Not a month goes by without an email like “Which book / course / path do you recommend to become a Social Media Manager?”
An increasingly requested figure, the Social Media Manager seems to be the one who manages the social media accounts of the brands (sadly responding for some to that mythological figure who “manages Facebook pages”), but in reality it requires many more skills than you think, in some cases even more specialized;
manage and moderate the community (Social Media Management), analyze the performance and conversations that develop around the brand (Social Media Analysis / Brand Reputation Monitoring), design, create and optimize paid campaigns (Social Media Advertising), design plans coherent and business-oriented editorials (Social Media Content Curation) and so on, in a broader micro-specialization that is increasingly in demand in large digital teams.
Many skills and micro-work areas, summarized for convenience in the amazing figure of the Social Media Manager.
Now, before giving advice on how to become a good professional in this area, let’s clarify what Social Media Marketing is by borrowing a part of what Philip Kotler, father of the discipline, has given to marketing, we can say that:
social media marketing is the art and science of making social media real business resources in a concrete and measurable way, providing relevant content to users
In short, the SERIOUS Social Media Manager, far from being the one who “publishes things on social media” is the one who is in charge of making social media real resources for brands, in a concrete way.
And if you want to stand out from the crowd of improvisers out there, you have to equip yourself with 3 very specific things: passion, patience and a great desire to study.
In addition to a great desire to bring results and not stop at likes and followers, of course.
Returning to us, where to start to work in Social Media Marketing?
1. Observe, start browsing and becoming familiar with the tools of the trade
Open a Facebook page, even on your home slippers or on your cat (even better if on your interest or hobby) and try to understand how it works, what are the tools you need to manage it, how it is created. Open an Instagram account, start spending more time on it, exploring the various areas, voices, but above all, the dynamics. What makes one post so successful and another not? What makes a profile so much more interesting to follow, while others are not lined up? Explore, first of all as a user. For hours, days, months. If you think it’s a waste of time, I’ll reassure you right away:
You can’t be a good SMM if you don’t first understand the dynamics of social media as a user.
Each social media has tones, methods of use and languages that are different from each other and if you do not, first of all, learn to understand and use them as a user it will be impossible to know how to do it well as a brand; take the time to understand and familiarize yourself with the various tools that social networks offer, you will need to be very familiar with the tools of the trade and you need time for this to happen.
Do you get bored, get tired, don’t you like to spend the winter in these spaces? Well, maybe that’s not the job for you.
Have you ever heard of a good babysitter who hates children? But above all … would you leave your children to a babysitter who hates children?
I recommend, start immediately to take care of your digital identity, starting from the blog and your social accounts (in particular Facebook and LinkedIn); whether you want to work for an agency, a brand or, better yet, as a freelancer, 9 out of 10 your employers will spite your principals online before calling you. And you have to introduce yourself and tell your best.
2. Read a lot and take specialization courses
When I started, there weren’t many courses to choose from and specialist books to study, so I did most of the work myself and studying online courses.
The good news is that today there are many courses (even remote) and books to choose from, I would say that they are born every day like mushrooms; the bad news is that, since there is a lot of demand for courses of this type, anyone offers them, even a flood of agencies and professional scoundrels. How to find the right course to study?
Before choosing, carefully examine who the teachers of the course are, but above all what are the opinions on the Net about the people/agencies that offer them and those who have already followed that type of course; one thing is sure if they promise to turn you into a full-blown professional, an expert in 8 hours, run away.
You can choose to do a long specialization or master’s course to give you a solid foundation or maybe take more workshops and micro-courses, but I strongly advise you not to “train all by yourself“; following an ad hoc course will allow you to avoid avoidable mistakes, not to reinvent the wheel and above all to get to know those like you who have chosen this path. And grow with him.
“No, but everything is already online, for free”
Oh sure, online you find a lot, a lot, maybe by putting together the pieces you find on the right and on the left you can create an advanced Social Media Marketing course lasting years.
Yet there is nothing more stupid and shortsighted than relying only on free online training; why waste hours, days, months and reassemble a mammoth puzzle with the risk that in the end, you will miss some pieces, when there is already someone who, obviously paying, can spare you all that effort and offer you already outlined thoughtful and well-constructed paths?
Why waste hours and hours going crazy looking for answers online when someone can teach you the method to find them, the right mindset to save time and money in absurd tools and research?
In short, we understood each other.
This does not mean that you should not benefit from the sea of contents that you find on the Net, on the contrary, they are of enormous support to update you and grow, as we will see.
3. Practice and networking for continued growth
Obviously, the theory will be accompanied by practice; start with following small projects, but start as soon as possible, as soon as you’re sure you’re not doing too much damage, that’s it. You have to work in the field to understand how things work, beyond theory!
You will be wrong, there is no doubt about this, it is part of the growth path; the important thing is to learn from mistakes, not repeat them, but above all, do not promise customers something that you are unable to keep or an experience that you do not yet have; in this sense, internships allow you to learn from those who have more experience in the field than you, but of course, be careful to be supported by those who really want to teach you and not let you make coffee and photocopies from morning to evening.
I strongly advise you to start networking right away, offline in sector events and online in various groups, just search to find lots of them. It will help you not only stay up to date and create bonds that will be useful to you, but it will also help you talk to other specialists if you have any doubts or questions.
Observe, comment, ask, there is no better way to learn.
4. Ongoing training is essential
Every job, even the most static, requires training and continuous updating, but in Social Media Marketing, continuity is added to the speed, that of a world that changes tools, paradigms, environments every day. If you want to make this area your job you will have to stay DAILY (yes, not monthly or weekly) updated on all the news and trends in the sector.
How? Get a good newsreader (I personally use Feedly) in which to collect all the sources to follow; I recommend starting with the most up-to-date ones, such as Social Media Today, Social Media Examiner, Hubspot, Marketing Land, TechCrunch.
Obviously, there are also many very interesting blogs and industry sites to follow, but, since listing them for sure I would forget some, I let you discover them.
Social media manager: more than a profession, a path
A week or a few months will not be enough to be able to say that you are prepared, but the experience and skills acquired over time will be needed, as is the case for any job; in this specific, however, enthusiasm and interest are really necessary.
On the one hand for the continuous updating which requires that, in the long run, if not supported by genuine interest, it becomes exhausting, on the other hand, because, being a new figure and easily confused with “the cousin who stays all day on Facebook” or “the young geek who knows about computers”, you may find it hard to legitimize your professionalism (and therefore the money you charge).
Don’t give up and show with preparation and results how important your figure is for any brand. Small or large.