There is surprisingly little information on what makes a successful Social Media Manager (SMM) -- and more importantly, what qualities will get you the job. I've turned the tables on our company leaders and interviewed THEM to help YOU land a job in social media marketing. The President, Vice President and Director of Social Media of Thin Pig Media openly share their opinions on everything from college degrees to interview attire. Find out what common mistakes to avoid and how to distinguish yourself from other applicants. Put these tips to good use and you will stand out (for the right reasons).
Qualities of Successful Social Media Managers
What are the attributes of the top performers on your team?
Greg Gillard, President and Founder: The top performers are high achievers who have a passion for marketing, social media and more than anything, client service. Our role as a marketing agency is to help our clients maximize their ad spend using a variety of channels. The best performers keep this in mind as they are working with and guiding our clients. These individuals are also mature and have a solid understanding of their clients' businesses in the sector they are working
Andy Bishop, Vice President of Marketing & Client Services: Everyone thinks they know social media. What makes a top performer is someone who can communicate professionally with our clients and work with them to develop strategy and content. Listening is a key component. We want to take work off of our clients' plates, so being able to understand their organization to create authentic content is key.
Kim Zebor, Director of Social Media: Our top performers have a passion for social media and understand how brands can benefit from building an engaged community on social platforms. We look for team members who are excited to work with clients, are able to manage projects independently, enjoy a fast-paced workplace, and can stay flexible no matter what the day brings.
Background, Resume & Interviews
What is the ideal college major for a Social Media Manager? Greg: I don't think there is an ideal college major. Business, marketing, and advertising would all be natural choices. But a Biology major who understands marketing may be a perfect candidate to work as a Social Media Manager for a pharmaceutical or biotech company. In the end, people will be the most successful working in an area that interests them regardless of major.
How much do you take into account where an applicant earned their college degree? Andy: It is important to have one, and where it's from is not as important. Some schools have developed social media programs but at this time I would place more value on work and life experience. Social media changes faster than a syllabus does. Successful SMM’s will continue to keep up with current developments no matter where they went to school.
How can a candidate make the biggest impression on hiring managers? Andy: Bring examples of social interactions and success stories. Prepare questions to ask (aside from salary and vacation time). Research the company, familiarize yourself with their social channels and accounts they manage. Make sure you are well read on current trends in social media marketing and can speak to reach, engagement and growth metrics.
Do your expectations differ from other occupations regarding professional attire? Kim: Even though TPM has a relaxed company culture as far as dress code goes, first impressions are important. I always appreciate the effort a candidate makes to dress professionally. Plus, since we often have face-to-face meetings with clients, it's important that a candidate knows when it's appropriate to dress professionally, and when it's okay to dress more casually.
Mistakes to Avoid
What main factor do you use to evaluate candidates for SMM positions? Greg: Almost everyone who applies for a social media related position is interested in and uses social media personally. However, candidates that don't make the cut are the ones who are not able to articulate how social media can be used to positively impact an organization's bottom line.
What is the most common mistake you see on resumes and cover letters? Andy: If you are just out of school, we understand you don't have a lot of work experience, so there is no need to include an excess of jobs that aren't relevant. One or two is fine but avoid a litany of summer and part time jobs in non-related fields. If you have a fair amount of work experience, a red flag for me is a number of jobs that lasted under two years. Also, and this should go without saying, don't copy the company logo/letterhead onto your cover letter.
What qualities make a candidate a poor fit for a role as a social media manager? Kim: Our top performers demonstrate social media business sense; on the flip side, it's a poor fit when/if a candidate enjoys social media on a personal level but can’t translate that into passion for a brand account. A dedicated SMM stays up on trends, thinks creatively, and finds ways social media can benefit our clients and their online communities.
A Career In Social Media Management
My experience as a SMM with multiple clients confirms what members of our management team each mentioned in this interview -- the underlying quality of successful SMMs is passion. This could be a passion for marketing, for the industry segment, for the varied and ever-changing nature of the job, for the creativity, for the analytics or for connecting with an online community in an authentic way. When you find the part of the job that suits your skills and interests, the rest falls into place. Social media marketing offers growth opportunities with a much lower barrier to entry than other fields. So you’ve got the skills and the interest. Are you a problem solver? Technology and digital marketing trends develop at such a fast pace that, at the core, successful SMMs need to be comfortable with change. What works today may not work tomorrow.
More Tips for Recent College Graduates
- Make sure your LinkedIn profile is completely filled out. Pay for a Job Seeker subscription, and be active on the platform. Most digital marketing agencies post jobs through LinkedIn. A Job Seeker subscription ensures your resume appears at the top of job applications.
- Create a portfolio website or blog. An interested employer will Google you -- and the top result should not be photos from Spring Break. You can easily build a website using Squarespace. Include a short biography, examples of past projects, and any special courses and awards you've earned.
- Clean up your act online! If you’re interested in a SMM position, you already know that ALL of your online activity needs to be very professional or completely private. Err on the side of caution and delete any compromising comments or images.
- Make an impression when you arrive for an interview. Create a packet of documents that show a ‘branded identity.’ Include your resume, cover letter and sample projects in a cohesive package that will stay with your interviewer after your leave.
- Finally, always follow up with a thank you note. Your interviewer is likely a busy individual. It is important to thank them for taking time out of their day to meet with you. Not only is this a common courtesy, but this also a strategic way to bring you top of mind.