Social Business, Social Media Staffing and Operations

The New Skill Every Social Media Marketer Must Possess

Snapshot 1:19:13 1:38 PMJay Baer Blog PostIn The NOW Revolution, Amber Naslund and I predicted that social media would become a skill rather than a job. As companies take more steps to “be” social, and incorporate social business initiatives alongside the more common and obvious social media marketing programs, employees from all divisions and departments will utilize “social” to be more effective, the same way they have historically used telephones, email and in-person meetings. This is happening, and my Social Pros podcast interview with Sandy Carter from IBM is a good case history of how big organizations are often leading the way in implementing social as an ingredient in many business recipes.

Companies will fully embrace this movement.

Social at work will become always around us like air, instead of something you have to seek out like water. (tweet this)

But even then, there will still be specialists that oversee or execute social media marketing as a primary part of their job function. The skills needed by this group are changing rapidly.

What Skills Does A Social Media Manager Need to Be Successful?

Just two years ago, the formula for a great social media or community manager was excellent communication skills, comfort with technology, knowledge of the organization and empathy.

18 months ago, when social measurement and ROI calculation became (thankfully) a requirement for most social marketing programs, a heavy dose of comfort with statistics and Excel became a best practice in the community manager job description.

Now, there’s a new requirement for many community or social managers, especially those who are running programs for mid-sized companies on a solo or nearly solo basis (and there are a LOT of those circumstances out there, far more than heavily staffed social media centers of excellence or command centers). Now, to be a “do it all” social media practitioner you must have some experience and expertise with photography and graphics production.

I’m not talking about professional grade computer graphics wizardry, but with Facebook’s EdgeRank and Google’s G+ favoring photos and graphics, plus the increasing influence of Instagram and Pinterest, effective social marketers increasingly must create and propagate images that get attention. There are a number of software packages that help create simple, disposable social media images, so this shift in job skills is less about producing graphics than it is about thinking graphically. Editorial calendars that were once full of pithy tweets and concise status updates increasingly contain graphics instead.

A picture may not be worth 1,000 words, but it’s definitely worth 140 characters. (tweet this)

Snapshot 1:19:13 1:27 PMB2B marketing software company Marketo is a particularly good example of this shift, as their Facebook page has moved in the last few months from mostly text to almost entirely graphics. They create a series of different graphics on a regular editorial schedule (this consistency is also a best practice on Facebook; where brand pages are becoming similar to digital magazines).

In addition to text graphics based on quotes, they execute humorous photo overlays and create images for Webinars and other thought leadership, so that those items stand out in the news feed visually. Smart.

Are your social and community managers thinking visually? If not, it’s probably time to invest in some additional training in that area, and the same holds true for agencies (PR, digital, social or otherwise) that are using staff members to manage social on behalf of clients.

What other skills do community managers need today? How else is this role shifting?

Facebook Comments


  1. says


    This is one piece of my job I struggle with. I’m getting better with tools like iMovie and PicMonkey and various other short video and image creating software… But have not formal design background at all sometimes I feel like A-class ideas turn into C-class images because of my lack of expertise here.

    Couldn’t agree with you more though… Even in a small business in Upstate NY running our social presence especially Facebook like a magazine of sorts has yielded results almost daily in the form of increased engagement, new likes and more importantly our main focus with Facebook, client retention.

    If you know of any resources for training a solo shop on basic design would love the referral…

    Otherwise all the best buddy,


  2. Nigel Rawlins says

    I agree too, luckily I can use a variety of programs. But my clients struggle with this and if their budget is low they have a problem here, often posting too large an image or one that looks pretty disgusting. There are lots of good low cost options for images for backgrounds too or Illustrator images that can be modified.

    • says

      Nigel you raise a good point about image size. Often, it looks fine on Facebook until/unless you star the post, at which time the enlarged version pixelates and is horrible.

  3. Sheetal Sharma says

    Being a part of social media marketing at Synechron, i too constantly struggle with the text for the picture, a picture needs to have an appeal on social media otherwise it is a sheer waste.The image used on the website must speak a 1000 words but how- that is a challenge for the new age marketers.

  4. financing accounts receivable says

    Social media is one essential part of the the social life. There are so many different type of consultancy create by social networking sites. The good graphical based visibilities are so executed with different circumstances of effective social marketers.

  5. says

    Agreed, Jay. As I search for some help, a required skill is comfort level with graphics. As you said, they don’t need to be a graphic designer by trade. But they need to be able to use tools like Photoshop and be able to produce high quality content for social media. This addition also makes such “ideal candidates” more and more difficult to find (and more expensive).

  6. says

    Thanks Jay. Your post has inspired today’s Digital Dash…

    Images are so critical for messages in the social streams. And in today’s rapid pace, brands won’t have time to look through stock photos, or have a professional photographer with 1000 photos saved in his dongle. The winner will be the one who can think, communicate and produce pictures via social platforms.

    It’s why I think digital dash will be the new transmedia necessity… stay tuned for today’s dash, starring you….

    PS: Infographics? So last year. We need something we can digest quickly, on the go.

  7. says

    Another great tip for easy, quality pics is Instagram — for those that don’t have access to graphic design and are promoting events especially, a great Instagram with the right filter can do wonders on facebook pages, twitter etc — key is that the photo is ‘authentic’ so renders similar to user-generated content making it inherently more social — it won’t look like a slick photo-ad, which is important.

    • says

      Excellent point Yaz. I know there are a few apps that allow you to easily add text to Instagrams, too, which you could also use on Facebook and elsewhere. Over, is one of them for example.

  8. says

    Completely agree, Jay. Marketers / PR folks have always needed to think visually, but now we just have a different medium in which to do it. The challenge is for the small business owner or one person marketing department to think this way.

    I would add that multimedia content is also important. Thinking in terms of what could become a video or audio content is something else to consider. Although I prefer to read, a good chunk of the population would rather watch video or listen to a podcast.

  9. says

    I absolutely agree with you – we are having to train our social media execs with graphic design skills. An intermediate level grasp of photoshop is now an essential skill.

    I anticipate video & sound editing would be the next set of ‘must-have’ skills for social media professionals

  10. Holly McIlwain says

    I guess skills working with images goes with the territory, but what’s more surprising to me is that social media marketing will become a skill and not a job. It’s largely going to fall on sales like marketing always has everywhere I’ve worked. Thanks Y’all.

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