‘Army of one’: Confessions of a former social media manager on the role’s biggest challenges

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This article is part of our Confessions series, in which we trade anonymity for candor to get an unvarnished look at the people, processes and problems inside the industry. More from the series →

In today’s world, there are customers, fans and members of the general public following brands’ social media accounts all the time, in real time and with high expectations. In addition to consistently posting creative content, engaging in conversations, sparking sincere and meaningful interactions, as well as giving followers nearly immediate responses to questions and comments, social media users expect to see a steady stream of informative posts in their feeds.

The pressure to be on top of all this can be too much for some social media managers, especially considering that the expectations of the role have only grown. In this edition of Digiday’s Confessions series, in which we exchange anonymity for candor, a former social media manager for a major television show disclosed some of the problems social media managers face today.

This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

As a social media manager, what are the issues you’ve faced with the job?

Social media managers are wildly underpaid. A lot of brands kind of treat it as still a new profession when it’s not. It’s been around for over 12 years, at least. And so a lot of times they just kind of put their arms in the air like, “We don’t know what we should pay. There’s a ceiling to this. You can’t make more than this.” And then you see other companies hiring and paying almost double. And you’re like, “So this is a possibility.”

Another thing is that social media managers like myself, we’re kind of a joke. We had to kind of be an “army of one.” A lot of people think that’s just coming up with tweets, which doesn’t sound very hard and shouldn’t be paid very well. So that’s fair. But that’s not usually what we do. We’re producers for graphic designers. We’re creatives. We have to come up with a lot of the content ideas. We have to collaborate with clients. We have to kind of just have our finger on the pulse of pop culture. There’s a lot that goes into it and a lot of brands just kind of make you do a million things for like no money. And I think that’s one of the biggest problems.

What do you wish organizations understood about the role/pressure social media managers are under?

Their expectations [can be a bit much]. I mean, you should be able to be on call. But sometimes it is a little ridiculous. Sometimes I will be on a plane or something and I have to quickly buy the internet and do something. Social media is kind of like a 24/7 gig. People are always going to tweet you. When I worked for my last company, I worked for a show. There was a major actor who tweeted at us that like midnight on a Friday, I had to respond to it. So, you know, that kind of sucks. But it’s also fun. It’s like a very lively profession. You’re always on your toes, which is nice. But yeah, it would be nice if you’re appreciated a little bit more.

What do you wish you could change about the role?

I wish there was some help. Every social media manager for a big brand, even for a small brand, but especially for a big, big brand like the one I had [worked for] is [in need of] help. You should at least have an intern, you should have an assistant, you should have a graphic designer. We should have a structure. It sounds like I’m speaking about my specific situation, but I know many social media managers for this case. You’re not given much help and you should be given as much help as possible.

There is an ongoing issue where the employers expect many social media posts from social media managers to go viral. What is your take on this as it brings more pressure to social media managers?

I didn’t experience that as much. I was given a lot of autonomy in my last position. It was more the apathy of the people above me who were just like, “Yeah, just make the brand look good. Whatever. I don’t care.”

[Brand marketers] need to understand the social media landscape and how things go viral. They just hear the word viral from their kids. They don’t know what that means. They just know that it means to make it popular. How does this get popular? And they just kind of make their own assumptions. They ask too much of social media managers. Making something go viral is very difficult.

Would you ever manage a social media account for a brand again?

Depends if the right situation and the right money came around. I think I’m a little over it. I mean, the thing with it is I hate to be honest about it. I’m [in my thirties]. I started my last job when I was 25. And, you know, I was like in the, in the know. I knew all the trends with Snapchat and Instagram and all that stuff. But right now you’re expected to know every trend. I think it’s honestly a young person’s game.


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