What's It Really Like To Be A Social Media Manager? Q&A With Hootsuite's Elina Vilk

On Tuesday, Hootsuite, the original social-media management and marketing platform, released its first-ever report centered around the ins and outs of social-media marketing.

Who inhabits the positions in social-media marketing and what do they entail? What is the mental-health status? How much money do social managers make and why might they be the most qualified people in the office? 

No matter how many journalists and critics continue to  the decline of social media, social platforms seem to only be reaching further into our everyday lives.

While TikTok has certainly changed the game that Facebook established two decades ago, around 5 billion people still use social media across the globe, and brands rely on it more than ever. So why do 56% of social media managers believe their bosses still don't understand social?



To help answer these questions, MediaPost spoke with Hootsuite CMO Elina Vilk about the complexity behind social-media management, how brands can make better use of these workers, the assistance of AI, and more.

This interview has been edited for concision.

MediaPost: How would you describe the job of a social-media manager?

Elina Vilk: You don't have one job -- you have maybe 100 jobs. You have to do crisis communication, you have to know how to write copy, you have to do design, you have to think about the strategy behind every message the company has to deliver, you have to be a customer-service professional, you have to understand people with a deep level of empathy, and you have to be able to conduct yourself and be the face of an organization.

When you think about all of these roles that a social-media manager has to perform, it's hard not to ask what their emotional state is throughout the day.

MP: So this is why Hootsuite's new report is deemed "The Emotional Support Report"?

EV: Yes. One second, a social-media manager is excited to be launching a marketing campaign, and another second someone is talking about their brand in a negative way and they have to deal with crisis management.

It is a roller coaster of emotions every single day. The idea is, how do they manage these emotions all day long?

MP: Are you seeing social-media managers burning out?

EV: It's a lot, and the expectations are paramount. Maintaining composure and a higher level of professionalism across every one of these fields while performing at 100% is a complex job. We wanted to shine a light on that experience.

MP: The report shows over half of social-media managers believe their bosses don't understand social. Is this due to a general age gap?

<pEV: People in social media tend to be earlier in their career. The role of a social media manager in a marketing organization is not well understood because the value of social media is no well understood.

MP: Why is that?

EV: It's hard to understand the direct implication, or value, of what we choose to measure.

When you're a CMO you're looking at last-click attributions. But what does that last click drive when there is a detractor on your social channels? What's the actual value of that and what does it tell you about your business?

On the flip side, when you have someone following your brand that loves you, that could be your top buyer. Probably about 70% of your total payment volume is that type of person. But all we measure is engagement. So how do we start to create a more cohesive value system?

MP: The report says that 62% of social-media managers have no formal education on the subject. What does formal training in social look like?

EV: We have something called Hootsuite Academy -- we work with universities and there are formal certifications you can get to become a social-media manager. Social media is following performance and digital marketing, which now have formal training programs.

MP: How have you seen social-media managers adapting to rapid changes within the industry?

EV: People who are attracted to social media tend to be comfortable multitasking. The natural skill set that they have follows this idea of agility, to be reactive in a positive way. They have to be able to adapt to new trends while also adapting to a client who has the loudest voice in the room.

It's multiple platforms, multiple tools, multiple media and multiple messages, every day. Regardless of what comes up, they need to be fast and agile in a way that authentically represents their brand --  that's their job.

MP: How do you see the job evolving in the next 10 years?

EV: I think the tooling is getting better with AI. The functional elements are hopefully going to get easier. I'm also hopeful to see the social-media manager position get elevated in the organization and have more visibility.

The social-media manager exhibits all the skills you would want in a senior leader because of that flexibility, agility, technical acumen etc. So I'm hoping they become the future executives of tomorrow and take C-suite seats.

MP: Are AI presets becoming necessary to keep up with the pace of the social sphere?

EV: I think so. I don't see AI as replacing the work of writing the content, I see it as a preset that gives you a template. No different than a preset email template. It takes a lot of the functional lift and you add in your own authentic layer on top of that. You don't use it to punch out the direct response, just the back-work of what you want to say.

MP: Will AI ever replace the majority of the work in social media management?

EV I don't think so, because it's a human job. At the end of the day as a social media manager, your first role is to manage people. There's an innate EQ that you have to have that I don't see AI being able to pick up. You would lose the authentic human connection.

MP: How can brands best support social-media managers?

EV: First and foremost, bring them into the conversation. Based on the report, social-media managers don't feel valued, seen or heard. Then compensate them fairly. The sense I get is that there isn't a direct upward mobility with the position. Figure out how to create a more dependable trajectory for these people so you don't lose them and their level of knowledge -- it's a very expensive replacement.

MP: What is the most misunderstood aspect of the position?

EV: Social media doesn't sleep. So the people that manage those channels are constantly researching, scrolling, trying to build a community around a brand. That's where a brand builds relationships with their customers.

MP: How is the recent shift social platforms are making toward e-commerce affecting the social-media manager position?

EV: Social commerce is a relatively new area. I think social-media managers can begin to stretch into that role by monetizing the retail components of their space and making recommendations with their knowledge of product. A lot of shopping success is happening on these platforms, especially TikTok and Instagram.

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