How to Kickstart a Successful Social Media Marketing Career

Choosing the right social media platforms to learn more about is key.

Love spending time online?

Have a knack for connecting with people?

Always on top of the latest memes, trends, and online crazes?

If this sounds like you, you could have a future as a successful social media marketer.

Whether you’re fresh out of college or looking to pivot to a new, more exciting, more fulfilling career, here’s a look at everything you need to know to get started in social media marketing:

  • What a typical workday looks like
  • The skills you should develop
  • How to build an irresistible portfolio that will make brands fall over themselves to hire you

Let’s go!

What are social media marketers’ career prospects like?

Put simply: excellent.

From Fortune 500 companies to small local outfits, social media has become a cornerstone of any self-respecting business’ marketing efforts.

Younger generations are turning to social media for buying recommendations, replacing more traditional methods like television and radio adverts. 28% of Gen Z and millennials have bought products directly through social apps.

Platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok are leading the way. 30% of consumers are now reporting that influencers are among the most important factors when making a buying decision. This is more than recommendations from loved ones at 27%.

As a result, demand for people with social media skills is through the roof. A career as a marketing manager is considered the 24th best role in America, and comes in at number 1 for all sales and marketing jobs, according to U.S.News (in case you’re wondering, number 1 is information security analyst).

The pay scale for a social media marketing career is growing, as the role is becoming essential to businesses’ marketing strategies. Although the position of SMM was originally an entry-level job offered mostly to graduates or via internships, it’s now a foundation of modern marketing. With a wide variety of specialization tracks, this role is more in-demand than ever.

The average US salary for a social media marketer is $42,500, and can go up to $68,887 for someone with a few years’ experience. Social media marketing salaries have been increasing consistently in recent years, and of course they vary significantly depending on where you live and the company you work for.

average social media marketing salary in the USSource: Talent.com

Your income could be even higher if you work for yourself. Many freelance social media marketers are earning well into six figures serving multiple clients at once. Plus, getting to set your own schedule and work/life balance is always enticing.

What social media platforms should you learn?

Developing a digital presence takes patience, and with new social media platforms launching every year, it’s important to know which ones are going to last.

Here are the most prominent social media platforms businesses are hiring for:

  • Facebook: With over 2 billion users, Facebook is the most powerful social media platform. Businesses use this platform to connect with customers and build brand awareness. Budding marketers learn about Facebook advertising, content marketing, and customer engagement strategies.
  • YouTube: YouTube is the world’s second-largest search engine, and businesses are taking advantage of this platform to make engaging videos for their customers. Marketers on this platform learn about video production, live streaming, editing skills, and optimizing thumbnails.
  • Instagram: Instagram is an excellent platform for businesses to showcase their products and services. To excel at Instagram, marketers should learn about creating great visuals, using attractive captions and hashtags, understanding insights, and running ads.
  • Twitter: Twitter provides a platform for businesses to engage with customers, create conversations, and spread the word about their products and services. Marketers learn how to write compelling tweets, craft engaging campaigns, measure results, and use hashtags strategically.
  • LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a powerful platform for businesses to network and build relationships with professionals. Marketers learn about networking, crafting compelling posts and ads, and engaging prospects through DMs.
  • TikTok: TikTok is a fast-growing platform for creating short, engaging videos. Marketers learn about creating fun and creative content as they experiment with the latest trends, optimize videos for maximum reach, and run effective ads through user-generated content.

Each social media platform has its own nuances for creating success, so, as a social media marketer, it’ll be your job to learn how to maximize views, retention, and engagement. You may decide to become a social media specialist, perfecting the art of one or two forms of social media.

There is a lot of crossover between platforms, so aspiring social media marketers should maintain a general knowledge of trends and insights for each website. The social media sites routinely introduce new features or make updates to their algorithms which means SMM’s should be ready to respond to changes. Each social media plan needs to be tailored to take advantage of the unique features of the corresponding platform.

With a social media marketing career, your job will be to understand the nuances of each platform and develop content that’s tailored to each one. What works on Instagram won’t necessarily work on LinkedIn, for instance.

A day in the life: what does a social media marketer do?

The role of social media marketing is still relatively new, with many businesses figuring out how to built it into their marketing functions. This has led to some roles being advertised as “social media marketer” but with little information on what the job actually entails.

It’s all too commonplace for the job role to be undervalued and underestimated, so here are some insights into the day-to-day activities of a social media marketer:

  • Content strategy: Creating, scheduling, and managing content to post on the business’ social media feeds. Creating the content might be part of your role, or you may oversee the outsourcing to copywriters, videographers, or illustrators.
  • Video editing: Video is one of the most important aspects of a digital marketing campaign. 78% of marketers believe video marketing has increased their sales. Learning basic video editing skills should be a top priority for wannabe social media marketers, with Adobe Premiere Pro being the go-to tool.
  • Graphic design: Like with video, knowing the basics to graphic design is essential for marketers. Simple skills like Photoshop and Canva can go a long way in creating content that will grab users’ attention.
  • Copywriting: This involves writing engaging and eye-catching text for posts, ads, and promotional materials, as well as understanding SEO and keyword research to ensure content is reaching the right audience.
  • Community management: Engaging with followers, including responding to their comments and messages. Developing people management skills and the ability to remain composed in stressful situations are key.
  • Social listening: Keeping tabs on what people are saying about the business on social media. Social listening tools can be used to track any mentions of the brand, whether positive or negative.
  • Staying on top of the latest trends: Social media is a hotbed of memes, viral challenges, and other crazes that appear and disappear at warp speed. Using them in your marketing is an opportunity to show off the brand’s personality, be more memorable, and boost engagement.

Predictions for where marketing budgets will be spent

Source: Twitter

  • Running advertising campaigns: Understanding the different types of ads available on each platform and bidding strategies is important for running effective advertising campaigns.
  • Monitoring analytics: This means keeping track of key performance metrics and making sure they are within the desired range. It also involves compiling reports to ensure data is in keeping with business objectives, such as revenue and customer acquisition.
  • Staying up to date with technical developments: Social media is constantly evolving, and marketers need to be on top of the latest changes and advancements. This involves reading industry news, staying up to date with algorithm updates, and attending webinars.

As you can see, social media marketing is an extremely varied job that requires you to master several skills. It requires you to be creative, analytical, and organized. If you think it’s the job for you, then start by building your skill set and learning the fundamentals of each area.

Getting started as a social media marketer

Many people get jobs in social media having studied marketing or related degrees like journalism, communications, or creative writing. A growing number of colleges are also offering specialized social media marketing degrees and certificates.

That said, while a formal education certainly doesn’t hurt, it’s not a prerequisite. People have built successful social media marketing careers despite coming from completely unrelated backgrounds.

Here are our four top tips to help you kickstart your social media marketing career.

1. Develop your social media skill set

While you don’t need a college degree to succeed as a social media marketer, you do need to know what you’re doing. So, your first order of business is to learn as much about the nuts and bolts of the job as you possibly can.

Learning skills in social media is an ever-evolving field

There are all types of certifications available via leading martech companies, as well as directly from the social platforms themselves:

Any of these certifications or classes can show potential recruiters that you understand the fundamentals of marketing on each platform. For a broader certification, the industry acknowledges the free HubSpot Social Media Marketing Course, which shows you’re trained in the latest trends and ideas in the industry.

It will also be important for you to train in various hard skills, like video editing, to prove that you’re capable of performing the practical side of the job. Here are some courses to get you started:

It’s worth noting that nothing compares to practical experience, so it’s important to seek out opportunities early. This will help you not only build a portfolio but also improve your confidence when applying for new jobs.

Ask family, friends, or small local businesses on a budget whether they need help with their social media. Or, if that’s not an option, consider an internship, volunteer to help out a local charity, or even try out what you’ve learned on your personal social media accounts.

Learning about social media marketing and getting practical experience under your belt are crucial first steps. The idea is to build out your experience by getting your hands dirty.

2. Create a portfolio

Next, you need to showcase what you can do. And that’s where a portfolio comes in.

A portfolio is a collection of the best bits of work you’ve done. This gives prospective employers — or potential clients, if you’re planning to go freelance — an idea of your capabilities.

If you don’t have anything to add to a portfolio yet, start working on your own projects to demonstrate your skill set. You could start a blog, create some graphics, write articles, design web pages — whatever you like.

The goal is to get creative, show off your skills, and prove you know what you’re doing. Once you have something that looks good, add it to your portfolio — and make sure you update it as necessary.

Example of a social media marketing portfolio

Source: Alaina Thomas

For each project you put in your portfolio, you should include the following elements:

  • A summary of the key objectives

In other words, what did you set out to achieve with the project? And which metrics did you choose in order to measure your success?

  • An outline of your process

Why did you take a particular approach? This gives prospective employers or clients an insight into your thought process and a flavor of what it would be like to work with you.

  • Results

Needless to say, this is THE most important part of a portfolio piece because it shows whether your work has actually made a difference.

  • Screenshots

Snaps of your social media posts and relevant analytics are visual proof of your work in action.

While you’d think live links would be more impressive, it’s usually better to use screenshots. The business you’ve done the work for might decide to edit your posts, archive them, or delete them. With screenshots, that’s not an issue.

  • Social proof

Got glowing feedback from people you’ve worked with on the project?

Add the best bits of your portfolio. Having someone you worked with speak positively about you adds weight to your achievements and reinforces the idea that you’re someone capable and trustworthy.

3. Build your brand

Whether your ambition is to get a job or start your own social media marketing business, your brand is your biggest asset. Successful social media marketers are active and engaging on social media. They use their personal accounts to showcase their skills, talk about the industry, and promote their own projects.

Make associates with other people in social media to build your business

Take the time to build your own brand, and take advantage of every opportunity to get your name out there. You can do this by attending events, blogging, and connecting with other professionals on social media. As you do this, you’ll start to build your brand and expand your professional network.

Your network can teach you valuable lessons and give you a sense of community. It’s also where you can learn about opportunities — both jobs and leads on potential clients — you might not be able to find out about otherwise.

4. Stay informed

Even if you have a formal social media marketing degree, your education isn’t a one-and-done deal. Social media marketing is a constantly evolving discipline, and you need to keep your finger on the pulse to stay relevant.

Consider this.

Five years ago, barely anybody had heard of TikTok, but now it’s a social media marketing powerhouse.

Similarly, Instagram released 15 new features in the past few months alone.

But it’s not just your knowledge of social media networks that needs to stay current. You should also stay informed about the latest social media marketing technologies, tools, and techniques.

While you’re at it, make sure you don’t neglect related skills like search engine optimization, copywriting, and design. Staying on top of developments in these areas will help you be a more well-rounded and effective social media manager.

Where can you find social media marketing jobs?

Brands looking to develop their online presence and reach more customers will be on the hunt for skilled marketers to help them create and manage effective campaigns. You can find social media management jobs across a range of industries and in various locations.

Look for a social media job online or create a freelance business

  • Regular job sites: Indeed and Monster are great places to search for open positions in the social media marketing field.
  • Industry-specific job boards: Mashable job board and the American Marketing Association job board contain a wide range of marketing vacancies.
  • Freelance marketplaces: Set up profiles on platforms like Upwork or Fiverr to find companies looking for social media marketers and people with associated skills, like copywriting and video editing.
  • Inbound marketing: Set up your own blog optimized for keywords in the social media niche to bring warm leads directly to your freelance business.
  • Outreach: If there’s someone you want to work for, try emailing them about open positions or internships. Keep these emails brief, but use them as an opportunity to showcase your skills.
  • Ask for referrals: Your existing client base can be utilized to find new opportunities. If you have a good relationship with a client, asking for referrals is an easy way to get your name out there.

Finding the perfect job can be a challenge, and it’s important to make sure you stand out from the crowd. Tailor your resume and portfolio to fit each industry or position you’re applying for when looking for work as a digital marketer. This will show employers that you have more than just the basics covered.

With a tailored approach, you can highlight your knowledge of key aspects of digital marketing while also showing off the creativity and skill set that sets you apart from the competition.

Not only will crafting something unique for each application help employers take notice of your strengths and demonstrate your well-roundedness, but it will also give you an edge over other applicants.

Building a successful social media marketing career, in a nutshell

The social media marketing industry is quickly expanding, and new leadership opportunities are being created as social media evolves. While earning a formal degree may be helpful, it’s not absolutely necessary to become successful in this field.

Instead, focus on building your expertise in one or two areas that you’re passionate about, such as video editing or copywriting. Don’t let yourself be intimidated into becoming an expert in everything, though — instead, know the value of the skills you can bring to an organization.

With hard work, dedication, and determination, anyone willing to put in the work can build a rewarding career in social media marketing.