Guide to Social Media Marketing

Are you ready to find your fit?

Social media marketing professionals use their online marketing knowledge to attract customers, promote brand recognition, and maintain a positive corporate reputation. This career offers a straightforward education pathway. Most entry-level jobs require a bachelor’s degree.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 7% employment growth for public relations specialists, including media and communication workers, between 2019 and 2029. Organizations are driving high demand for social media professionals as businesses look for new and innovative ways to reach customers online. The BLS reports that industries employing the largest number of public relations specialists include advertising, educational services, and government.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 7% employment growth for public relations specialists, including media and communication workers, between 2019 and 2029.

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Skills | Education | Careers | FAQs

The Rise of Social Media for Business

The first social media platforms in the late 1990s and early 2000s — including Six Degrees, LiveJournal, and Friendster — were designed as online hubs for users to share public profiles, connect with friends, and write blog posts.

As more people joined social networks, the marketing opportunities for businesses became increasingly clear. Collectively, social media users create massive repositories of personal data that advertisers can use to target their preferred audiences: age, location, personal interests, professional interests, and even political affiliation.

In 2006, just two years after its launch, Facebook signed its first advertising deal with JP Morgan Chase. YouTube launched its first ads in 2007, and Twitter began showing ads to users in 2010. The recent rise of individual social media influencers provided companies with another avenue to market their products and services.

Today, social media marketing expands far beyond paid ads. Organizations run their own Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and Twitter accounts. These companies hire social media marketing professionals to fill their feeds with content, develop their brand’s unique voice, and connect directly with more than 3.8 billion social media users worldwide.

What Is a Social Media Marketing Professional?

Social media marketing professionals’ job duties vary by the size and goals of an organization. Some professionals monitor online communities and provide direct customer service through social media features like replies and direct messages. Other professionals focus on developing and implementing online marketing strategies.

Social media marketing requires collaboration across the company. Marketers frequently interact with:

  • Managers to discuss social media marketing plans and goals
  • Graphic designers and copywriters to craft the most effective content
  • Marketing analysts to identify target audiences and predict social media campaign success

With experience and education, social media marketers can progress to management roles, where they supervise and direct the activities of a social media team. Some job titles with greater responsibilities include digital marketing manager or chief marketing officer.

Review the following skills and interests of these professionals to determine if social media marketing is the right career for you.

Hard and Soft Skills

  • Strategic Planning: Strategic planning involves setting small, achievable goals to reach larger company objectives. Social media marketers use strategic planning in the development of advertising campaigns and company branding. Professionals do this by clearly outlining plans, reflecting on prior outcomes, and analyzing how competitors operate.
  • Optimizing Content: To reach the broadest audience, social media marketers need to optimize content for viewers on multiple platforms. This may require altering image sizes, rewriting content, and including keywords or hashtags. Social media professionals must understand the strengths and weaknesses of each application they use to connect.
  • Creativity: Creative thinking enables social media marketing professionals to generate ideas, improve processes, and solve problems in new and different ways. Individuals can improve their creative thinking skills by questioning assumptions and engaging in exercises like brainstorming, mind mapping, and situational roleplaying.
  • Customer Service: Customer service requires multiple soft skills, including active listening, interpersonal communication, and patience. To better connect with customers on social media platforms, marketing professionals should know their products or services well, remain solutions-focused, and practice clear and concise communication.

Interests and Talents

  • Graphic Design: Social media marketing professionals often exhibit an interest in graphic design. Though social media careers do not necessarily require hands-on expertise in Adobe Photoshop, marketers can benefit from an understanding of certain technical terms and processes. This enables them to collaborate closely with graphic design teams on social media campaigns.
  • Copywriting: Effective social media marketing requires clear and concise copywriting. An interest in grammar, voice, and style is beneficial for any social media professional. Depending on their experience level, social media marketers may directly write copy for their brand’s social media posts or they may review copy written by others.
  • Trend Awareness: Social media moves at a fast pace, with new content emerging at all hours of the day. Social media marketing professionals often possess a knack for identifying relevant news, trends, and viral content. Marketers can use this information to create material that grabs an audience’s attention.
  • Persuasion: Those with innate talents in persuasion understand how to influence decision-making and convince others to work toward common goals. Social media marketers can use their persuasive abilities to lead their team, collaborate with managers, liaise with stakeholders, and influence those in the company’s target audience.

Education for Digital Marketing Strategies

Though many social media marketing skills can be attained through self-study, companies typically look for digital marketing strategists with a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field like marketing, public relations, communications, English, or business. Individual employers may consider various combinations of education and experience.

Review Your Marketing Degree Options

Popular Marketing Strategy Courses

Many social media marketing professionals start their career path by earning a bachelor’s degree. Bachelor’s degrees require 120 credits to graduate, which translates to about 40 courses. Students complete general education courses, major core courses, and electives.

Most business schools also allow you to earn course credits through internships, which provide invaluable hands-on training and experience you can list on your resume. Below are four popular marketing courses that you may encounter:

Principles of Marketing
A common major core requirement for marketing students, this course introduces marketing concepts and applications. Students gain an understanding of current marketing theories, strategy, pricing, and distribution. This course provides a solid foundation of knowledge that learners build upon throughout their program.
Strategic Brand Management
Branding can make or break a company. This marketing core course focuses on the importance of brand equity both on and off social media. By examining patterns, theories, and models, students learn practical techniques for building, managing, and protecting brands in a competitive global environment.
Integrated Marketing Communications
Integrated marketing communications (IMC) refers to the alignment and interconnection of various marketing channels, including broadcast radio, print media, and social media. This course teaches students how to use IMC to provide customers with relevant, consistent messages across multiple platforms. Some programs offer IMC courses focused specifically on social media.
Consumer Behavior
This common core course introduces students to the fundamentals of consumer behavior as it relates to searching, evaluating, and products. Coursework explores social and environmental factors that influence purchasing decisions. Social media marketers use their knowledge of consumer behavior to predict audience responses to different messages.

Careers for Marketing on Social Media

Both small businesses and major corporations rely on social media professionals to attract and retain customers. The social marketing field spans multiple entry-level roles, with opportunities for advanced degree holders to obtain management and C-suite positions. Discover five popular social media advertising careers in the list below.

  • Social Media Specialist

    Social media specialists develop and implement business strategies through social media platforms. They work to maintain their company’s image, market products and services, and communicate with the public. Social media specialists monitor audience metrics and competitor activity. They may also provide direct customer service, helping to address and resolve complaints on social feeds. Employers commonly require social media specialists to hold a bachelor’s degree in marketing, communications, or a related field.
    Average Annual Salary: $45,730 (August 2021)

  • Social Media Manager

    A step up from the specialist role, social media managers lead a company’s social media team in achieving its objectives and goals. Social media managers supervise and approve content before posting, research new social media marketing strategies, and analyze social media account performance. They regularly meet with other members of management to discuss and prioritize tasks. Employers typically prefer to hire candidates with a bachelor’s degree and several years of relevant experience.
    Average Annual Salary: $52,300 (August 2021)

  • Digital Marketing Manager

    Like social media managers, digital marketing managers aim to create effective advertising strategies, maintain a positive public image, and engage with customers. However, digital marketing managers focus on reaching the target audience through multiple channels, including social media platforms, radio, television, mobile ads, email marketing, and search engine optimization. This career requires a bachelor’s degree, with some employers preferring candidates who hold a master’s in marketing.
    Average Annual Salary: $68,010 (August 2021)

  • Social Media Director

    Social media directors manage and coordinate a company’s online community activities. Duties vary by company size and industry, but common tasks include creating comprehensive marketing plans for social media platforms, hiring and supervising social media team members, and tracking performance metrics. Employers seek social media directors with a bachelor’s degree or higher in marketing, communications, or a related field. Directors typically need several years of media and team management experience.
    Average Annual Salary: $75,470 (August 2021)

  • Chief Marketing Officer

    Chief marketing officers are executives responsible for creating and executing their company’s marketing and sales vision. CMOs lead branding and advertising efforts across all media forms, including social media. Other responsibilities include developing professional contacts, analyzing customer and competitor data, and outlining marketing goals. This job typically requires extensive management experience and an advanced degree in marketing or a closely related field.
    Average Annual Salary: $176,180 (August 2021)

Create Your Own Social Media Marketing Plan

The BLS advises that competition for public relations jobs can be fierce, with many college graduates applying to a limited number of positions each year. Along with completing an internship to list on your resume, make sure you develop a strong personal brand on social media to help you stand out in the hiring process.

The BLS advises that competition for public relations jobs can be fierce, with many college graduates applying to a limited number of positions each year.

Create professional social media accounts on sites like Linkedin, Polywork, Twitter, and Instagram. Use these profiles to expand your network, demonstrate your skills, and build connections with prospective employers. Be active online, and share and create content that shows off your knowledge of social media marketing.

Companies With Notable Social Media Advertising

  • GoPro: A globally renowned manufacturer of action cameras, GoPro demonstrates the importance of using each social media platform in a unique way. GoPro uses Facebook to promote their brand and reach new and existing customers. On Instagram, GoPro shares content produced with their equipment. On YouTube, the company uploads product tutorials and how-to videos.
  • Wendy’s: Humor and relatability drive Wendy’s social media strategy. On Twitter, Wendy’s regularly interacts with other brands and responds to current events in pop culture. On Facebook, the fast-food chain posts original memes and types in all-caps. These innovative approaches draw thousands of likes and shares.
  • Target: Target operates three separate Twitter accounts for sharing corporate news, providing direct customer support, and promoting their brand. The big box store’s social media shines brightest on Pinterest, where users can browse curated boards for the latest fashions, home decor, and recipes. Target efficiently converts viewers to customers through direct links to their website.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is a social media marketing plan?

    A social media marketing plan is a multi-step process that involves researching a target audience, developing content ideas, and crafting the best strategy for a business to reach out to users across social media platforms.

  • Why is branding important on social media?

    Social media branding involves multiple factors, including voice, tone, and visual consistency. Branding helps a business connect with their target audience, improving the likelihood that customers will relate to, recognize, and remember them in the future.

  • What are the goals of a social media campaign?

    The goals of a social media campaign vary according to what a business wants to accomplish. Common goals include attracting new customers, spreading the word about a new product or service, and maintaining brand recognition.

  • What services should a social media agency provide?

    All social media agencies should offer strategy planning, account or profile branding, content creation, and ongoing research and analysis. Top social media agencies may provide additional services such as real-time online community management and influencer outreach.


Featured Image: Eva-Katalin / E+ / Getty Images

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