How has the social media industry changed over the years for social media managers?
Despite being a fairly new industry, the social media world has changed many times over in a short period of time. Last year alone, during unprecedented times, most social media platforms went through drastic changes. Social Media Today goes into depth on all the changes, or not, that social media experienced in 2020 and their predictions for 2021. It noted that Facebook alone had to deal with removing extreme radical groups, the boycotting of ads, and even the release of a Netflix documentary about it. Despite all those challenges, they still had several successes, like the huge focus on e-commerce initiatives, with Shops on Facebook and Instagram, that expanded into rising markets in India and Indonesia. There was also a huge Messenger merger that allowed for the interactivity of Messenger, Instagram Direct and WhatsApp. Twitter, though it did not go through much change, had a huge saying by disabling Trump’s account and banning political ads, like it did in 2019. Instagram had Reels, Snapchat had its original programming shorts, TikTok looked into expanding into China and LinkedIn had its Live events. All in all, social media platforms had a pretty big year, despite 2020 being plagued with so many other things, like the Coronavirus.
Behind all those drastic changes, are social media managers having to analyze and develop strategies that would allow for positive transitions into new functions, sensitive topics, pandemics, and political upheavals. The Hootsuite Social Trends report goes into details on all the trends that marketers seek, and certain aspects that social media managers must make certain their platforms adapt to, to effectively follow new trends. They have to finds ways to bridge gaps to new customer experiences, making certain their brands listen first and write, or post, later, enabling them to find their right place in the current social conversations. They need to study their audiences and learn about all the different generations that use these platforms, therefore making sure that no generation is ignored. Social media managers have the difficult task of not knowing who is interacting with them on their platforms. Is it a lifelong customer, a new customer, an ex-employee, or a disgruntled critic? Being unsure whether the interaction is reaching and strengthening relationships with customers, or wasting precious time creating top of the line content and engagement that at the end of the day won’t pay off, is a difficult task to have. Proving measurable ROI is ultimately how social media managers can get their stakeholders on their side.
If there is one thing I have learned in the many years since Facebook became a thing, almost 20 years ago, is that the platform continues to change, almost on a daily basis. With all those changes, social media managers have had to evolve with the platforms and the changing mechanisms for interacting with people. Ultimately, however, the main thing they’ve had to be good at has little to do with technology, but rather being the source in charge of facilitating relationship and fostering conversation.
The Digital Marketing Institute advises, that just like a good senior marketing personnel, a good social media manager needs to have a wide range of skills that allows them to generate engaging content that translates to their followers, and turns them into loyal customers. The Sprout Social discusses the amount of tasks on a social media managers plate — from being creators, analysts, community moderators, digital strategists, writers, among many other hats they wear on a daily basis. They are the one creating the voice to a brand’s values, missions, and culture, a responsibility that is not taken lightly, most especially in times like these. They are “digital bodyguards”, and therefore their voices and opinions need to exist in the boardroom, where decisions are being made, because not only are they impactful externally, to customers, but internally as well. KruseControlInc has a nice, thorough description of the extensive role of social media managers, going into detail on responsibilities versus the essential skills needed to perform the job expertly, as well as the qualification, and experienced that is typically needed.
Back in 2003, when MySpace ruled them all, social media was just a place for play and experiment, which led to making money, which is still true to a certain degree. Now, social media is an integral part of all marketing and branding, and as such needs to be embedded in any business or marketing strategy development. Social media marketers, like digital marketers are truly marketers, with the addition of many, many more responsibilities. The role of a social media manager may have started as an additional responsibility in the communications or marketing department, making certain a post was made on a daily basis, but now, it has evolved to a point where it is no longer “optional” but of the utmost importance — and as things go, it will only get more valuable. The Social Media College calls social media managers “integral to any online marketing strategy. They understand the way people think, act, and behave”, and these are skills that require a certain level of understanding business, and understanding people.