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Written by Rachael Goulet
Published on March 28, 2023
Reading time 11 minutes
Social media skills have evolved dramatically over the past few years. Social network fragmentation, dynamic search engine optimization (SEO) changes, ever-growing content trends, emerging technologies and other complexities in the field have made it necessary for social media managers (SMMs) to sharpen and diversify their skills to keep up their game and be future-ready.
In this article, we’ll explore how the role has changed over time and what social media skills need to be in your toolkit for success.
A social media manager has to be a marketer, strategist, copywriter and a customer service rep—and excel at each of them.Managing all these diverse responsibilities requires you to be agile and adept at new skills that are becoming more critical by the day.
A LinkedIn report shows that social media manager skills requirements in the US have changed an average of 24.9% since 2015. Some of the top new skills mentioned include social media outreach, social strategy, social media communications and platform expertise like Instagram. Other pertinent skills include project management and the ability to conduct nuanced audience research with artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to create more data-driven social strategies.
If you’re looking to sharpen your skills for 2023 and beyond, watch the video below. We feature our top five skills for the next few years including AI and data storytelling.
Let’s cover the ten evergreen skills every social media manager must have to thrive.
Level up your social media skills with the right social tools
As you master the skills in this article, start leveraging a social media management tool to further your social success.
Test out Sprout social with a free trial, or schedule a demo to learn more.
Of all the social media skills, I believe effective communication skills are by far the most important. From writing a brief to compiling a social listening analysis for leadership, social media managers have to communicate ideas effectively to a wide range of stakeholders.
Communications skills are even more indispensable when you consider the breadth of internal and external audiences SMMs collaborate with on a regular basis, from teams as diverse as the legal and creative departments, to your followers and even social platform partners.
There are two crucial things to keep in mind here:
Social media managers have to be excellent copywriters who embody and enhance their brand’s voice on social. From witty, attention-grabbing ad copy to timely commentary, you should know how to write concise copy that speaks to your audience.
Whichever social networks you use, effective writers know how to tailor their writing for different audiences and platforms.
For example, while you can use up to 2,200 characters in your Instagram captions, data has shown that the most engaging length is between 1-50 characters.
While writing is an important social media skill for creating engaging content and conversations, it’s also important for building your social media career. The ability to express yourself clearly in reports, emails and presentations will help your ideas make an impression.
Don’t hesitate to use AI-based content tools and other helpful apps that can assist you in ideating a topic or providing inspiration when you need it. If you do use AI tools to generate content, you will need editing skills to review and proofread the copy to ensure that it is aligned to your expectations and brand voice.
Differentiation is one of the biggest challenges for brands in the saturated social media space. That’s why it’s critical to create content that’s exciting, valuable and relevant. It takes creativity to:
Infusing creativity across multiple projects can seem daunting to even the most seasoned social media manager. That’s where technology becomes your best friend. There are several AI-based creative apps for design and copy that can be your sparring partner to kick start your creative process.
On par with being creative is having a sense of humor and the ability to improvise in any given situation.
As a social media manager, not only do you have to conceptualize campaigns and distribution rhythms, but you also have to lead and execute these plans from start to finish. To do this at scale, project management is a required social media skill. Becoming efficient at project management can also pave the road for future leadership roles in social.
Among the many time and project management tools available, such as Asana or Monday.com, a social media calendar (like the one in Sprout) can be super helpful in managing your different social tasks. You can use it to manage your campaigns more efficiently, keep all your collaborators on the same page, track your progress with different filters and more.
Social sits at the intersection of marketing, customer experience and sales. It is also a source of valuable business intelligence. According to The Sprout Social Index™ 2022 social teams rank “proving ROI” as the third biggest challenge when it comes to strategy building. Marketing acumen combined with social intelligence can fill this gap to inform a more successful marketing strategy that is data-driven and customer-centric.
To create a social strategy that drives the most business impact, it’s important to incorporate both traditional and digital marketing approaches. This could mean documenting how your social efforts intersect with other tactics such as email nurtures, paid campaigns, corporate events, webinars and more.
Customer care is one of those social media skills that combines customer service, people skills and an eye for uncovering opportunities. That’s why developing a social customer care strategy style=”font-weight: 400;”> is an integral part of a social media manager’s job description.
Our Index shows that 44% of marketers use social data to inform customer experience. Brands also report that 53% of their social strategy is driven by insights from the customer service team. To truly be customer-centric, you must put the voice of the customer (VoC) at the core of your strategy.
Studies also suggest more than three-quarters of consumers expect a response on social within 24 hours. This means, not only do you have to listen to and understand the concerns of your customers, but also be proactive in your approach to handling emergencies.
For example, when a frustrated customer reached out to Delta Airlines on Twitter, the company responded immediately in a respectful manner, validating the customer’s feelings while offering the needed assistance.
As a social media manager, you are the brand’s biggest champion. Understanding customers and their perspectives enables you to make a positive impact in the hearts and minds of your community.
Additionally, personalizing your interactions by referencing conversation history can help take an everyday interaction and turn it into an extra special moment.
Researching your audience for brand experience (BX) intelligence is a critical part of a successful social strategy. These insights are even more vital when derived from social listening through machine learning (ML) processes like Sprout’s social listening solution, which uses natural language processing (NLP) to extract rich brand and voice of the customer insights.
This is because audience insights can inform everything, from the content formats you choose and trends you jump on, to the best times to post for your brand.
Establishing and building relationships with your audience is core to social media skills you must have in your arsenal. According to the Q1 2023 Sprout pulse survey, 77% of consumers are more likely to increase their spending with brands if they feel connected to them, up from 57% in 2018.
That’s why social media managers need to be comfortable using AI-enabled tools to gather and act on VoC insights. This powerful, customer-driven, data-backed guidance can help you understand trends in audience behavior at scale but also fine-tune your brand’s social presence.
These AI algorithms can also scan audience sentiment to discover which influencers are the best fit for your brand, so you can make strategic partnerships based on audience insights.
You can also measure brand sentiment through AI-based sentiment analysis. Proactively keep track of how audiences feel about your brand at any given time and also dig deeper to investigate why audience sentiment is dipping or spiking.
As a social media manager, your quantitative and qualitative audience insights give you a holistic understanding of what your audience wants and needs.
The social landscape moves fast and even best laid plans can become irrelevant. This is why the ability to quickly pivot and react to new trends, opportunities or crises is a fundamental social media skill.
Being flexible can help you decisively respond to a frustrated customer (or an appreciative fan) in equally empathetic and personalized ways. But it’s also important to be agile when it comes to your long-term social strategy.
Social strategies have to be as dynamic as the platforms they are executed on. As a social media manager, it’s important to experiment with different tactics, or even shake up your strategy entirely to adapt to new trends or competitive forces.
Learning from your data by listening to customer feedback and keeping a pulse on your competitors in a timely manner can make you a more nimble and hands-on social marketer.
We’re all familiar with end-of-month reporting, but skillful social media managers regularly look at data and apply it in their strategies to accomplish goals.
The impact is even more significant when your metrics include quantitative and AI-enabled qualitative data derived through social listening, such as sentiment mining of comments and posts.
This gives you an accurate picture of your engagement levels and the “why” behind them. It also gives you tangible customer experience (CX) data to share with your stakeholders and cross-functional collaborators.
As the importance of social listening grows and brands feverishly compete for audience interactions, analyzing both quantitative and qualitative data will help you make a lasting impact on social. It will help you identify emerging trends and develop recommendations based on the voice of the customer to build a successful plan of action personalized to your audience and brand.
As a social media manager, you have to expertly plan and manage funds for various programs including organic and paid media spending.
This includes managing the budget for content especially if influencers or brand amabassadors are involved in your project, or if you need to hire freelance professionals. These costs may vary based on where you are located, the size of the influencer’s following and how freelance writers or editors charge their fees. You may have to decide which creator partnerships to prioritize based on available resources and production costs.
To plan and allocate your spending wisely, you need to first thoroughly understand the goals of the project and conduct a social spend audit to compare the expenses from previous months or quarters. This will give you a better idea of which expenses are a one-time spend and which are ongoing.
Social is a career path of lifelong learning, whether it’s your first social media manager role or you’re already a pro.
Continuing to hone your social media skills will benefit you at every stage of your career. For example, if you’re already highly organized and efficient, you can spend time developing other skills such as building your personal brand, or preparing to move into people management.
Mastery within an area of social media might open the door to your next career move. If you’re phenomenal at data analysis, perhaps you’d make a great social strategist. Or if audience research and connection are your forte, you might be an incredible community manager.Whatever your social media skills are, there is always room to grow.
To learn more, read this guide to building a long-term career in social.
Rachael is the Director of Social Media at Sprout Social and was a mega Sprout fan and user prior to joining the team. Her main focus is to strategize and maintain our own social presence. Outside of work, Rachael is an avid squirrel enthusiast and massive meme-aholic!
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