What does it take to be a social media manager? An analysis of required skills in job ads

A survey of social media manager job descriptions shows some common desired skills that are aligned with journalism or communication training. It suggests that by incorporating some new skills, a journalism or communication program is poised to prepare students for this new area of job growth.

Strong growth of social media manager jobs

Among others, job postings and Google search volumes are good indicators of the growing demands for social media managers.

At LinkedIn.com, a popular online job portal, a search of “social media manager” usually returns hundreds of job postings.

A Google Trends report (the visualization below) shows that prior to 2009, there were no or negligible searches for “social media manager,” and the volume of searches shows a steady upward trend since 2009.

social media manager job searches

Common skills and experience desired for social media manager

I searched for “social media manager” jobs at LinkedIn.com and randomly selected 10 such jobs to survey the types of skills and experience desired by employers.

Obviously, the core requirement is that job applicants be well versed in various social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, HooteSuite, Pinterest, Instagram, Google Plus, Google Places, Yelp, Youtube, Vimeo, directory listings (Yahoo, Bing, etc), etc.

What interests me more, however, is the types of conventional and digital communication skills that are expected of a social media manager. The findings suggest that by adding such new skills to the curriculum, a journalism or communication program is in a good position to prepare students for this new area of job growth.

Conventional communication skills:

  • Written and verbal communication skills. Mentioned in eight jobs and include writing, proofreading or presentation skills.
  • Communication-related degree or experience.  Seven jobs desire a degree or background in communication, journalism, PR, advertising, or media studies.
  • Graphic design or photography skills. Mentioned in five jobs.

Digital communication skills:

  • Web metrics and analytics. Mentioned in eight jobs.
  • Search engine optimization (SEO). Mentioned in six jobs.

That said, in another survey, I found that among the 500+ communication and journalism degree programs in U.S., only a selected few require communication students to take digital skills courses. This survey of social media manager jobs is yet another reason to argue that digital skills should be a must-have for all communication students and professionals.

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About Mu Lin

Dr. Mu Lin is a digital journalism professional and educator in New Jersey, United States. Dr. Lin manages an online marketing company. He also manages MulinBlog Online J-School (www.mulinblog.com/mooc), a free online journalism training program, which offers courses such as Audio Slideshow Storytelling; Introduction to Social Media Marketing; Writing for the Web; Google Mapping for Communicators; Introduction to Data Visualization; Introduction to Web Metrics and Google Analytics.
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