How to Become a Social Media Manager

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Do you spend time using social media at all?

If you’re like the millions – and billions – of people worldwide who are using it for a variety of reasons, then chances are good that you do. 

And guess what? That right there qualifies you to create a successful business as a social media manager making money doing something you already do for free. 

But, it’s not quite as simple as that! Before you take the plunge into what can be a very lucrative career you’ll need to spend a little time understanding the best way to get started. To make things easier for you, we put together this guide that outlines exactly what you need to do.

How to Become a Social Media Manager

Follow the six steps we’ve outlined below and you’ll be ready to start your journey as a social media manager, including finding and landing those first clients.

Decide What Platforms You’ll Specialize In

The first step in your journey to becoming a social media manager is deciding which platforms you’ll specialize in. Why? Because each platform is unique, with its own demographics, uses and features. 

As a social media manager, it’s a good idea to have some familiarity with all of the major platforms that businesses are using for marketing. Trying to be a master of all of them, at least in the early stages of your career, though, would ultimately make you a master of none and would be very overwhelming. 

Here’s an overview of the top six social media networks that businesses are using:

  • Facebook – Considered a giant of social media platforms with 2.5 billion active users, Facebook has become a marketing machine for businesses. Business pages and communities (groups) are the primary ways that businesses engage and connect with their audience on this platform.
  • LinkedIn – LinkedIn is known as the network for professionals. Its culture is all about business, networking and value-driven content like video, blog posts, thought leadership articles and podcasts. This platform is most popular with an older age group, 45 and over, and large portion of its users are business owners and executive level individuals.
  • Instagram – Instagram is an image- and short video-focused social network. About half of Instagram users are following at least one business, and it’s become a go-to for learning about brands and products. Instagram has also made recent moves to make direct selling from the platform as seamless as possible for shoppers. 
  • Pinterest – Pinterest is also an image-focused platform that has become a search engine of sorts. People are going here to learn about interests, hobbies and products – and to buy things. Pinterest’s biggest demographic is women in a higher income bracket and this platform drives almost four times more sales than any other platform.
  • Twitter – This social network isn’t as big as Facebook and Instagram when it comes to users, but it is a contender when it comes to business and marketing. It’s biggest demographic is affluent millennials, who are also the largest consumer group. This is another platform that people are going to to learn about brands and businesses, with the average user following at least five businesses.
  • YouTube – YouTube gets left out in the cold when it comes to being a social media network sometimes, but it’s one of the more powerful ones out there. It’s become a search engine of its own with millions of users on this platform daily learning about how to do things, hobbies, interests, etc. And guess who’s putting out a lot of that content? Businesses and marketers. 

Choose two to three networks to start with, and educate yourself on the ins and outs of those from a business and marketing perspective. Different platforms will be appropriate for different clients, depending on their industry and goals.

Do you know the 10 essential parts of a killer social media profile?
Grab your copy of our essential checklist that you can use to:
  • Build out your own profile(s)
  • Set up client profiles from scratch
  • Audit a client’s existing profile(s)

Launch Your Website & Create Your Business Social Profiles

Once you’ve settled on which platforms you’ll specialize in, it’s time to set up your online presence – or optimize the one you have to your new career choice. The best way to find clients as a social media manager is to have a strong online presence where you can display your skills and social media savvy using your own social media accounts.

And, if you’re serious about building a business as a social media manager, launching a website is part of this process! 

As a social media manager, you’re doing business in the online community where a website is essentially your calling card. Having a website focused on your business legitimizes you and establishes with potential clients that you have a credible service to offer.

And when it comes to your social media presence, it’s crucial to have profiles specific to your social media management business. Social media will likely be your primary place to network and find potential clients, and their initial impressions of you based on your profile(s) could make or break your future relationship.

For that reason, it’s important to be intentional about everything you post. It’s also a good idea to do an audit of your personal profiles as well and get rid of anything that might make you come across as less than professional or trustworthy.

While it’s nice to keep your business and personal life separate, the bottom line is that in the world of social media management pretty much all aspects of your online presence are subject to the public eye. Potential clients will check you out, so be prepared! 

Here’s a great article on 10 ways to improve your social media profiles that you can implement right away. We recommend starting with Facebook and LinkedIn as they’re both great places to network and find social media clients. 

Create Your Service Offerings and Set Your Rates

Your next step in your social media management journey is to decide what services you’ll provide and how much you’ll charge.

One of the awesome aspects of being a social media manager is that it offers so many opportunities for specializing. And, the “big deal” about specializing is that you can command very high rates!

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As you move forward as a social media manager, you’ll find that there are services that you enjoy doing, are good at and that are in high demand. This process can take some time, though, and to get started your best bet is to focus on a few services you feel you could learn fairly quickly and provide with confidence. 

Similar to focusing on two to three social media platforms, choosing a few services to start with will help you focus and make it easier to find clients. You’ll sound more credible about what it is you can do, versus someone who claims to be able to “do it all,” and you’ll have more clarity about which kinds of clients to pitch. 

Here’s a list of eight of the most common social media services that are offered:

  1. Profile set up/optimization
  2. Curating content
  3. Graphic design
  4. Keyword research
  5. Paid campaigns/ads
  6. Group/community management
  7. Repurposing content
  8. Customer service

Pick three of these services to start with to really focus on and learn about. It’s not a bad idea to familiarize yourself with the basic concepts of each, but narrow down the few that appeal to you. 

Now that you know what you’ll offer, decide what you’ll charge for your services. This can be a place where new social media managers can get stuck, but it doesn’t have to be. 

As you’re starting out and figuring out how long it will take you to provide the services you’re offering, it’s a good idea to begin with an hourly rate. We see new social media managers, with no client experience yet, charging $20-$35 per hour. 

As you gain some experience, and clients, you’ll want to shift gears to charging package rates. This will make things easier on both of you – you won’t be tracking time and can make more income doing the same tasks you’ve become increasingly efficient with. Your clients will also appreciate knowing what they’re paying consistently each month. 

We recommend coming up with three packages – a low, medium and high tier. This way clients will feel like they have a choice in how they want to work with you and with what fits best for their social media needs.

Begin Pitching Clients

You’ve got the basics of your social media management in place with your online presence, services and rates. It’s time to get out there and find those first clients! 

After you’ve spent some time cultivating your social media presence, the majority of the time you have available for your new business should be spent pitching. It’s literally the lifeblood of your business, and if you don’t do it, well – you won’t have any clients. 

There are lots of places to look for potential social media clients. The majority of businesses are marketing on social media (and if they’re not they should be) and yet pretty much no business owner wants to manage his or her own presence. 

When you begin looking through this lens, you’ll see that there are opportunities everywhere! 

Here are a few places to get started: 

  • Social media – Build your network, periodically post on your profiles about your services, engage in groups and communities and spend time actively cultivating relationships.
  • Your immediate network – Reach out to business owners you know and ask them if they need your services or if they know anyone who does! You can also let your friends and family know what you’re up to and ask them to keep you in mind if they know of anyone who could benefit from your services.
  • Do some research – Spend some time hunting around the internet, or even your local community, for businesses that either have a weak, inconsistent social media presence or none at all. 

Build a Portfolio

Once you’ve landed that first client or three, build a portfolio that you can share with prospective clients. Social media management is very much a “show me what you can do” service. While it’s crucial to have your own presence to start with, showcasing what you’re accomplishing for clients is a powerful way to build your business.

If you want to get a jump on building a portfolio before landing clients, consider helping out a friend to practice, or even a local good cause like a nonprofit. While we don’t recommend working for free long-term, this can be a great way to gain some experience.

Pro tip: Write a case study blog post about what your social media management services have accomplished for a business (including your own). You can share it with prospective clients and all over your social media profiles! Here’s a great example of a case study about using Pinterest to drive traffic to a blog. 

How to Maximize Your Chances of Success

As you prepare yourself to launch into the very in-demand and potentially lucrative world of social media management, take some time to check in with yourself about a few things:

  1. Why are you pursuing this venture – what is your ‘why’ for success?
  2. In what ways are you willing to adjust your current routine to succeed? Are there things you’ll need to change or give up to dedicate time to your business? Are you up for that?
  3. What will success look like to you? Where do you want to be in one, three, five years?

The bottom line is that with the right information and focus, you can absolutely succeed as a social media manager. And, if you treat your business like a business, i.e. take it seriously and really own what you’re doing, it will pay you like a business! Conversely, if you treat it like a hobby, expect to be paid like a hobby.

Here are a few ways you can take your business seriously and get the most out of your efforts as a social media manager.

Do you know the 10 essential parts of a killer social media profile?
Grab your copy of our essential checklist that you can use to:
  • Build out your own profile(s)
  • Set up client profiles from scratch
  • Audit a client’s existing profile(s)

Network, Network, Network

Have you ever heard that your network is your net worth? It’s true! Spend dedicated time establishing and nurturing relationships through social media, as well as any other avenues available to you like in-person networking events. 

Approach these relationships with an authentic desire to connect and learn – versus being on the prowl for work – and you’ll be amazed at the value that is added to your life and business. An immediate connection may not turn into a working relationship, but you never know what may come of it, like a referral or some skill or knowledge that enriches you personally.

Spend time in social media groups that are focused on your target market, i.e. industry of choice, responding to comments with helpful information, encouragement, or any other form of authentic engagement. Start conversations and take them to direct messages to get to know people more directly and always be willing to be helpful. 

An attitude of sincerely wanting to help others has a way of bringing about amazing things! 

Always be learning

Another way to take your business seriously is by investing in yourself and your craft by educating yourself as much as possible. It’s one thing to “know some stuff” about social media, but to be a serious contender as a social media manager you need to pursue training in your platforms and service areas of choice.

There are a ton of free resources out there on the internet, as well as platform and service-specific courses. To get started with a solid foundation of knowledge as a social media manager and be able to step in and help businesses right away we recommend Social Media for Virtual Assistants.

Finally, social media is constantly changing. To stay one step ahead and set yourself apart as an excellent social media manager you need to be committed to staying on top of trends, learning new tools and keeping up with any changes that roll out with your platforms of specialty.

Understand the tools

A major aspect of working with social media is understanding the tools that will help you execute a content strategy effectively. There are tons of tools out there, including ones native to social media platforms as well as third-party applications.

Some of these include scheduling, analytics, graphic design and content planning tools to name a few. Start by becoming very familiar with the native tools for the platforms you’re specializing in, and as you gain experience as a social media manager explore some of the many third-party tools that are out there. 

These tools will be what you keep in your virtual toolbox to help you be the best at what you do. Having a firm understanding of some of the more popular and effective ones will add to your credibility as a legitimate social media manager.

Don’t try and learn all.of.the.things – there are literally tons of tools – but like social media platforms and services, hone in on a few and become very skilled at using them. 

Here’s a list of the top 25 social media management tools for businesses so you can familiarize yourself with what’s out there.

Final Thoughts

There couldn’t be a better time to become a social media manager. Social media has evolved from something only teenagers and college kids used to do, to one of the primary ways businesses are marketing themselves. 

Business owners don’t have the time, desire or know-how to implement an effective social media strategy, and they don’t typically have someone on staff who does either. As we’re also in a time when contracting out for services is becoming the norm, you have this perfect storm of opportunity when it comes to being a social media manager! 

Since there are so many facets to social media, you can also craft a business doing things you enjoy and are good at. Whether your focus is graphic design, customer service or one of the many other potential areas of specialization, you can really niche down with social media management and create a successful, sustainable business – and an excellent income.

Take your business seriously by taking the time to hone your skills, establish a quality online presence and build a network of like-minded professionals. If you remain consistent and diligent with your efforts in building your social media management business, the seeds you sow will reap a harvest of success!

Ready to take the next step to become a social media manager? Enroll in Social Media for Virtual Assistants!    

Laura Nicholls is a writer, visual assistant, mother and athlete (not in that order) living in Northern California. She shares the land she lives on with 36 horses that she cares for and is passionate about encouraging and serving others through her freelance business. She’s a single mom to a spunky 4-year-old, is firm in her faith and believes that the way you do anything is the way you do everything.