A decade ago, the role of a social media manager might not have even existed. Today, however, almost every company is involved in social media one way or another.

A quick look at Google Trends shows the rise in interest in the term “social media manager” over the years, and it seems that people have never been as interested in the term as they are today.

Google trend search for social media manager - interest in the term has been increasing since 2004.

But what does it take to be a great social media manager? What are the skills to master and traits to have? How can you work on those areas?

In this post, we’ll try our best to answer all those questions. We’ll share 10 skills and traits that are crucial to being a great social media manager and relevant resources to help you improve in those areas.


Skills vs Traits

Throughout this post, we’ll discuss the various skills and traits we feel are most important for social media managers. But before we dive in, I quickly wanted to share some of my learnings about the difference between skills and traits.

Here’s a great explanation of skills vs traits from Red Letter Resumes:

Skills are tangible factors that you actually bring to the table. Things such as HTML, PowerPoint, Tax Preparation, Medication Compounding, Social Media Management, Lesson Planning, Accounts Receivable, Contract negotiations, etc. They are things that require you to develop a certain level of understanding, productivity or efficiency to claim expertise.

A trait is therefore defined as, “a quality that makes one person or thing different from another”. These are the things that make you who you are, that are part of your personality: the things that make you different from other people. The difference is that these are subjective. One person’s definition of being hard-working is not the same as another’s. Traits come without a quantifiable or standard measure. They are often, but not always, amplifiers of how you do or complete something that is a skill.

Hard skills involve specific knowledge and abilities. Soft skills focus on attributes and personality traits.

(Image from The Huffington Post)

When it comes to finding your ideal social media manager, I feel you may be looking for the right mix of tangible skills (things like copywriting and analytics) and traits (such as curiosity).

7 skills top social media managers share

1. Copywriting

Copywriting is a fundamental skill for social media marketing (and probably all areas of marketing). Writing good copy is required in many areas of a social media manager’s role, from filling up your social media profile description to crafting tweets and Facebook posts.

To drive engagement and clicks, you have to fit a captivating story into your social media post and without great copywriting skills that can be difficult.

To enhance your copywriting skills, I’d highly recommend studying a few copywriting formulas to help you craft inspiring copy. Finding a copywriting formula (or two) that works for you can be a great productivity boost and also improve the quality of the social media content you publish.

One of our favorite copywriting techniques here at Buffer is the ‘Before – After – Bridge’  – you may recognize it from a few of our blog posts and social posts. Here’s how it works:

Before – After – Bridge

Before – Here’s your world …

After – Imagine what it’d be like, having Problem A solved …

Bridge – Here’s how to get there.


For more great tips on copywriting, be sure to check out Kevan’s great post: If Don Draper Tweeted: The 27 Copywriting Formulas That Will Drive Clicks and Engagement on Social Media


2. Design (Graphics and Videos)

Research has found that social media posts with images receive more engagement and 43 percent of consumers want to see more videos content in the future.

43 percent of consumers want to see more videos content.

Social media evolved a great deal over recent years, and we have moved away from mostly plain text based updates towards visual content such as images and videos. Designing and creating visual content is becoming an essential skill for social media managers.


3. Public Speaking (confidence in front of an audience)

With features and apps like Facebook Live, Instagram Live, and Periscope, live videos are becoming more and more important on social platforms. And marketers have noted this change, with 42 percent of marketers saying they want to create more live videos.

42 percent of marketers would want to create more live videos if they were not restricted by time, resources, or budget.

Why are marketers excited about live video? I believe the answer is two-fold: reach and engagement. Facebook Live videos are more likely to appear higher in the News Feed when those videos are live than after they are no longer live. From an engagement perspective, live content also provides opportunity for high-engagement and 1:1 interactions with audiences.

To tap into the live video trend, social media managers have to be confident enough to go live on social media to connect with their audience. Having public speaking skills will help you to present your ideas, interview guests, answer impromptu questions, and chat with your followers in real-time.

If you want to see our awesome Social Media Manager, Brian Peters, in action, you can find his live videos here. And below is a short clip of Brian discussing viral content:


4. Customer Service / Community Engagement

Social media is the top channel people go to for customer care, but only 21 percent of businesses use social media for customer support. This means there’s a huge opportunity here to provide remarkable customer service experiences.

Social media is the top channel people go to for customer care

As the face of your company on social media and the person who is likely to be responding to at least some of the messages your brand receives on platforms like Twitter and Facebook, it’s important for social media managers to have conversational skills and empathy to help you customers on social media.

Community engagement is quite similar in many ways. A great social media community manager is able to ask the right questions to facilitate engagement and answer questions about the product, company, or industry.


5. Behavioral Psychology

With data and analytics, you know what type of social media posts do well. Behavioral psychology tells you the why — for example, why are people attracted to certain posts? Why do people share certain posts?

Knowing the what allows you to spot trends and try to repeat past successes; knowing the why enables you to understand the underlying causes for those trends in order to try and create future successes.

For example, your data might tell you that your tweets with images are doing better than tweets with only text. Based on just that information, you might create more tweets with images. However, it could be that your followers prefer visual content. Without knowing the psychology behind trends, you might miss out on opportunities to create other types of visual content such as videos and GIFs.

You certainly don’t need a degree or high level of expertise in psychology to be a social media manager, but a keenness to learn and understand psychology at some level is an important skill.


6. Analytics

The term, ‘Analytics’, is used quite broadly here, referring to both social media metrics (e.g. likes, comments, shares, etc.) and business metrics (e.g. traffic, leads, conversions, revenue, etc.). A great social media manager is able to understand both types of metrics and tie them together to give an overall view of the company’s social media performance against business goals.

A social media manager should be the guiding light in your business when it comes to measuring your performance across various social channels. As such, learning the ins and outs of social media metrics and judging which ones are meaningful for your business is essential for a social media manager.

For example, if your goal is to drive traffic from social media channels to your website and drive sales, being able to attribute traffic and conversions back to channels and even certain posts will help your team to understand what content is helping you to achieve your goals.

Knowing how to read and interpret data is now an important skill for social media managers.


7. Budgeting

As a social media manager, you might be allocated a budget to work with. Apart from paid advertising, you might have to pay for things like a social media management tool, designs, images, or courses to improve yourself. Having some basic financial and budgeting knowledge can make you better on the job.

While you might not need to be an Excel expert, understanding Excel and knowing what you can do with it can be very valuable.

Paid advertising budget spreadsheet template

(Image from HubSpot)


3 personality traits great social media managers exhibit

8. Curiosity

A curious social media manager would immerse herself in the social media world, staying up-to-date with the latest development and experimenting with new social media marketing strategies.

Brian Peters is an epitome of this quality. When we discovered that videos, especially live videos, are becoming popular on social media, Brian immediately started making more videos on Facebook and Twitter. When Snap Inc. launched Spectacle, Brian got it as soon as he could to try it out and figure out how marketers can use it in their social media strategy.

Snap Spectacles a Buffer Review

HubSpot VP of Marketing Meghan Keaney Anderson said this really well when she described her ideal social media hire:

“We really look for people who have their finger on the pulse of how social is changing. It is one of the most rapidly changing industries right now, and I want someone who is paying attention to it, who is enthralled by it and fascinated by it. … Things shift so fast. If you think about the social media channels that were dominant two years ago and the social media channels that are dominant today, it’s just a totally different world.”


9. Adaptability

Adaptability complements curiosity. When you discover something new or spot a trend, being able to quickly adapt to it can keep you ahead of the curve.

For example, the most engaging type of social media content has shifted from texts to images to videos. In a Fast Company article, Mark Zuckerberg was reported to have said,

“Most of the content 10 years ago was text, and then photos, and now it’s quickly becoming videos,” Zuckerberg said, justifying Facebook’s aggressive push into the area. “I just think that we’re going to be in a world a few years from now where the vast majority of the content that people consume online will be video.”

A great social media manager is able to keep up with such changes and pick up the necessary skills (e.g. graphic design, video making, etc.). (Imagine when virtual reality becomes the most popular type of content!)


10. Business Savviness

Being able to generate likes and shares is great; knowing how social media fits in with the entire business strategy is even better! A business-savvy social media manager sees the bigger picture and understands the role of social media in the company.

They understand which metrics are most relevant and crucial to the business and how social media can help to push them higher. For example, a B2B social media manager might focus on generating leads for her sales team while a B2C social media manager might focus on increasing customer purchases directly. This way, her impact goes beyond just social media but to the entire company.


Skills and traits others think are important

To give you an unbiased view on this topic, I’d love to share the skills and traits that other companies and individuals think are important:

What the Best Social Media Community Managers Actually Do in Their Jobs by HubSpot

  • Content creation
  • Marketing analytics
  • News junkie
  • Customer service
  • Community management
  • Funnel marketing
  • Project management

Lindsay Kolowich of HubSpot also mentioned the necessary skills for each of these areas in this article.

10 Essential Skills a Social Media Manager Needs To Have on Their Resume by Jeff Bullas

  • Strategy planning
  • Tactics and execution
  • Community management
  • Understand how content works on a social web
  • Optimizing content and technology
  • Creative mindset
  • Writing skills
  • Be on top of the latest digital marketing trends
  • Analytical skills
  • Leadership and communication skills

How to Build A Social Media Strategy Dream Team by HubSpot and Sprout Social

  • Patience
  • Technical aptitude
  • Proactive
  • Daring
  • Passion
  • Level of Experience
  • Customer-first mentality

Over to you

While you might not need to be proficient in every single area mentioned above, being good at a few of them would make you a great social media manager and a valuable asset to your company.

What other skills do you think is important for a social media manager to have? Would you be up for sharing some resources for improving those skills, too?

Thank you!

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Written by Alfred Lua

Content Crafter at Buffer. I swim, cycle, and run a lot. When I’m not doing all those, I love to read and try new things.

  • ASG

    Great article!

    What the article does highlight is the fact that Social media cannot be an afterthought. Moreso for small businesses for whom small visibility can make a huge difference, specially in an age of algorithms when major social networks are able to detect what you write in your post and as a result directly impact your visibility.

    What it also makes clear is that for small businesses, hiring a single person who is competent in social media skillsets can be costly, specially if you do not see the results. The job description has competencies which one would require in people working in 3 to 5 different jobs in a single person – graphics design, copy/proof reading/writing, analytics, customer service, accounting and last but not the least, being a celebrity.

    • Hey @disqus_fQ4krr2JSB:disqus, thanks for the nice comment!

      Yeah, I agree that social media cannot be an afterthought (for most businesses nowadays). In fact, it might be one of the best marketing channels for small businesses if they can produce great content and stand out from their competitors with the help of the algorithms.

      Good point. I don’t imagine it will be easy (or necessary) to find someone who is excellent in all the areas mentioned above. Being good at several of them will be awesome to me already! My hunch is that most people in small businesses know a bit of everything mentioned above and tools like Canva can help a lot, which is great for a start.

  • Hey Alfred & Buffer! I love your timing with this article. I did my own research to write an article about necessary social media marketing traits/skills, but my approach does not include the tips you provide. I seem to have taken a different angle. I appreciate your advice and will work to improve my own skillset in this field. My only request is: would you be willing to add my article to the end of yours where you include outside resources? I think its relevance would help your readers: http://www.mktginnovator.com/social-media-marketing-professional/ – Thanks for this article! 🙂

    • Hey @mktginnovator:disqus! Thanks for checking out this article, leaving a comment, and sharing your article with us! Your article includes important traits that I have not included. ? I’m sorry, I’m feeling that the article might not fit this blog post. Nevertheless, thanks for sharing it with us!

  • Lucie

    This article is absolutely incredible! Many thanks!

  • As always you’ve hit the nail on the head with these skill sets and my curiosity lead me to read it 🙂

    A couple of other skills I’ve found useful along the way:

    * Saying no – your colleagues can get carried away in social media trends and think your company needs to jump on every trend. Sometimes you need to take a diplomatic approach and explain why you might not do the mannequin challenge just on the off chance that “it’ll go viral”
    * Photography – as you state, with visual being such an important part of social media, being a dab hand at photography can always help!

    • Hi @lisacrowther:disqus, thanks for reading this article and sharing those two skills! Knowing when and how to say no can be so important (something I’m still learning that myself), and with most platforms going towards visual (e.g. Instagram and Snapchat), being great at photography is definitely helpful. Thanks again, Lisa. 🙂

  • Gustavo Woltmann

    A good social media manager = a good copywriter, this is so true. However, personality and pro-client approach is also very significant.

  • Blog is worth reading.Good information.Thanks for sharing.

  • Very informational blog.Thanks for sharing

  • This article is absolutely incredible! Many thanks!

  • Awesome post Alfred! I am happy to say that I am proficient to experienced in these traits & skills. Thanks for your insights and I’ll be sharing this with my network today. 3 cheers to all the Bufferoos out there and enjoy a wonderful Wednesday via @stevehedstrom:disqus @HedstromMedia 🙂

    • That’s awesome, @stevehedstrom:disqus! ? Thanks for wanting to share this with your network!

  • Great article, worthy to take time for and read!

  • Zai

    Great article ! Thanks so much for this. It will actually help me create a more up-to-date job description 😉

    • Thanks for checking it out, @disqus_aNXBIxFNDu:disqus! So glad to hear that it is so helpful for you! 🙂

  • Alex Henry

    Wel… consider yourself added to my blogroll. I have like six other blogs I read on a weekly basis, guess that number just increased to seven! Keep writing!

    • That’s awesome to hear! Thanks, Alex! 🙂

  • Scott Caldwell

    Never fail to be blown away by how much value the Buffer team gives in its blogs when others would charge a pretty penny for this kind of advice.

    • That’s very nice of you, @scott_caldwell:disqus. Glad that you found this post useful 🙂

  • Eyreka

    Fantastic! I’m really attempting to learn more about managing the social media for our company. I work for a small commercial property brokerage that uses the barest social media bones. I’m taking up the social media manager mantle and this article brings transparency to world I’ve not yet explored. So grateful! Thank you, Alfred!

    • You’re very welcome, @eyreka:disqus! I’m really glad that you found this useful. All the best for the new role!

  • Claireworx

    Excellent article, thank you.

    • Thank you for checking it out, @claireworx:disqus! 🙂