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Small Business Guide to Hiring a Social Media Manager

Kiely Kuligowski
Kiely Kuligowski

A social media manager is responsible for creating and monitoring your social media content. Here's what to look for when hiring one.

Social media is an important marketing tool for small businesses, but many organizations find it difficult to manage their social media strategies on their own. Social media marketing has grown from a hobby to a full-blown industry, and small businesses often find themselves in need of a dedicated professional to handle the high demands of social media.

Before bringing someone on to your team for this role, it is important to understand what a social media manager does, what to look for in a social media manager, and how much you should pay them.

What is a social media manager?

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 Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, where they also respond to comments and organize campaigns.

What does a social media manager do?

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 be inclined to 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.

These are some of the key responsibilities of social media managers:

  1. Implement a marketing plan. This the first task a social media manager will often undertake, as it defines the scope of the rest of their work. A marketing plan addresses how each one of a company's social channels will be used, the company's goals for each social network, and the types of campaigns that will run on each.

  2. Determine posting schedules. A large part of social media management is knowing when and how often to post on each channel. A social media manager creates a specific schedule for each platform that determines how many posts will go live each day.

  3. Create a brand identity. Social media is a prime opportunity for your business to cultivate a unique brand identity and voice. Your brand identity should reflect the ways you stand out from your competitors and why your customers choose you.

  4. Support promotional strategies. Social media managers have experience with promotional materials. This includes creating and managing social ads, analyzing organic traffic activity, and working with influencers.

  5. Create an engagement strategy. Engagement is the name of the game in social media. Your manager should have a detailed strategy for how and when your business will engage with customers online.

  6. Develop a conversion plan. Social media is a great place to learn about your business and what works (and doesn't work) to convert leads into customers. A social media manager creates a plan specifically designed to convert leads on social media.

  7. Work with SEO. Search engine optimization is a content strategy to help your business show up in Google search results. Social media managers use this optimized content in posts to increase traffic to your website, boost brand awareness and generate more leads.

  8. Analyze data. Social media platforms often have analytics tools that provide data and insights on metrics like engagement, clicks, follower counts and traffic. Social media managers monitor and digest this data, looking for trends that the company can use to address issues and improve strategies.

  9. Create content. Last but certainly not least, the social media manager is responsible for creating the content that is posted to all of your social channels, including photos, videos, blog posts, captions and hashtags.

When should you hire a social media manager?

It can be difficult to know when – or if – you need to hire a social media manager. 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 who already has a 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 these questions:

Is social media vital to your marketing strategy?

If social media plays a large part in how you plan to market your business, it may be prudent to hire an expert to make sure it's done right. Many businesses now use social media heavily for lead generation and to build a customer base and engage with their audience, and you want to ensure you are doing everything you can to convert those leads.

Do you have advanced social media skills?

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.

Are you busy with other tasks?

Social media can be a full-time job in itself, so if you're busy running your business, it can easily fall to 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.

Has your engagement been consistently low?

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%, 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 going to waste.

Should you hire in-house or outsource?

Whether you should hire an in-house social media manager or outsource the work to an agency or freelancer depends on your company, your needs and your goals. 

"Usually, it is best to have someone in-house as a social media manager," said Suken Shah, CEO and founder of Envision Marketing. "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."

You should also think about how closely you want to manage and communicate with your social media manager when deciding whether to have them in-house.

"It's no secret that it is easier to directly manage in-house staff versus outsourced staff," said Dave Hoch, co-founder of BigCupofCoffee.com and Colibrily. "Plus, you can modify and adjust your processes and goals without much headache when you can directly control the roles and responsibilities."

On the other hand, 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. [Read related article: When Should You Outsource Your Business's Social Media?]

What should you look for when interviewing for a social media manager?

Social media management is a demanding job with a variety of required skills, from copywriting to data analysis. Here are six of the qualities you should prioritize when looking for a social media manager.

  1. Writing skills: Social media can be a writing-heavy job, with captions, posts, and sometimes even blogs to write. Most importantly, someone with strong writing skills will be able to communicate your business's objectives effectively and in your brand's voice to your target audience.

  2. Social media experience: While this may seem like a no-brainer, your hire must have a strong social media presence. They should be skilled in digital marketing and have experience using all of the platforms your business does. They need to know the culture and voice of each social media channel. Their knowledge should include how and what to post and familiarity with each platform's analytics tools.

  3. Customer service skills: Social media is on the front lines of customer engagement, so your social media specialist should know how to communicate with customers effectively and properly. Make sure they are equipped to handle both positive and negative interactions on each social channel and can do so in your brand's voice.

  4. Design abilities: While it's not necessary to hire a full-fledged graphic designer for this role, a social media expert with an eye for what looks good and what doesn't in an image can take your social presence a long way. Look for someone who can take appealing photos and has some experience in at least creating simple graphics.

  5. Organization skills: Social media managers are responsible for handling a lot at once, so you need to know that your candidate of choice can balance all of their duties and stay on top of deadlines and schedules.

  6. Paid traffic experience: Shah said social media managers should understand how to run boosted posts and paid advertising campaigns. "Organic reach can be limited on [social media] platforms, so boosting posts, developing ad campaigns and tracking ROI is critical to success."

Where can you find a social media manager?

When you're ready to hire a social media manager, as we 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

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

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.

Social media

If you're looking for a social media manager, why not go directly to the source? 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 to help spread the word will help open your search for the perfect candidate."

Local universities

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.com

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.

What should you pay a social media manager?

As with any job, how much you should pay your social media manager will depend on a variety of 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 will typically pay freelancers an hourly rate or on a project basis rather than a salary. In 2020, the average hourly rate for a freelance social media manager is $15 to 1$20 per hour, depending on their level of experience, while the average yearly salary is $51,162.

Kiely Kuligowski
Kiely Kuligowski,
business.com Writer
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Kiely is a staff writer based in New York City. She worked as a marketing copywriter after graduating with her bachelor’s in English from Miami University (OH) and now writes on small business, social media, and marketing. You can reach her on Twitter or by email.