What your Social Media Manager Wishes you Knew


Most people don’t understand what a social media manager does or what their day-to-day really looks like. Trust me, it’s a lot harder and more complex than it appears. Contrary to popular belief, we don’t just scroll through Instagram all day. Not sure if you know this or not, but you can’t turn the internet off –– I’ve tried. This often means working nights, weekends and even vacations. Yep, I’ve worked in a different country on the beach on my vacation drink in hand.

We wouldn’t do this if we didn’t absolutely love it. It’s one of the best creative outlets and offers the most variety of any job I’ve ever had or could hope to have. That being said, I want to help clear up a few misconceptions about the job, so I asked social media managers all over the world what they wish their employers/clients knew about the role. I received over 100 comments, so I’ve condensed the list down to the 10 most frequently mentioned. Here goes!

To keep this post from getting too long, this post does not cover the paid side of social media. Maybe I’ll cover that in Part II.

  1. Please stop telling your social media manager to make something “go viral”.

    This was the most frequently mentioned in the groups I polled. Anyone who has spent any time in the realm of social media management has heard this or some variation of it. Every time you say this phrase, a fairy dies or maybe a social media professional feels some angst. (it’s definitely one of those two things.)

    The truth is that there’s no magic formula to make content “go viral”. YouTube personality Kevin Nalty is the most quoted on the subject of virality stating that "a few years ago, a video could be considered 'viral' if it hit a million views", but says as of 2011, only "if it gets more than 5 million views in a 3–7 day period" can it be considered "viral". In 2019, no one seems to have come to a consensus on what this means. Probably because they don’t understand how to gauge virality when even a photo of an egg can go viral these days. What a time to be alive.

    While experts don’t agree on the exact number of views/shares, etc. that content requires in order to be considered viral, most agree that it has to do with the shares a video receives in a short amount of time. The more each viewer shares it, the more it spreads (like a virus). A quick Google search leads you to a plethora of tips for setting up your content to “go viral” but the truth is it often comes down to a provocative idea, a little luck and several eyeballs to get your content in front of. (If no one sees it, there’s no one to share it.)

  2. What works for one business may not work for yours.

    There are new articles every day advising you what to post, when to post and how often to post. Of course, they all give conflicting advice. The only way you can actually learn whether square photos or vertical videos or posting at 2am performs better for you is to do your own testing. It’s absolutely imperative to pay attention to the data. If you’re ignoring what your audience actually responds to in favor of what the “experts” say you should be posting, you’re forcing your own ideas onto your audience instead of paying attention to what they actually want.

    It’s just like if I go to a restaurant where I always get the same burger and fries and they’re like, “here’s our new salad, you should try it”, and I’m like, “no, I know what I like and that’s this burger and fries” and they’re like, “but you might like this because it’s delicious and new”, and I’m like, “Leave me alone! Do you get commission off this salad or something?!” And they’re like, “no, I’m just trying to be helpful”, and I’m like, “I understand and I’m sorry I snapped at you, but I just want the burger, OK?” And they leave in tears.

    That’s not to say you shouldn’t try new things, but don’t force it on your audience if they’re repeatedly showing you that they’re not into it.

  3. Don’t fire your social media manager after two weeks because you haven’t seen an ROI

    Social ROI can be difficult to measure and the results are not immediate. This is especially the case if you provide a service, have a brick and mortar business or sell B2B. It takes time to see the results of even the most well-executed strategy. You’re not going to gain more followers over night (See #6) and it might take some time for your new hire to understand your audience enough to run tests and create content that they’ll respond to. You hired them for their expertise, so give them time to show you results.

    Or keep hiring and firing good employees like a real-life reenactment of Groundhog Day. The choice is yours!

  4. Proper social media management takes time.

    Please stop pawning your social media off on inexperienced employees. It’s worth nothing that you get what (or whom) you pay for. If you go looking on a site that offers bottom of the barrel pricing, you might end up with bottom of the barrel services. The same applies to delegating social to an employee who already has a full-time job, like Carol. Carol doesn’t have time for this.

    If you want your social media presence to be a real asset for your business, you have to dedicate time, resources and talent to it. Your social media manager often acts as the first point of contact for potential customers. The right person will serve as an extension of your brand and nurture your community. They often simultaneously play the role of customer service representative, IT professional and sales representative while also creating and distributing content crafted specifically for your audience and aligning with your business goals.

    Done right, your social media presence can be invaluable for your brand. Done incorrectly, it’s a waste of someone’s time and your budget. Also Carol is tired of being overworked and she is the only one with the passwords and TRUST she will delete the file when she finally gets fed up and leaves.

  5. Don’t micromanage the person you hired to manage your social media channels.

    I know of one social media manager who had clients calling her late at night in a panic because they wanted to add an additional hashtag to a post that had been up for hours. Not only are edits like this worthless, it also makes you a nightmare client. Can we make Clientzilla a thing? If you properly vet someone and hire them for their expertise, you should trust them to execute the mutually agreed upon strategy. (Don’t have a social strategy? See #8.)

    As someone who has difficulty relinquishing control, I know the struggle to rely on others. Your brand is sacred to you. You want it presented in just the right way. It can be hard to let things go. BUT if your content isn’t quite working or the copy is well-written, but it isn’t what you envisioned for your brand, this one may be on you. Hear me out.

    No matter how competent the person you hire is at their job, it’s unlikely that they’re a mind reader. If they are, you should ask them what your college girlfriend REALLY meant when she dumped you with the line “it’s not you, it’s me” instead of letting them waste their time as your social media manager.

    You should be sharing your brand guidelines, your short term and long term goals and what you envision your voice to be. When you do provide feedback, give an explanation, so they understand for next time. Unless you see major grammar mistakes or language that is wholly inconsistent with your brand, refrain from rewriting posts or making minor tweaks to content. Also, listen to them when they explain why they’ve done something a certain way. You may realize they’re picking up on something you never have because they’re looking at it from a different perspective.

    Look at it this way, if you’re constantly redoing their work, you’ll be judging their performance based on the work you’re actually doing. If it fails, they’ll likely get the blame. If it succeeds, you’re doing the work yet still paying them.

    So, “let it ride” like you’re a big-time gambler in Vegas –– in some ways you are. Social media is the perfect place to experiment. You try things out. You fail. You succeed. Hopefully the latter more than the former.

  6. Run from anyone who promises to get you followers fast.

    More followers does not necessarily equal more sales. I won’t spend a lot of time on this one. Everyone should know by now that people and companies who buy followers are wasting their money. Most of these accounts are bots or spam accounts. Essentially, you’re paying more for less eyes because only a percentage of your followers will see your content and you’re filling your audience with fake profiles. From time to time, Facebook (and Instagram) go through and sweep out these accounts. That’s why you seem some “influencers” numbers take a drastic hit from time to time.

    I think we can all agree this is a bad idea. If you want to seem cool and popular, get yourself a Gucci belt or some biker shorts that you only wear when you’re not biking.

  7. You do not need to (and shouldn’t) be on every platform.

    Is your ideal customer a teenager? If not, you don’t need to be on Snapchat. Are you a B2B company? You’re going to want to have a strong presence on LinkedIn. Do you sell shoes for young women? You’re going to want an Instagram account. You need to know who your ideal customer is and then become active on the platforms they use. Ideally, you’ll do this before you do anything else.

  8. You must have a social strategy in place. It isn’t free.

    A social strategy really isn’t negotiable. It’s a smart investment. If you don’t have one, you’re just spinning your wheels. This is a step people often want to skip because it’s typically an additional cost. I’d argue that it is THE most important step. You wouldn’t start building a house without a construction plan. In the same way, your social media needs a foundation to be successful. (Maybe you’re the type of person who would start building your house without a construction plan, but you know what I mean, you maniac.)

  9. Social media should not be the basket for all of your eggs.

    Social media shouldn’t be your only form of marketing. It’s mean to be complementary to the rest of your marketing initiatives. It’s also meant to be primarily social. Nurture your community and develop a sense of loyalty with engaging content and meaningful conversation. Don’t beat your audience over the head with deals and promotions. Think of it like your old high school friend Jane who reached out to you under the guise of reconnecting then suddenly sent you 11 different group invites for her pyramid schemes. Don’t be like Jane.

  10. It’s harder than ever to grow your social media presence without investing $$$.

    Facebook makes serious bank off of Facebook and Instagram ads. This means they are basically holding your content hostage unless you pay for it to be seen. Smart for them, sad for us. They’ve continually squeezed companies’ average organic reach until it now hovers in the single digits. Only a tiny percentage of your followers see your organic content on a daily basis. If you aren’t allocating any of your budget to paid spend, you’re missing a lot of eyeballs. That means if it’s growth you’re after, you’ll need to pay to play.

    Don’t expect to see your following grow rapidly without an investment unless your post about an egg suddenly goes viral overnight.

The ability to capture and hold attention in a space that is noisier than ever is a job that deserves recognition. Being flexible enough to change directions at a moment’s notice is a balancing act that not everyone can handle. Creating content that resonates with your audience and encourages people to take action is invaluable. Knowing a brand inside and out and often playing the role of customer service or technical expert is difficult and often thankless. Managing a community and acting as the first point of contact for potential customers is crucial to your business and your bottom line. We see the ugliest side of the comment section, yet we live to fight another day (and night).

Please treat your social media professionals well because they have a lot of power. But hire someone to take over social from Carol ASAP. She is a loose canon.