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12 Essential Skills for a Freelance Social Media Manager
Ten years ago, social media was merely a way to connect with friends and to pass the time while sharing your interests, hobbies, and goals. Now, social media is big business, and 4 of the 50 million businesses with brand pages on Facebook are actively spending money to get their brand message out there. In addition to ads – which are a significant chunk of this expense – they also require people with marketing savvy to manage their brand accounts and develop campaigns that will best reach their ideal customer.
What does this mean for you? Freelance social media managers are in more demand than ever! With more brands accepting social media as another legitimate ad vertical (like newspaper, radio or TV commercials), they are putting more money into this ad landscape. Here's what you need to be skilled in to get a piece of that revenue as a freelance social media manager:
1- Writing Ability
While you don't need to be the next Wadsworth or Dean Koontz, you do need to be able to type up basic ad copy and write interesting observations with few (if any errors.) Social media needs you to be unusually detailed, as often the social media manager will be required to respond to customer requests in real-time. There will be no fact-checker or copy editor to look over your work before you hit "send." With screenshots allowing tweets and FB updates to live forever, you need to have confidence you can create compelling content with no horrible repercussions from typos (something that can plague a business for years.)
2- Community Management
Back before there was social media, forums and chat boards ruled. Moderators usually kept comments under control while answering questions and facilitating new discussions. The same principle applies to social media today. A good manager can spot issues in the online community and address them accordingly – while complying with the rules of each platform.
3- Analytical Skills
Can you read reports? Do you understand trends? Social media managers must be able to tailor their strategies to what the brand has outlined, as well as what the data shows. In addition to reading reports, social media managers might be asked to pull data and create their own personal forecast or plan for the future.
Remember that community we talked about? While it's impossible to please everyone all the time, a good manager can anticipate the needs of the audience, respond empathically to customer complaints or issues, and project a "human" touch with each tweet or update. Remember, most people want to feel heard, and freelance social media managers must be good at both hearing what people say and acknowledging it.
5- Eager to Learn
Technology changes weekly – if not daily – in social media. What once was a useful tool for Facebook last month may not even be in existence today. With all the algorithm changes, it’s not enough to stick to a tried-and-true method and not go beyond it. The best social media managers always have their finger on the pulse of “what’s next” and are eager to embrace new skills to keep their business competitive and competent.
6- Can Keep a Secret
Social media managers are often entrusted with some of the most sensitive data a company has, including passwords and marketing initiatives not yet known by the public. Because of this fact, it's imperative that you can hold all of the info you see in the highest of confidence. You’ll likely be asked to sign a confidentiality clause of some kind before you begin, but – even if you aren’t, you must be able to be trusted to keep secrets under wraps.
Because you will be entrusted with so much proprietary info, it's also important that your devices and workspace are iron-clad and not able to be breached by bad players. You must have the latest firewall and anti-virus tools installed, as well as understand the basics of how to properly log in and off client's account. 2-step authentication is critical here, so be sure you are using this best practice with all of your processes to make sure your client’s info is never compromised!
8- Able to Multi-task
Not everyone can juggle all of the duties of a freelance social media manager! In addition to reporting, updates, campaign crafting, customer service, and PR, you’ll have to continually learn and handle your own taxes and accounting, too! Not everyone has what it takes to do all these things. The person who can keep their cool, and get everything done, will be hugely successful in this business.
9- Can also Focus
On the flipside of being able to keep all the plates in the air is having the skill of focus. There will be times when you’ll be doing mind-numbing work. Data analysis, trends, combing through thousands of comments, responding to an angry Twitter mob --- these are all the things in a social media manager’s typical day that require you to sit and focus for long periods of time. If you aren’t able to shut everything else out and get the work done, you won’t make it as a social media manager.
While everyone has the right to their own opinion, social media managers are held to a higher standard with how they use their social media accounts. As the hidden face of the company, no one may ever know that you are handling Brand A's Twitter handle, but that's no reason to let your own Twitter account appear crude, inflammatory, or libelous. Be sure you are using care when you Tweet and update to social media, as you are representing someone's business – your own! If you don't have the self-control not to like, retweet, or reply to today's political turbulence, you risk appearing unprofessional in your work landscape.
Some of the world’s best ad campaigns were notable for their fresh perspective on life. Social media, with all its memes and viral videos, and supported the view that creativity has value. If you can think outside the box, you can do very well in this industry.
Freelance social media managers have unique challenges. For one, social media never shuts down. That means you may have to work outside planned scheduling tools to address the community in real-time – even on nights and weekends. There is also the hard reality of how fast things change, in technology and life. A campaign you worked for months on may no longer be relevant or could be prohibitive to the message after a recent news event or change in consumer sentiment. Being able to take the hits and adapt is perhaps one of the most notable qualities of today’s best social media managers.
As one of the highest-paid freelance jobs, social media managers can make anywhere from $25,000 - $65,000 depending on their skill level and experience -- as well as whether you’ll be part of an internal team. Even working with an agency (who acts as a buffer between you and the company) can pay $30 an hour or more. By acting as a freelancer, you can keep more of the money for yourself, while providing a responsive marketing plan with fewer obstacles and red tape than a more massive agency may encounter.
This fast-paced career is in high demand by companies big and small. Anyone with a Facebook page or Twitter account will likely hire a social media manager. Those who haven't yet – probably will. Are you up to the challenge?