instagram was about pictures,” she says. “But now, everywhere we look is just an explosion of video. Both for the algorithm and catching people’s attention, you’re going to want to use video or audio.”
She also recommends that any new social media manager learn every step of content creation, from shooting beautiful product images to shooting and editing a full social media brand campaign. Finally, managers should optimize content for each platform they post on.
Schedule your posts
A big part of a social media strategy is determining when each post will go live. For example, if your company is launching a new product, you need to plan the exact timing of the posts announcing it. Post too soon and you could spoil the launch; post too late and you won’t generate enough buzz.
If you are managing multiple social media platforms, post planning can be complex due to the way timing each post must fit into the larger social media strategy across platforms. This is where posting apps like Sprout Social and Later come in handy (more on that below).
Actively engage with your followers
Part of what makes social media marketing uniquely valuable is the opportunity for your customers to interact with you via likes, comments, or direct messages (compared to more traditional and static forms of advertising like billboards or television commercials). Your followers can ask questions about products and offer feedback to your launches and marketing campaigns in real-time.
Not only is that engagement valuable for connecting with your target audience, but it also helps your social media postings reach more people. Posts with high engagement rank higher in the algorithm, meaning apps like Twitter or Instagram will show your content to more people as it generates more likes and comments.
To grow your platform, freelance social media strategist Lila Silver recommends reaching three different circles of engagement: your primary audience, which you reach by responding to comments on your own content; your secondary audience, which you reach by engaging with the content of people who follow you; and your tertiary audience, which you reach through engagement with the followers of accounts similar to yours.
Another tip from Silver: “I always set alarms for when content is going live because the 30 to 60 minutes right after a post goes live is crucial for engagement.”
Report on analytics
Whether you’re publishing content to create brand awareness or selling products directly through social media, knowing how well posts perform allows you to constantly fine-tune your social media strategy. Part of a social media manager’s job is to measure engagement, clicks, and, if applicable, revenue on posts across each platform. This data will inform your social media posts and campaigns moving forward, helping you create and post engaging content that grows your social media presence.
What kinds of tools do social media managers use?
You’ll need a few tools to help you create and execute your social media strategy. Some products may offer a free plan, while others, particularly all-in-one tools, might provide more value through a paid plan. Here are a few of the best in both categories.
Photoshop: Good for editing images
Photoshop is a stalwart photo editing software that is great for resizing, color correcting, touching up, and otherwise manipulating images. Photoshop is a professional tool, meaning it is not free and involves a bit of a learning curve, but it has almost limitless possibilities for editing photos.
Descript: Super amazing for editing audio and video
With Descript you can record, transcribe, edit, mix, and master both audio and video. It’s ultra user-friendly and includes a lot of handy features like automatic filler-word removal. For those who aren’t expert video editors (and even those who are), Descript lets you edit audio or video by editing the text in the transcript—think of it like a video word processor. There are a lot more amazing features — magical stuff powered by AI — and all the things you want in a standard audio or video editing station. To find out more just click on pretty much any page on this website.
Facebook Creator Studio: Good for scheduling posts on Facebook and Instagram
Facebook Creator Studio is a free calendar scheduling tool, particularly useful for small businesses managing posts across multiple Facebook pages. This tool is also available for Instagram, which is a Facebook product, but does not integrate with any other social networks.
Hootsuite: Good for scheduling and analytics
Hootsuite is one of the most comprehensive social media management software tools on the market, with the capability to schedule content across more than 35 social networks. Hootsuite acts as a project management tool that allows you to assign tasks to different team members, and features a centralized inbox so you can engage with followers across multiple platforms on a single dashboard. Hootsuite also produces customized reports using their sophisticated analytics tools, helping you refine your social media strategy.
Sprout Social: Good for scheduling and analytics
Sprout Social is one of the best apps for social media planning. Similar to Hootsuite, Sprout Social offers post scheduling and management capabilities across multiple social media platforms, a shared inbox, and custom analytical reports. Sprout Social also allows you to monitor specific keywords, alerting you if keywords pertaining to your company or to your competitors are mentioned online.
UNUM: Good for planning and scheduling
UNUM is an online scheduler that shows you a visualization of your social media page with the content you’ve already posted alongside future content. This allows you to create a unique scrolling experience for your audience, a feature that is especially beneficial for more visual platforms like Instagram.
Linktree: Good for Instagram links
While apps like Facebook and Twitter allow you to insert links directly into your post, Instagram does not allow for clickable links in captions. Linktree acts as a landing page for any external URL, which lets you turn Instagram page views into clicks. For example, if you have multiple media write-ups for a new product that you want to share with your followers, a single Linktree link will guide users to a secondary page featuring the URLs for each of those articles.
Bitly: Good for link tracking
Bitly allows you to shorten links so that they can fit in a tweet or in an Instagram bio. Bitly also offers users the ability to add tracking for those links that can be reviewed in Google Analytics. This tracking feature allows you to see how social media drives traffic to your site.