What Does a Social Media Specialist Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

Image by Theresa Chiechi. © The Balance 2019

Social media specialists are similar to public relations specialists—with a 21st-century twist. A public relations specialist promotes a person's, group's, or company's desired public image by releasing material to various media outlets for distribution to the public, whereas a social media specialist interacts directly with the public via her employer's social media accounts to build a brand.

By taking charge of her employer's social media profiles, interacting with users, and posting valuable content, such as videos, text, and images, the social media specialist doesn't seek to directly market her employer or its brand, but rather to ignite a buzz around a topic that relates to the brand by telling engaging stories that people identify with and share.

Social Media Specialist Duties & Responsibilities

A social media specialist may be responsible for a number of interconnecting areas, including:

  • Creating social media strategies, including budget planning, designing, implementing, and managing promotions and campaigns.
  • Increasing the employer's presence on existing social media platforms and expanding to new ones.
  • Developing content topics that appeal to users.
  • Creating, managing, and distributing content via videos, images, e-newsletters, social media messaging, and the employer's website and blogs.
  • Following conversations among users and contributing to the convos.
  • Directing the design of social media landing pages and profiles.
  • Managing online reviews and reputation building, including responding to positive and negative user reviews.
  • Working closely with advertising, product development, and other departments to promote brand consistency in all areas.
  • Analyzing metrics, like user interactions and visits, and adjusting strategies as necessary to improve future marketing efforts.
  • Monitoring the social media activity of the employer's competitors.

The diverse responsibilities of a social media specialist support the development and growth of brand trust and loyalty, the main thrust of this position.

Social Media Specialist Salary

According to a November 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics profile of a social media specialist for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, the bureau groups social media specialists with other types of public relations specialists. The median annual salary for public relations specialists varies according to the industry in which they're employed, ranging from $64,530 for government employees to $55,790 for jobs in state, local, and private educational services.

  • Median Annual Salary: $60,000
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $112,310
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $33,690

Education, Training, & Certification

To have the best chance of snagging a social media specialist position, you'll need an undergraduate degree and, ideally, work experience in a related field:

  • Education: At a minimum, you'll need college-level coursework in business, writing, marketing, and communications, ideally culminating in a bachelor's degree in public relations, advertising, journalism, internet marketing, or a similar area. While you're attending school, it also helps to have participated in activities like an internship or volunteer work that showcases your writing and social media skills.
  • Experience: Although you may be able to land a plum job fresh out of college, hiring managers are generally on the lookout for a person who has worked in a related area or has direct experience in managing or coordinating an organization's social media accounts. It will also work to your advantage if you can point to your own thriving social media accounts as examples of your expertise.
  • Certification: Certification isn't usually required, but it may help you get a promotion, a raise, or another job. Available certifications include the American Marketing Association Professional Certified Marketer in several specialties and the Internet Marketing Association Certified Internet Marketer.

Social Media Specialist Skills & Competencies

A number of skills and competencies are key to your success as a social media specialist, including:

  • Social media fluency: You'll need hands-on familiarity with a wide range of social media platforms and awareness of trending hashtags.
  • Communication skills: Excellent writing, editing, storytelling, SEO, and presentation skills and a strong sense of who your audience is and how to fulfill its needs.
  • Knowledge of networking tools: You'll need to be conversant with networking tools, such as Hootsuite, that make it possible for you to manage your employer's social media empire from one dashboard.
  • Computer and design skills: Knowledge of WordPress and other content management systems is often helpful, along with at least some knowledge of HTML, CSS, and Photoshop.
  • Ability to think on your feet: You should be able to confidently make the right call on the spur of the moment, especially when you're addressing hot topics.
  • Time-management skills: You'll need to manage a full plate of competing priorities, organizing them around daily, weekly, seasonal, and yearly deadlines, to-do lists, and goals.
  • Ability to work well with others: Not only will you be working with the public as the focal point of your employer's online presence, but you may also be meeting with people from other departments to coordinate your efforts and resolve common problems.

    Job Outlook

    According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of public relations specialists, including social media specialists, is expected to grow approximately 9 percent between 2016 and 2026, which is comparable to the average for all occupations.

    On the other hand, consumers' rapidly increasing use of social media platforms to connect with brands means that social media specialists who can nurture and develop these interactions will likely be in demand by more companies moving forward. This will mean more job openings, but with more graduates entering the field, the competition for these jobs is expected to increase as well.

    Work Environment

    You can expect to spend the majority of your workday in an office environment interacting with the public via computer, although you may occasionally travel to attend a meeting, convention, or trade show.

    Work Schedule

    Social media specialists typically work full-time during regular business hours, although longer workdays and weekend hours aren't unusual.

    How to Get the Job

    FIND A VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY

    Volunteer to be the social media point person for a cause you care about, such as your local animal shelter. Sure, you'll score valuable experience for your resume, but you'll also be providing a service that could make a real difference in the lives of the shelter animals.

    GET AN ONLINE DEGREE

    If the idea of going to college online appeals to you, enroll in an accredited college or university that offers an online bachelor's degree in internet marketing. Successful completion of the program and required capstone experience will qualify you for a variety of jobs in addition to social media specialist, including marketing manager, digital specialist, SEO specialist, and more.

    MATCH YOUR RESUME TO THE JOB

    Find out how to tailor your resume and cover letter to the job and highlight your social media successes.

    PRACTICE FOR YOUR INTERVIEW

    Practicing how you'll answer commonly asked social media interview questions can help you prepare for your upcoming interview as well as give you additional information about the skills and knowledge you'll need to get the job.

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