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Interns Don’t Manage 24% of the Marketing Budget

Modern marketing teams would implode without social marketers, but they’re still not getting the respect they deserve. Here’s how to help.

Isaac Nikolai Fox August 6, 2021
a person running past the statistic 24%

When companies post tweets that should’ve stayed in the drafts, there’s always (at least) one person in the replies saying “fire the intern who posted this.” Comments like this reflect a widespread but outdated view about social media managers: That they’re entry-level workers cosplaying as real marketers.

Nothing could be further from the truth, though.

In fact, social media managers are a core part of the modern marketing department. Your average social marketer isn’t typing out dank memes all day—they’re creating content that drives new leads, responding to customer questions, and protecting their brand’s reputation online. They’re copywriters, designers, content strategists, photographers, videographers, and data analysts. They’re also over-caffeinated and completely stressed out—and can you blame them?

Social teams feel underappreciated, but the numbers show that they’re becoming more and more important to the bottom line. Since the start of the pandemic, digital marketing has contributed 32.7% more to overall sales than the previous year, according to this year’s CMO Survey.

In fact, 65% of companies have boosted their investments in digital media and search marketing, and social media spending is projected to skyrocket to a whopping 24.5% of the marketing budget by 2026.

But bigger budgets come with bigger responsibilities.

Right now, many social media managers are struggling to master essential new marketing skills like social customer care and social commerce while also grinding through their 9 to 5. At the same time, brands are realizing just how fast social evolves, and that their social media managers need world-class tools, strategy guidance, and training to stay ahead of the curve. Here’s how you can make work easier for your social media managers—and add rocket fuel to their marketing efforts online.

4 things you can do to better support your social team

1. Give social a seat at the leadership table

Contrary to popular belief, the average social media manager isn’t the CMO’s 19-year old nephew firing off tweets from the lunchroom—nor are they all unpaid interns either. In fact, they’re typically a 39 year-old with a Bachelor’s degree, according to a Zippia study. What’s more, they know their brand like the back of their hand; 34% of them have been leading social at their current organization for three to seven years.

The depth of experience that workers like this bring isn’t entry- or even intermediate-level. These are senior team members. They’re the ones you call on to lead complex brand campaigns or unravel online PR disasters. They’re the ones who can stop your brand from making mistakes in the 2020s that you should have learned to avoid in the 2010s. The job titles don’t reflect many social media managers’ seniority yet—but they should.

If you want to level up the role social plays within your organization, you should also consider raising compensation for senior social marketers to match the pay for other lead marketing roles. Right now, the average salary for a senior social media manager is only $81,000 USD—compared to $142,000 USD for senior email marketing managers and $146,000 USD for senior product marketing managers, according to Glassdoor.

When we talk about integrating social into the top levels of your organization, we’re not just talking about compensation. When social media is given a seat at the leadership table, it enables your social team’s campaigns to become better aligned with your organization’s broader marketing goals. That’s the key to unlocking real business value with your brand’s social presence.

Looking for a good way to get started?

Get your senior social marketers involved with planning high-priority marketing campaigns, right from the start. This ensures the content they create laser-targets each key business goal you’re trying to achieve. Suppose your product marketing team is promoting a new feature. Would you rather have your social team tweeting aimlessly or crafting eye-grabbing posts that drive new leads to your landing page? Yeah, we thought so.

The key takeaway: bring senior-level social media managers to the table, and you’ll get every part of marketing moving in lockstep. Given some trust and freedom, experienced social marketers can help your whole marketing team (and beyond) crush their KPIs, every single quarter. If you invest in the best, you’ll reap the rewards for years to come.

How to take action

Create senior social media manager roles, and pay them like other top-level members of your marketing team. Elevating the role that social plays within your organization will help you build (and retain) a dream team that can do everything from brand awareness campaigns to social customer care.

2. Trust and enable them to move quickly

Once you’ve got senior-level staff watching over your brand on social, trust them to decide what goes live on the fly.

Trusting them to improvise in real-time lets them hop on emerging trends, which amplifies your brand’s share of voice in the conversation online. Companies that embrace improvised social marketing go viral more often and may even boost their stock values, according to a Journal of Marketing study.

Brands like Wendy’s effortlessly ride the zeitgeist because their social teams are allowed to riff on everything from National Roast Day to the latest episodes of Rick and Morty. And Hydro-Quebec used cheeky, spur-of-the moment posts to grow their social following to over 400,000, and improved their brand reputation score by over 20%.

Both organizations go wild, not mild on social—and that’s why their posts just work. You can tell that each tweet was written by a real person, instead of 10 stakeholders furiously editing a Google doc.

This is where giving social that seat at the leadership table pays dividends. That extra autonomy allows your social team to tap into the conversation online as it happens, and organically boost your brand’s share of voice. At the same time, your executives can feel confident taking a more hands-off approach, because everything that goes live gets approved by a team member who’s got the experience needed to keep your brand protected at all times.

Now, if you’re in a regulated industry like government, finance, or healthcare, there’s even more reason to train and defer to your social team’s leadership. You’re not just concerned about protecting your brand image—there are legal implications to every word that goes public.

You couldn’t trust an intern with that responsibility—and that’s exactly why it’s so critical to hire senior level social media managers.

They know better than anyone what works on social while also understanding how to keep your brand out of trouble. And with a tool like Hootsuite, they can make sure everything that goes live is on-brand, while keeping your voice on social fun, engaging, and in-the-moment.

How to take action

Stop creating posts by committee. Trust the senior members of your social team to approve what goes live, and give them the power to say no to bad ideas from the outset.

And if you want to ensure your brand is fully protected online, get a tool like Hootsuite that lets senior members of your social team quickly approve important or sensitive posts. Our integration with Actiance can even help you set up approval workflows, compliance policies and access controls that give you extra layers of security over what gets published.

The pay off: Your social media managers will reach new customers by jumping on trends as they happen, and you’ll never get told to “fire the intern.” Sounds good, right?

3. Give them the tools they need

You can’t just throw your social marketer an iPhone and a 12-year-old laptop and expect them to make magic happen.

Even posts that appear to be casual, fun, and a bit off-the-cuff still require decent equipment to make. Your social and creative team need everything from photography equipment to lighting, sound gear, and professional editing software. It’s your responsibility to make sure they’ve got the right tools for the job.

The Washington Post makes a little gear go a long way. Their TikToks aren’t flashy, but they retell current events with funny sketches that get the 144-year old news giant in front of younger audiences. Sketches like this recent one about the COVID-19 Delta variant would need a) proper lighting, b) an iPhone tripod to capture all the right angles, and c) microphone equipment to record high-quality sound.

The Washington Post hasn’t blown the bank here, but they’ve gone beyond the bare minimum when it comes to tools, and it’s helping them rack up millions of views on TikTok.

@washingtonpostIn Los Angeles, 123 people were infected with the delta variant from June 4 to 18. Ten were fully vaccinated but did not need hospital care.♬ original sound – We are a newspaper.

Beyond content creation, social marketers also need tools that help them manage cross-channel campaigns and turn engaged social users into new customers. Scheduling posts is just the bare minimum. If you’re really trying to use social to drive broader business value, you need tools that integrate right into the rest of your tech stack.

In practice, this looks like bringing data from social into your customer relationship management (CRM) system so your sales team can close the deal with potential buyers. It looks like passing off customer questions in the DMs to your support team so they can save the day. It looks like using proactive social listening to find themes and ideas for your marketing campaigns. With the right tools, your social team will be able to collaborate with teams beyond marketing and help them reach their business goals, too.

(Shameless plug: You can do literally all of this in Hootsuite).

How to take action

For content creation, start by getting camera equipment and editing software so your social media managers have stunning visuals to go with each post. If you’ve got the basics already, step it up with video equipment, sound gear, lighting, and graphic design tools like Canva. Plus, invest in training so your social team knows their tools inside out and can create without limitations.

For campaigns, consider a tool that can help your teams create and manage their posts stress-free and jump on emerging trends before the hype dies.

Platforms like Hootsuite directly integrate with Adobe, Canva, and Salesforce, so you can use your creative tools right alongside other critical aspects of your campaign, like your content calendar and analytics.

4. Invest in their long-term learning

Your social team might be great at creating eye-catching content, but would they get stuck if asked what metrics matter most on each platform? Have they created audience personas to help them target different potential buyers? And do their key performance indicators (KPIs) directly align to your company’s business objectives?

These are high-level questions, and they show that technology is only one part of the puzzle when it comes to winning on social. We’ve said it before—you also need training, skills, and the right strategy. But since social changes so quickly, those can be hard to nail down.

Social teams are now expected to help sales teams convert new leads, analyze social metrics, create and execute long-term brand narratives, and provide customer care that keeps buyers coming back for more. These extra responsibilities got dumped on every social marketer’s desk without warning, and most of them are told to adapt without any extra education.

https://twitter.com/just4victor/status/1344690018791538691

And digital marketing curricula can’t keep up. The majority of marketing schools (73%) do offer courses in digital marketing, but most (36%) only offer a single entry-level course on the subject. Only 15% of undergraduate programs with at least one digital marketing course make them mandatory.

The result? Many Social media managers are picking up their skills on the job, and they’re missing key training.

Learning on the job isn’t working, either. The Digital Marketing Institute (DMI) tested nearly 1,000 marketers from across the US and the UK, and found that only 8% had entry-level skills in digital marketing. Strategy and planning were the weakest points for social media managers—63% of American social marketers in the study struggled with these vital marketing skills.

In short: The skills gap in social marketing is bringing the industry to an inflection point. If you invest in strategy and planning training for your social marketers, they’ll have what it takes to pull ahead of the pack. Everyone without those key skills is at risk of getting left behind.

How to take action

Give your social media managers the ongoing training and strategy guidance they need to master social media with Hootsuite Services. It’s available to all our Business and Enterprise customers, and comes with exclusive webinars, courses, and strategic guidance to help your organization get more from social, faster.

And if you want the best of the best that Hootsuite can offer, upgrade to our Premium Services plan. You’ll get customized onboarding that accelerates your social journey, one-on-one coaching calls with social strategy pros, an assigned customer success manager, and so much more.

Learn how Hootsuite Services can help you conquer any (and every goal) you have on social media.

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By Isaac Nikolai Fox

Isaac is a Copywriter at Hootsuite. When he’s not writing snarky copy, he’s doomscrolling Twitter, downing iced coffee, and keeping up his daily journaling practice.

Read more by Isaac Nikolai Fox

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