This post on best social media jobs is a result of our research, as well as first-hand experience, into starting or growing a successful side hustle or career in social media.
Managing social media for local businesses was one of my first successful side hustles. I managed a handful of local clients on retainer, which provided a consistent stream of side income. More importantly, it allowed me to learn valuable skills that are highly-rewarded in today’s marketplace (and that I still use today to run a successful website).
In this post, you’ll learn:
- The best social media job titles for absolute beginners.
- Tips for landing your first client or job as a social media manager.
- How to fast-track your career in social media management to become a high-earner.
A career in social media has potential for tremendous growth in a very short time. Whether you’re starting from scratch or looking to take your career to the next level, be excited because we’re going to highlight some excellent opportunities.
Types of Social Media Jobs
Search for the term “social media jobs” on a site like LinkedIn or Indeed and you’ll find positions with literally dozens of different titles — many of which list the same duties and responsibilities in their job descriptions. That can make it hard to know what opportunities are out there, where each one falls on the career ladder, and what you’d actually be expected to accomplish if hired.
Job titles and roles always vary between organizations, in part because different companies use different naming conventions. For example, one company’s coordinator-level jobs might be equivalent to another company’s strategist-level jobs. On top of that, a company might employ both coordinators and strategists. And in both cases, they might use some other, more unconventional nouns.
This has always been one of the challenging aspects of early-stage career planning, and it’s why students, new graduates and young professionals are encouraged to do things like shadow existing employees and meet people for coffee interviews — it takes time and conversations to gain insight into what these terms actually mean in the context of both a particular company and field.
But the challenge is even greater when it comes to social media jobs. Professions that have been around for decades often have at least somewhat standardized titles that come with generally-recognized responsibilities. But it’s a whole different ballgame when it comes to social media.
That’s because the field is relatively new, and also because many employers and hiring managers are — how should we say this — not exactly digital natives. Thus, they’re not always sure what they need in a social media employee (let alone what to call the role).
For this article, we wanted to help you sort through that alphabet soup by highlighting a few of the most common types of social media jobs. Most of what you’ll find falls more or less into one of the categories below — even if it’s called something completely different. In addition, we also wanted to dive into the career path you’ll want to take (and the skills you’ll want to master) to become highly-paid.
Of course, you should recognize going into your job search that because employers don’t always know what they want, there’s often significant overlap between the responsibilities of these roles. Some employers expect an assistant to function like a manager, and vice versa. That can provide a great opportunity as it gives you a chance to punch above your experience level and climb the ladder faster, but it can also be a drag on your career if you get stuck taking care of tasks that should be assigned to a more junior employee.
So, during your interviews, make sure you ask plenty of questions and gain a clear understanding of exactly what the role is you’d be filling.
Traditional Social Media Jobs
While many smaller companies choose to outsource their social media work to freelancers or agencies (more on how you can get into that game in the next section), some of them — as well as most mid-sized and large corporations — still rely on in-house, full-time employees to handle their social media presence.
In some organizations, these roles are concentrated within the communications, marketing or public relations department. In others, each department has its own social media employee or team — which can be great if you want to carve out a niche and specialize in a particular topic or field.
1. Social Media Assistant
Quick Summary: Social media assistant is typically the lowest-level full-time position you’ll find in the field. As an assistant, you’ll develop social media campaigns, create posts for those campaigns, conduct keyword research, and monitor analytics to see how much engagement the overall campaign and individual posts are generating.
The job also entails researching competitive brands, exploring possible new markets, and crafting an overall, consistent image for the company that will appeal to the desired demographic. Those in this role typically manage the company’s social calendar to ensure that campaigns are timed in a way to generate maximum impact with the audience.
Average Pay: Between $30,000 and $40,000 to start, although $45K to $55K is not unheard of, depending on the job’s location and the competitiveness of the position. As with all jobs, you’ll make more working in places like New York and Los Angeles.
Qualifications, skills, and experience needed: To work in any traditional social media role, you’ll usually need a bachelor’s degree. In addition, because these jobs tend to be quite competitive, most employers ask for one to three years’ experience!
I know what you’re thinking… if this is the entry-level position, how are you supposed to get that much experience?
First, understand that a job description is an employer’s wish list; it doesn’t mean they’ll rule out people who don’t meet all the stated requirements. While you shouldn’t apply to jobs you’re not qualified for, you should apply and make a case for yourself if you know you’d be ready and able to crush it on Day 1.
Second, you can use things like internships and freelance work as prior experience. So if you’re currently in college, make sure to prioritize finding good internships that give you the opportunity to produce work samples you can show off later. And if you’re out of college, start working for individual clients to build up your portfolio. (We list a few ways to go about that in the second half of this article.)
In terms of skills, a great way to bypass the above-mentioned experience requirement many companies have is adding video editing to your list of skills. Employers are clamoring for social media pros who know how to craft engaging videos in Premiere Pro and Final Cut. Beyond that, the better you are at graphic design (i.e., Photoshop and Illustrator), the more successful you’ll be. And of course, you need to be a great writer with a solid grasp of grammar.
2. Community Manager
Quick Summary: Community managers oversee and facilitate interaction between a company or brand and its social media audience. That means monitoring social media accounts for mentions, responding to comments, and replying to incoming messages. You can think of a community manager as a bridge between the company and its customers — it’s someone who proactively searches for opportunities to engage with people and enhance the brand’s image.
Often, especially in smaller organizations, this task falls to the social media assistant. But at larger companies, it’s a big and increasingly important role.
Community managers also monitor outside platforms — like Reddit, blogs and forums — to find opportunities for engagement and to better understand what customers are saying about the company or a particular social media campaign.
Average Pay: $45,000 to $55,000 to start.
Qualifications, skills and experience needed: Employers who are specifically hiring a community manager typically want someone with at least three years of experience, but because this is more of a research, organizational and customer-service role than some of the other social media jobs on this list, it’s a little bit easier to meet that requirement. For example, if you have a record of producing positive customer engagement and effectively resolving problems (such as by working in a call center), you should count that — even if it’s not directly related to the field.
3. Social Media Strategist
Quick Summary: Whereas the role of community manager usually only exists in large companies, social media strategists are typically employed by small and medium-sized firms. They tend to wear many hats and are often the only person employed to deal with a company’s social media presence. Unfortunately, the “strategist” designation means that while you may be expected to “manage” the organization’s social media, you probably won’t be considered a management-level employee.
Go into this role expecting to be a Jack-of-all-trades and a one-stop-shop. You’ll be responsible for creating, planning, and implementing a company’s overall social media strategy, and probably for monitoring and reporting on its effectiveness.
Everyone will be looking to you for ideas and solutions, which is a great opportunity if you’re a creative thinker! Because you’re essentially the head of your own department, you can usually develop ideas and take them directly to decision-makers, as opposed to having to run them through one or more superiors first (which is the part of the process where too many great ideas die).
Average Pay: Because of the amorphous form of this role, the pay is all over the map. What I will say is that many strategists negotiate some type of performance-based incentive into their contract. Since you’ll be the primary person behind every social media product, it’s easy for both you and your employer to measure the value your work adds to the company. In other words, when you have a hit campaign there’s no one else who can claim credit for it — and you can capitalize on that.
Qualifications, skills and experience needed: This role comes with management-level responsibility, so employers will want to see a demonstrated record of spearheading successful campaigns — from ideation to completion. You’ll need to be able to walk them through at least a couple of different concepts from start to finish, explaining how you made your decisions, how you implemented the campaign, and how you measured and evaluated the results. This is where short-term freelance work can really be beneficial to your career.
4. Social Media Analyst
Quick Summary: Social media analysts typically work for consulting firms or agencies. Their job is to assess a client’s existing social media presence and develop recommendations for improving it in ways that align with that particular client’s goals.
Here’s a case example. Let’s say a company recently rolled out a new product line. They spent a couple of years developing it, and people loved it in pre-market testing and focus groups. But when the product finally went on sale, it didn’t sell and people weren’t talking about it online. The company tried to generate buzz with a couple of social media campaigns that they hoped would go viral, but engagements were far lower than expected — and now they stand to lose a boatload of money.
In a situation like this, a company might hire a consulting firm to get an outside perspective on what went wrong with the product rollout, and to provide recommendations about how to reverse the negative trend. As an analyst, part of your job will be developing an understanding of why their previous campaigns failed, and then working with your colleagues — who might specialize in things like marketing, advertising and business intelligence — to develop a plan-of-action.
Average Pay: $65,000 to $75,000, but sometimes far more depending on the payment structure of the firm you work for.
Qualifications, skills and experience needed: This is generally considered a mid to mid-senior level position, and the pay reflects that. However, this type of business — which is usually on the smaller side overall — depends on results. As such, skill is paramount. If you know how to develop plans that drive meaningful results, people will pay you for that talent regardless of your number of years of experience.
That’s not always the case with the other jobs on this list, as more traditional corporate employers often have to deal with layers of internal HR hiring codes. That can make this kind of work an ideal option for someone who is changing careers or has a non-traditional resume.
5. Social Media Specialist
Quick Summary: A social media specialist or social media coordinator (the terms are often interchangeable in job postings) is not so different from a social media manager (see below). The biggest difference is that a social media specialist is considered a more junior position.
That means that this position deals more with the day-to-day issues around a company’s social media presence and campaigns — things like making sure that scheduled posts go live on time, following up on issues brought up by a client or colleague, and making sure that posts are compliant. You’ll still play a part in formulating your company’s overarching social media strategy, but that will be mixed with a fair amount of grunt work.
Average Pay: $45,000 to $65,000 to start.
Qualifications, skills and experience needed: This is considered a junior to middle-level position and usually requires three to five years of applicable experience. You’ll need both technical skills (as you’ll be engaged in content creation), as well as great interpersonal skills (as you’ll probably be expected to keep the trains running on time and manage multiple internal communication channels).
6. Social Media Manager
Quick Summary: In a typical corporate structure, social media manager is the highest rung on the social media career ladder, and usually reports directly to the communications or marketing director. In these environments, you won’t really be a content creator; instead, you’ll be responsible for supervising some configuration of the employees listed above, and for developing, executing, monitoring and measuring all aspects of your organization’s social media presence.
As an SMM, your priority will be on strategy rather than implementation, leaving most of the day-to-day work of actually creating and posting individual pieces of content to more junior staffers.
However, be aware that when non-corporate employers (like individuals and small local businesses) use the title “social media manager,” the role looks more like that of a strategist.
Average Pay: $65,000 to $95,000 to start. But as with all jobs on this list, the range varies wildly.
Qualifications, skills, and experience needed: In corporate environments, you should expect to bring at least seven to 10 years of experience to the table, and you’ll be expected to have a record of successfully managing employees.
7. Director of Growth Marketing
Quick Summary: A job title popular in the startup community, a director of growth marketing is responsible for customer acquisition and retention. The position requires experience across all lines of growth, from having a deep understanding of available marketing channels (Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads, Google AdWords, etc.), to experience with A/B testing and conversion rate optimization. And as if that wasn’t enough, the best growth marketers also understand how to leverage human psychology.
For those who want to excel in a career in social media, this is the position you’re ultimately aiming for.
Average Pay: $120,000+.
Qualifications, skills, and experience needed: To land a job working as a director of growth marketing, you’ll need to have successfully demonstrated significant bottom line growth in a previous role.
To get this experience, my advice is to look for opportunities to work as close as you can to someone who currently holds this position.
A director of growth is one of the early hires at a startup. Therefore, finding a smaller startup that’s looking for interns or freelancers, or which is hiring for entry-level marketing positions, can get you the invaluable experience and connections you’ll need to be on this career track.
If you’re serious about reaching this level, I highly recommend Demand Curve’s Growth Marketing Training. Demand Curve is a growth marketing agency that is very well respected in the startup community.
They offer a comprehensive, step-by-step program for growth marketers to design and implement a growth campaign as well as an overall marketing strategy. It’s a course I invested in myself to help better understand the emerging best practices used by today’s fastest-growing startups, and can’t say enough good things about it for those looking to get serious about growing their career in marketing.
To get a taste of what to expect, the co-creator has an outstanding free Growth Marketing Guide that’s better than most paid courses.
How to Find Traditional Social Media Jobs
Social media jobs are plentiful now that virtually every business has a social media presence. These are the best places to find traditional social media jobs.
- Company websites: Going directly to the source should be your first move. Not all companies use external job boards, and a company’s website almost always has the most up-to-date listings. When you start your job search, make a list of the organizations you’d most like to work for, bookmark their job listing pages, and make a note to check back weekly. Also, many of these sites allow you to set up job alerts so you can get notified when new postings are put online.
- Company employees: One of the dirty little secrets about job hunting is that many positions never even make it to the company’s website — or when they do, the company already has a top candidate in mind, making the job posting merely a formality. Often, when a position opens up, the first thing that happens is that HR sends out an internal email, alerting current staffers of the opportunity and encouraging them to either apply or recommend a candidate. The only way you can know about these opportunities is by knowing someone inside the company. So, when identifying an organization you want to work for, find a current employee (preferably one you have a connection to, like a shared alma mater), and reach out to them via LinkedIn or email to set up an “informational interview.” You can learn more about how to go about that here.
- Field-specific blogs and job listing services. Most of the time, there are at least a couple of blogs that monitor and aggregate job listings in a particular field and/or for a particular city. For example, this blog features a daily listing of communications and public affairs positions in the Washington, DC area. Similarly, there are many niche-based paid services (usually charging about $5 per month) that provide the same kind of information. Keeping with the DC example, almost everyone searching for government-related jobs in the DC region signs up for Traverse Job Listings. You’ll have to use your research skills to find these resources, but they’re out there.
- MeetUp: A free app that helps people organize real-world events. And one of the best ways to know about job opportunities in your field is to network. As noted above, many jobs never even make it to a company’s website or a job board. Plus, many positions are so competitive that you’ll have a better shot at getting an interview if you know someone who can flag your resume or put in a good word.
- LinkedIn: The de facto job board for most corporate employers, and you’ve probably used it in previous job searches. But one of the things I like best about its search engine is that it shows you jobs other people have viewed that are similar to the jobs you’ve browsed. This makes it easy to find openings that you might have missed by not using the right keyword — which is especially helpful when dealing with the alphabet soup of social media job titles.
- Indeed: This site is something of a one-stop-shop for job hunters. It aggregates millions of job postings from a variety of sources including company and external job boards, classified ads, and professional associations. In some cases, you can also apply for a job directly through Indeed. One thing to keep in mind is that there’s a lot of junk here, so make sure to do your due diligence before applying.
- Glassdoor: We all know it’s considered improper to inquire about salary too early in the process, but most of us work to make money — not just for the heck of it. Glassdoor takes the mystery out of what a particular job pays. You can find that information (as reported by current and previous employees) for specific companies on the site as well as reviews that indicate whether a company is a good or bad place to work. Plus, Glassdoor has a section where people post the interview questions they were asked, which can be helpful in your interview prep.
Freelance Social Media Jobs
Most small businesses understand the importance of having a social media presence, but they may not be large enough to need a full-time employee to manage it. Then there are solo entrepreneurs — think of people like bloggers, coaches and instructors — who outsource this work in order to save time so they focus on other parts of their business.
While the traditional jobs listed above come with a certain set of benefits and suit many people’s lifestyle and career goals, freelance social media jobs for the types of clients noted above can provide an unmatched level of flexibility and upside.
In most cases, you’ll be able to make your own schedule and work when and where you want. And your income won’t be limited by an organizational pay chart — you can charge what your skills are actually worth, and you can ramp up your rates as you learn how to drive better and better results.
Plus, it’s often easier to get into the field through this type of gig work. In contrast to the jobs listed in the previous section, very few clients will refuse to interview you because you didn’t study the right subject in college, or because you have a less-than-traditional professional background.
1. Social Media Manager
Quick Summary: In a corporate environment, this it the top-of-the-ladder position. But when working with clients as a freelancer, it usually implies the responsibilities of a social media strategist, in that you’re providing a one-stop-shop for social media service — from planning to copywriting to graphics design to actually posting the content. You’re “managing” that aspect of the client’s business.
Those in this position will be expected to identify potential customers, create social media campaigns and posts that will attract those customers (while continuing to appeal to existing ones), and run those campaigns. While you won’t have a staff within a client’s company per se, you may work closely with the owner or other employees to meet the company’s marketing and sales objectives.
Average Pay: When you’re first starting out, you’ll probably need to charge an hourly rate of around $20 to $30. Once you have a few successful projects under your belt, that rate can go up significantly — $100 per hour is not unheard of. That said, at some point you’ll be positioned to charge on a per-project basis, which can be an even better return on your time.
Qualifications, skills and experience needed: There are no strict requirements for this type of work, but you’ll have a better chance of landing clients if you have a portfolio that contains samples of an array of content types. Make sure you have a couple of videos, a couple of infographics, and a few text-based posts to show off. And be prepared to discuss your process, in terms of how you develop ideas, how you plan a campaign and stay organized, and how you measure success.
2. Digital Marketing Manager
Quick Summary: Digital marketing managers (sometimes called social media marketing managers) focus primarily on paid social media. In other words, they’re responsible for acquiring new customers and raising revenue through the use of paid marketing campaigns (i.e., advertising) on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Google.
For many companies, paid digital media campaigns are the single biggest driver of traffic to their websites. Knowing how to craft effective ads, target them to the right audiences, and monitor the results — culling poorly-performing campaigns and boosting successful ones — can have a dramatic impact on a business’ advertising ROI and bottom line. As a result, effective digital marketing managers are worth their weight in gold.
In a large company with a big marketing budget, these jobs are competitive and hard to land. Candidates are often required to have a degree in marketing and several years of experience. But smaller companies and solo entrepreneurs are often willing to hire a freelancer without a formal marketing background.
Average Pay: As with freelance social media work, the pay depends largely on your reputation. In general, digital marketing managers make a little bit more than social media managers, but you may still have to start out at $20 or $30 per hour before ramping up. Once you get established, you should always try to negotiate some type of revenue sharing agreement into your contract, in which you’ll get paid a percentage of the new sales or profits your work produces.
Qualifications, skills, and experience needed: You should come to the table with expert-level knowledge of each of the five major social media platforms listed above (plus any other smaller ones, like Snapchat and TikTok), understanding all of their features and options. In particular, you need to know what micro-targeting options are available and how to use them. Many of the companies offer training and certification programs aimed at helping you acquire that knowledge, such as Facebook’s Blueprint program.
3. Graphics and Video Designer
Quick Summary: As a freelance social media graphic/video designer, you’ll most likely be working for clients on an on-demand, per-project basis. For example, you may be asked to design an infographic explaining a concept or dataset, to create images that will drive engagement on Pinterest, or to add subtitles or effects to a video that will be posted on YouTube.
The key to being successful in this role is understanding what works best on each platform. You also need to be up-to-date on the latest visual trends and visual design best practices.
Average Pay: Skilled graphic designers can make well over $100 per hour.
Qualifications, skills, and experience needed: Mastery of Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere Pro and Final Cut.
How to Find Freelance Social Media Jobs
You don’t have to search through traditional job boards to find clients (in fact, that’s the wrong place to look). The sites below feature primarily clients looking for remote freelance workers.
- UpWork: The largest freelance job marketplace, with thousands of listings in hundreds of different job categories and new opportunities posted every few minutes. It’s the primary place that freelancers find new clients. There’s a lot of competition on the site, so we wrote a detailed guide aimed at helping you actually land your first UpWork contract.
- Fiverr: A freelance marketplace similar to UpWork, with the primary difference being that instead of bidding on projects posted by clients, you create “gigs” and clients come to you. Fiverr can be a great place to start for beginners because it’s a bit easier to score jobs than on UpWork. However, the pay tends to be lower (sometimes significantly), and the clients are often lower quality and/or harder to deal with.
- FlexJobs: FlexJob is a job board specifically aimed at connecting job seekers with remote work. You’ll find some freelance gigs here, but most listings will be either full-time or part-time positions with reputable companies. While you’ll often see somewhat dubious postings on job boards (especially freelance job boards) FlexJobs checks each listing before it goes live on the site, so you can be sure there are no scams here.
Final Thoughts on Social Media Jobs
One of the best decisions you can make when it comes to choosing the right career is being in a high-growth industry.
High-growth industries are easier to start working in, offer more job security, and provide better opportunities for advancement.
Right now, social media is indeed a high-growth industry. There are opportunities in social media for absolute beginners, as well as high-paid director positions for those willing to commit to learning valuable skills.
No matter where you’re at today, it’s important to just get started. This is a fast-changing field with a lot of opportunities. So, the more experience you can gain today, the better.
And if you’re looking to ultimately land a high-paid position within marketing, check out Demand Curve’s Growth Marketing Training.
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