Confessions of big brand social media managers

Type “social media” into any online jobs board, and you will get thousands of job postings for social media managers, community managers, social media “rockstars” and so on. These days every brand and company has a social media presence, and, of course, that means that every brand and company has someone manning the brand’s social media accounts. But not every organization knows exactly what to do with its social media presence or what to realistically invest in or expect from its social media manger.

The reality is that the role of social media manager, while it has matured over the past few years, hasn’t been around all that long, and there is still quite a bit of uncharted territory and misguided assumptions about what being a social media manager actually entails.

That’s why Digiday asked three different social media managers, who will remain anonymous in the interest of keeping their jobs, to break down what it actually means to be the one behind a brand’s tweets and Instagram posts. Read on to learn what they find challenging about the role and how many organizations still don’t totally get social media or the time, effort and funding that is required to have a successful social strategy in place. Excerpts:

Do you feel that the role of social media manager is valued appropriately?
Anon. social media manager A: “The last place that I was a social manager was extremely corporate, and they didn’t value it at all. High-level VPs would come over and say I was messing around on the Internet too much. It was me and one other woman who had to manage 40 brands — that means over 117 Facebook pages. It was two people dedicated to that communication. We had over 40 Twitter accounts. Overall, large corporations got a late start in the game, and they’re not willing to pay you what you should be making. I was overworked. It was such a sad situation when you are brought on to do a specific skill set and then they poke fun at you.”

Anon. social media manager B: “I’ve been in meetings where people say, ‘Well, social media isn’t held to the same high standards as the rest of the company.’ But as you show the ROI and the social media presence becomes bigger and bigger and more successful, that’s when people start changing their minds about it. Often people see it as this warm and fuzzy part of marketing, but in reality, it’s a machine and a powerful revenue driver when it’s given the proper attention and funding. Also, most social media managers are female, and sadly, there still is the discrepancy of what women make versus men, and the larger the organization, the harder you have to fight to get attention and funding.”

Anon. social media manager C:It’s such a broad term for so many different things. My biggest problem with it as a career is that it tends to be sold to companies that don’t really need it, and you get into this situation for creating a product for the client, then you are judged on analytics. Also, many places hire people out of college thinking they know what to do and expect results.”

Do you feel that your companies even understand what you do as “social media manager? 
Anon. social media manager A: ”For big companies, they don’t really understand what our jobs entail. There’s a lot of maintenance with social media. You have to make sure that you’re using search terms and monitoring online brand sentiment and maintaining social pages — there’s a lot that goes on. Our VPs were greedy. With older generations, there’s a lack of interest on their part. A lot of higher execs and VPs see it as something silly, but as something they need. They don’t know how much we do, and that’s a problem. If they wanted a unique approach, they’d have several people manning maybe one to three brands.”

Anon. social media manager B: ”The biggest misconception is that, compared to other marketers, we don’t understand analytics or that we don’t have the education or background when it comes to the technical side, like talking about APIs and talking about how social can connect to our company’s website, when in fact I have to know all of these things to be able to succeed. Also, people think of it as very image-based thing.”

Do you think you’ve been held to appropriate expectations as a social media manager?
Anon. social media manager A: “The last place I was, we were expected to be workhorses. When you manage that many brands, you’re expected to put out so much content, you can’t put out quality content. You have to put out stuff like, “Like this photo!” and that’s what they wanted. We’d push it out, and we’d get it out there. The execs would filter down and make comments, and the VP would ask us to change things and redo things. Everyone thinks they can do it. I can be witty and funny and manage a social media page for a brand. But not everyone can.”

Anon. social media manager C: ” The No. 1 thing is that social media is social, and it’s about engagement and brand loyalty. We’re never going to get to a place where you can put 100 dollars into that machine and get 150 out, because social is dealing with human beings with an interest, and you’re never going to control that. You can do your best and you can do things that are tried and true, but at the end of the day, it’s kind of like gambling.”