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Social media is an essential and valuable marketing tool for small businesses. However, devoting the necessary time and resources to developing and implementing a solid social media strategy is often too much for a business owner to handle on their own. With social media marketing having grown from a hobby to a full-blown industry, small businesses often need a dedicated professional to handle a content’s high demands.
Before adding someone to your team for this role, it is crucial to understand what a social media manager does, what to look for in one, and how much you should pay them.
A social media manager is responsible for producing, managing and monitoring content on all of a company’s social channels. They help shape the brand’s voice by creating social posts on sites like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, X and LinkedIn, where they also respond to comments and organize campaigns.
The responsibilities of a social media manager vary by company, though their duties are often more complicated and in-depth than many people realize. You might think that overseeing a business’s social media presence is no different from managing your personal profiles, but it’s far more complex and challenging. Social media managers must align their marketing efforts with your overall business plan, create a voice unique for your business and manage multiple profiles at once. [Related article: Why Every Business Should Be Using Multiple Social Media Accounts]
These are some of the key responsibilities of social media managers:
A good social media manager helps build your online presence, all while avoiding cringey social media brand fails like these.
Knowing when ― or if ― you need to hire a social media manager can be challenging. Many small companies choose to avoid the cost of hiring a social media manager and try to distribute the duties among their employees or have an employee with a different job title handle it.
This can often backfire since many businesses don’t realize how much work and planning goes into social media. An employee with an already full workload can’t provide the same level of quality and thought that a full-time social media manager can.
To determine if you need to hire a social media manager, answer the following questions.
If social media plays a large part in how you plan to market your business, hiring an expert may be prudent to ensure it’s done right. Many companies now use social media heavily for lead generation and to build a customer base and engage with their audience. You want to ensure you do everything possible to convert those leads.
If you are unsure about using social media as part of your marketing strategy, check out our related article that breaks down the state of social media marketing today.
It’s one thing to have a LinkedIn or an Instagram account and post for yourself; it’s another to craft posts that appeal to a wide audience and convert new leads into customers and then analyze the data from that campaign. Social media is a complex and ever-changing medium and, if you’re relying on it to market your business, you can’t afford to make costly mistakes.
Social media can be a full-time job in itself, so if you’re busy running your business, it can easily fall by the wayside. If you hire a social media manager, social media is their full-time job, so you don’t need to worry about them finding time to craft posts and analyze data.
If you’ve been running your social media as a business owner, but your engagement rates have been critically low no matter what you do, it may be time to bring in a professional. Engagement levels are considered critically low if they are below 10 percent, which means your posts aren’t reaching or resonating with your audience. A social media manager comes in with a fresh eye and can identify and fix the issues, so your hard work isn’t wasted.
Whether you should hire an in-house social media manager or outsource the work to an agency or freelancer depends on your company, needs and goals. 
“Usually, it is best to have someone in-house as a social media manager,” Suken Shah, CEO and founder of Envision Marketing, told us. “The person can be at the business day in and day out, sharing content from the business and the person knows what is taking place within the company at all times.
[However], the budget of the business also plays a role in which direction to go in. Sometimes there isn’t enough budget to be able to afford a full-time person, so an agency is a way to go.”
When deciding whether to have them in-house, you should also consider how closely you want to manage and communicate with your social media manager.
“It’s no secret that it is easier to directly manage in-house staff versus outsourced staff,” said Dave Hoch, founder and CEO of Colibrily. “Plus, you can modify and adjust your processes and goals without much headache when you can directly control the roles and responsibilities.”
Meanwhile, if you can afford a social media marketing agency’s services, you get access to a whole team of experienced professionals who know how to handle it all. They won’t know your brand as intimately as an in-house employee, which can be a drawback in some ways but also brings a fresh perspective to your social branding.
You can also outsource the job to a freelance social media marketer. This may be the most affordable option, but they also won’t know your brand as well as a full-time employee.
Social media management is a demanding job with a variety of required skills, from copywriting to data analysis. Here are six qualities to prioritize when looking for a social media manager:
When you’re ready to hire a social media manager, as discussed above, you first need to determine whether you are hiring an in-house employee or outsourcing the work to an agency or freelancer. This decision will affect where you should look for candidates.
There are many websites you can use to hire both in-house and outsourced social media managers. These are some of the most popular places to hire a social media marketer:
Upwork is a popular site for all types of freelancers, including social media managers. You can search the site by industry or field and filter the results based on how long you want to work with the freelancer, their experience level and more.
Fiverr is another popular freelancer site where you can search for the role you need and view freelancers’ profiles, complete with their skills and rates as well as their former clients’ ratings and reviews of their work.
Why not go directly to the source if you’re looking for a social media manager? Look through the social media platform you plan on using and find users who have popular profiles or are actively looking for work as a social media manager.
“Social media managers are where they love to be ― on social media,” said Gail McInnes, founder and president of Magnet Creative Management. “Posting the job on LinkedIn or Glassdoor, then posting on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter [now known as X] to help spread the word will help open your search for the perfect candidate.”
A good option to save some money is to see if your local university or community college can provide you with a social-savvy student who doesn’t require a large salary. “Look for up-and-coming marketing, communication or business majors,” Shah said.
Freelancer is a site that connects businesses with professional freelancers who work remotely. You can browse freelancers by skill and view profiles with descriptions of each freelancer and their skills.
As with any job, how much you should pay your social media manager will depend on various factors, including their experience, your business’s location and the specific job requirements. Using a freelancer rather than hiring an in-house social media manager will also impact how much you pay, since you typically pay freelancers an hourly rate or on a project basis rather than a salary.
Freelance social media managers have been known to charge anywhere between $15 and $150 per hour, depending on their experience level. However, in 2023, the average hourly rate for a freelance social media manager is $25 to $30 per hour and the average yearly salary is $56,213, according to Payscale.com
Skye Schooley contributed to this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.
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