Long gone are the days of asking an intern to independently manage a brand’s social media presence, thankfully. Most companies now correctly regard social as a critical messaging tool, understanding that strategically managing a direct line to the public requires strategic contributions from multiple experts.
With the explosion of apps like TikTok and a shift to creating video-first content, companies have realized that social media is no longer a one-man show; it is a team effort backed by an integrated social strategy.
Unfortunately, some brands still struggle to build the right social media team for the job. Here are the main social media roles companies need to reach followers successfully and develop a dedicated fan base.
Social Media Team Roles
Social Media Manager as Editor/Strategist
Like a newspaper editor, the social media manager, or social media team lead, thinks about the audience first and the brand second. This person is intimately familiar with their existing fan base, as well as the type of people the brand aspires to reach. They stay on top of newsworthy trending topics and the industry at large to determine how to best tailor content to their target audience. The social media manager knows that the more value the audience receives, the more engagement the brand will create, which in turn increases overall brand awareness and reach.
The social media manager:
- Defines the overall social media strategy for the brand
- Establishes direction for storytelling
- Understands the social platforms and the algorithms that impact them
- Is a news aggregator
- Develops and prioritizes the editorial calendar
- Ensures consistency and continuation of thematic content
- Has a solid sense of timing and controls the flow of outbound content
- Has a pulse on the community and can determine what content will be of value to the brand
Community Manager/Engagement Specialist
Another role that can be covered by the social media manager, or shouldered by another team member, is the community manager. This person monitors conversations about the brand on social channels and responds according to moderation guidelines set by the social media team. The community manager or engagement specialist is typically well-versed in the sentiment of the community and can often gauge the reception of content posted to the accounts. Efforts of the community engagement specialist complement those of the social data analyst (see below).
The content strategist is the resident messaging expert, ensuring key pieces of information are reinforced in every outgoing communication. By prioritizing big-picture strategy and developing unique angles, content specialists are especially skilled at creating thematic approaches to content creation. This person serves as a fresh set of eyes, especially for the community manager, who is often distracted by his or her additional daily responsibilities.
Content creators are the people who make your website and social media come alive. They’re responsible for creating content across your digital channels. Content creators can create various materials, ranging from blogs, news reports, and videos to podcasts, social media posts, and TikToks. And with the average person now spending almost 7 hours per day online—and more than half of that time on social media—the importance of getting content right has never been greater. With the explosion of social channels, larger companies might even choose to have a dedicated creator for each social channel, especially for creator-heavy platforms like TikTok and YouTube.
Some social media teams may choose to delegate copywriting duties to one person who is more creative, a stronger writer, or just has a knack for accurately reflecting the tone and personality of the brand. Copywriters often partner with art directors and graphic designers to develop creative assets for print and the web, and can easily pivot those skills to social. This position can be given to a salaried employee or outsourced to a trusted freelancer or contractor.
Paid Social Media Specialist
With organic reach dwindling on most social platforms, the role of a paid social media specialist complements the content creation efforts of the digital team. The paid media specialist has a clear understanding of how each ad network functions, what types of campaigns excel on those platforms, the budget necessary to accomplish your goals, and the metrics to measure advertising ROI. The paid media specialist works with the copywriter and graphic designers to build advertising campaigns that contribute to the overall business goal.
Social Data Analyst
The social media team analyst is charged with extracting insights from data and analytics pertaining to owned channels and the competitive landscape across the board. This person provides the team with valuable information about what is working well while also citing areas for improvement. The analyst owns the measurement program for the social media initiative, establishing benchmarks and tracking success over time. This specialist produces regular reports for social and executive leadership team review and awareness.
Interactive Art Director
When creative asset needs arise, such as graphics and videos, the social media team turns to the interactive art director. Art directors can operate independently or lead a team of graphic designers to create compelling imagery to visually communicate key messages. This person often has web development skills, used to navigate the increasingly technical aspects that often come with social media development or integration with other web properties.
Public Relations Partner
While not necessarily always engaged in daily social media operations, the public relations partner steps in to assist when a crisis occurs to threaten the reputation of the brand. That means if a controversy begins spreading online, the public relations expert partners with the social media team to develop and implement a consistent, on-message narrative across all company communication channels until the crisis dies down.
Subject Matter Experts
Sometimes something small like a customer service question, or something big like a campaign targeted to a specific demographic, requires specialized subject matter expertise. These subject matter experts serve as an on-call resource for the social media team when the needs arise. These experts provide information from key divisions of the company, such as customer relations, product or service groups, corporate communications, and the legal team. By bringing their knowledge to the table, the social team ensures message development is accurate, factual, and sound before issuing a public response. Especially within bigger business units, subject matter experts are also responsible for initiating the escalation process further up the chain of command, if needed.
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When budgets are tight, the idea of creating more positions to support social may seem impossible. If that sounds familiar, keep this in mind: you can reduce the total number of roles by giving individual contributors multiple responsibilities. A word of caution: if you choose this route, ensure each person has the right skill sets required to meet and exceed all objectives without burning out. If you determine more staffers are needed, but the budget just isn’t there, an alternative option is to outsource specific work to trusted freelancers and contractors.
No matter how you decide to structure your social media team, make sure these essential areas of expertise are reflected in your roster. By establishing official roles and responsibilities up front, your brand will be set up for social media success in the long run.
This post was originally published in 2019 and has since been updated.