Social media managers shape the way the world sees a brand, building valuable relationships and sharing scroll-stopping content with an online audience. But behind the memes and witty captions lies a taxing role that requires a diverse skill set, impeccable judgment, and the ability to juggle multiple tasks simultaneously to succeed — yet is still unfortunately all too often seen as a job for an underpaid intern.
In honor of World Social Media Day, we’ve asked the best of the best in marketing to share their expert advice for social media managers. Kick imposter syndrome to the curb and build even stronger relationships with your brand community using these exclusive tips from 15 social media marketers.
Empathy & human connection
Genuine human connection is the foundation of a successful social media strategy, both for brands and creators. As a social media manager, it’s up to you to keep your audience engaged and show them that your brand values their experiences. This requires both creativity and empathy on your part.
"Involving your audience and collaborating with them, inviting their ideas, and making them feel like the center of attention always drives more results organically than just pushing your product. Look out for popular content in your industry and outside of it and find a way to talk to your audience on their level. Being human is often repeated but also often forgotten!" — Stewart Hicks, Social Media Manager at Vodafone UK
"To truly understand what is going to resonate and perform well, you have to put yourself in the mindset of a user, which means you need to consume, listen and engage as much as you can. Then take that and apply it to your social content strategy." — Anthony Yepez, Social Media Professional & Associate Director of Social Media at Orangetheory Fitness
"Lead with empathy to create the most impact. AI cannot replace the human impact and connections generosity can bring. Instead of focusing on KPIs as key performance indicators, we want to think about keeping people inspired. Inspiration can come from creativity, but it can also be inspired by kindness shown by others to pay it forward."— Karen Freberg, Professor of Strategic Communication at the University of Louisville and Director of The Bird’s Nest
Where to find content inspiration
One of the most prominent tasks social media managers face is the content calendar. Whether you’re planning and scheduling content weeks in advance, or taking it day by day, it can be challenging to come up with ideas for social posts — especially on days when you’re not feeling extra creative. Several social experts encourage social media managers to broaden their horizons when it comes to cultivating inspiration.
"My secret to always having content and ideas is to not limit my creative time to office hours. Anytime I see something I like or think would do well for the Crunch Fitness brand, even if it’s not fitness-related, I send @crunchgym a DM (basically sliding into my own DMs). Looking at industries outside your own may give you a new perspective for your own content, and every situation you find yourself in can lead to post ideas!" — Aminta Iriarte, Senior Manager of Global Social Media Strategy at Crunch Fitness
"Don't be afraid to look outside your niche or industry for social content ideas. We get so caught up in trying to emulate our competitors that we miss out on great ideas that we can adapt to make our own. Creativity shouldn't be siloed; we should take ideas from everywhere and use them to inspire something new." — Alexa Phillips, Freelance Writer & Marketing Consultant
"Don’t look to other brands for inspiration. People in advertising love to look at other ads. Look to creators and learn how they’re using the platform. Brands only set online trends for other brands; creators set trends for the Internet." — Lauren Murphy, Social Strategy Director at Deutsch LA
Eventually, you’ll find a few types of content that tend to resonate well with your audience. Double down on those approaches and stay consistent, but remember to make space for creativity and emerging trends.
"My best advice for social media marketers is to remember to strike a balance between creativity and driving results. You'll build a loyal and engaged community by understanding your audience and delivering valuable content consistently." — Krystal Wu, Senior Manager, Community & Content at ZoomInfo
Tackling imposter syndrome
Imposter syndrome is a social media manager’s archenemy. It refers to the idea that your achievements are a result of luck or deception rather than your own competence. It can be difficult to break free from this thought cycle if you’ve convinced yourself that you’re not deserving of the praise you receive, but there are a few ways to minimize its impact.
"Social media managers have one of the few roles where everyone, from the intern in the mailroom to the CEO, sees the product of their work and may have strong opinions about how it should be done. Having so many voices discussing your work can lead us to doubt ourselves at times. But never forget you were hired to be the expert and you have knowledge and experience that others don’t. Trust yourself, and be confident in your own skill." — Jon-Stephen Stansel, Director of Social Media at Chaotic Good Studios
"Connections are everything. I am not talking about 'I follow them on social' connections, I mean actual meaningful connections throughout your career with like-minded individuals or people within your industry. When you’re struggling with imposter syndrome (and trust me, we all do) remember that comparison is the thief of joy. Dust yourself off, and keep your eyes on the prize." — Nat Balda, Creative Marketer & Social Media Strategist
"Imposter syndrome hits hard in social media marketing because you're constantly surrounded by incredible case studies about huge brands, people only talking about the ‘good things’ on LinkedIn, and a sense of ‘you're not doing enough.’ It's important to remember that it doesn't matter whether you're working for a small company in your hometown or a large corporation – you're doing amazing, and social media marketing is social media marketing wherever you are." — Annie-Mai Hodge, Founder & Director of Girl Power Marketing
In a similar vein, it’s crucial to know your worth as a social media manager and maintain your own identity outside of the accounts you manage. Algorithms, trends, and social features are changing constantly, and it’s unrealistic to expect every single post to be a hit.
"My biggest piece of advice is to learn how to separate your own worth from the success of the brand you work for. It's so easy to let ourselves get disappointed or feel like we've failed when a post or a strategy or a campaign doesn't perform the way we want it to. We have to remember that, especially when it comes to organic social, there is only so much we can control. As long as you are proud of the content you've created, you've done a great job." — Hannah Grubow, Social Media Director at Barkley
Protecting mental health and reducing burnout
In the fast-paced realm of social media marketing, success comes with its fair share of challenges. The role demands a significant investment of time and effort. Without a well-crafted strategy and approach, it can take a toll on your well-being. Set realistic expectations, take time away from the screen, and ensure your personal definition of success doesn’t rely solely on the number of likes your post gets.
"In our industry, much of our work is public, making it tempting to measure ourselves against our peers. But this just leads to malcontent, since we can never grasp the complete picture — factors like budget allocation, team size, and other variables influence outcomes. Stay grounded by comparing your performance against the KPIs and benchmarks you've set forth for yourself. Doing so will cultivate a mindset of growth and continuous improvement while staying true to your own unique journey." — Azad Yakatally, Head of Social Media at Klaviyo
"Organic social media is a slow and steady race. If people on the internet have you convinced that growing followers is super easy or finding your ideal audience is a cakewalk, tune in to a different channel. This noise will have you convinced that you're not doing all the right things if you don't jump by 5,000 followers in a month." — Shwathi Srinivasan, Social Media Manager
Between the pressure to be “always on” and the expectation to keep up with every meme that surfaces on Twitter, taking time away from the screen can often slip a social media manager’s mind. Instead of checking your brand account notifications after hours, focus on cultivating outdoor hobbies or connecting with friends in person.
"You don’t need to jump on every trend or meme. When assessing trends or memes to leverage, ask yourself if this makes sense for your brand's audience. If not, then don’t force it, and wait for the right one. The last thing you want to end up doing is creating a ‘silence brand’ moment." — Nico Rud, Senior Social Strategist at Deutsch LA
“As social media managers, it's crucial that we are effective in our work hours and checked out when we are off. It's healthy for us to take breaks and to also stay on task when we need to produce content. Micromanaging your time will help you accomplish your work tasks on time while also allowing you to spend time outside work.”
— Jeremy Linaburg, Social Media Specialist at SwimOutlet.com
"Burnout can happen in any digital-facing career, but it seems to be an epidemic among social media professionals. My advice from 12+ years in social media? Find as many non-digital hobbies as you can. From cooking to hiking to scuba diving, hobbies that force you out of the digital world and into the real world can be the best way to find balance and recalibrate yourself." — Maree Jones, Director of Social Media Strategy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham
Being a great social media manager is more than just filling up a content calendar and posting a few memes. It’s a multifaceted role, yet you might find people from other departments or industries telling you how to do your job. Remember that you’re the expert, and use these tips to drive inspiration and creativity while defining a brand voice that will resonate with people.
A huge thank you to the social media marketers featured in this article!