Social-Media Managers Are the Next Generation of CMOs


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Social-media management has traditionally been relegated to interns and junior employees, considered a necessary but not strategic function. In 2012, as an intern at ELLE.com, I tweeted out regularly to the publication’s then 1.2 million followers. Occasionally, the executive editor would send me an email about “a great tweet,” and it felt like the highlight of my career at the time. 

I was unpaid, focused mostly on producing content for the website, and carved out several minutes a day to post some tweets about that content. Then, I’d watch Google Analytics, excited to see the droves of people coming to the site. They never came. 

It was a different time, but it was also a channel without a strategy. Today, few brands would do the same. Social-media marketing has become a much more critical role within the internal marketing teams at startups as well as at Fortune 500s.

Perhaps it was the Oreo Super Bowl tweet of 2013 or the Instagram success of just about every DTC beauty brand with half a strategy. Social media today is about far more than publishing content on a blog, pushing that out on social channels and then crossing your fingers that people come back to the site to read it. 

No, modern social-media management requires a deep generalist, with charisma and negotiating capabilities, fantastic copywriting and community-building skills, and the availability and drive to be nearly always on. 

Social-media managers are the CMOs of tomorrow

In fact, many marketing leaders today think current social-media managers are the CMOs of tomorrow. 

“Social media professionals understand the following about your company: Marketing, Comms (especially crisis), Branding, Industry trends, Customer service, Creative (graphics, imagery, photos, video), How to create and nurture brand advocates,” tweeted Matthew Kobach, Director of Content Marketing at Fast. “[They are] the future CMO/CCOs.”

Amanda Goetz, the former VP of Marketing at The Knot and current founder and CEO at House of Wise, agrees. “I can’t believe people still think of social as a ‘channel’ or ‘side hustle.’ SMMs are the future CMOs. They understand user insights, positioning and brand marketing like no one else.”

Want your brand to stand out on social and begin gaining insights about your consumers you can use throughout every channel and department in your organization? You need to bring on an expert social-media manager ASAP. Here are the skills you are looking for. 

Related: 10 Laws of Social-Media Marketing

Creative strategy and channel-assessment capabilities

Social-media managers sit at the intersection of marketing and creative –– on larger teams at least. For many startups, social-media managers serve as both the marketing-distribution engine and the creative department. 

That’s because social-media managers have to figure out how to retell the brand’s story on a variety of social channels in a way that is engaging.

To make something engaging, these marketers must create something people on various channels care about and that they will find visually appealing. 

You need great creative strategy to make that happen, including creative-asset and production management, and strong analytical skills to assess the possibilities of new social channels that arise … well, often. 

Related: 7 Creative Ways to Boost Your Social-Media Strategy

Short-form writing and storytelling

Copywriting is one of the top skills for a social-media manager. You must be able to tell great short-form stories and capture people’s attention really, really quickly. Visuals can help you do that, but it’s the storytelling that gets folks emotionally connected with a brand. 

Community management 

Marketers love community, despite the lack of consensus around what community actually means. At most organizations, it is the social-media manager who must care for and grow the brand’s community –– often both at the top of the funnel (on Instagram or Twitter, for example) but also at the bottom of the funnel (in private Slack groups, for instance). 

Doing this requires a lot more strategy than you might think, including a really thick skin. 

Social-media managers must be great at handling feedback, from internal and external sources. Beyond that, they need a solid understanding of relationship management, specifically as they build the brand’s visibility and interact with influencers around the web. 

All of this work requires consistent social listening and ongoing networking across a variety of channels.

Related: How to Build a Social-Media Community: Content and Collaboration 

Internal communication 

Look, building a community on a variety of social channels takes time. It isn’t an immediate dollar in, dollar out marketing tactic. So, social-media marketers must be excellent at internal communication, data analysis and reporting in order to keep their jobs. 

Businesses want to be agile, and a lot of organizations still think expert social-media managers are overpriced. They aren’t  but that won’t stop some hiring managers from looking for more junior folks. 

To help sidestep this, social-media managers, like most owned channel marketers, must become experts at data analysis and reporting, and then convert that data into strategy and trust for their internal team. 

Social-media managers live in the marketing gauntlet. And soon, they’ll be in the C-suite. 

Combine all of these skills, years of experience and constant digital networking with peers who have done the same (it’s called social media for a reason!), and it’s no wonder why so many marketing leaders today see their younger selves in social-media managers. 

They are the ones doing the hard work to understand a brand and communicate it to the world in a way that builds a loyal customer base. Little else builds foundational marketing skills as well as running social-media channels. 



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