Are Social Media Managers Being Replaced?

social media managers

A quick look through the marketing section of a job listings site would give you two very different impressions of the social media marketing world. The abundance of companies looking for a social media expert would lead you to believe that social media managers, in general, are in high demand. The companies looking for a Jack-of-all-trades who is also well-versed in social, however, would suggest that the days of the social media manager are numbered. Which view gives us a truer sense of the industry? We spoke with other digital marketers to get a sense of the direction the industry is taking.

Social media managers are vital…

“I see many employers who don’t understand social media enough to know the difference between an employee who can help influence a campaign by sharing it, and one who can create, successfully market, and track conversions of a social media strategy,” says Anthony Kirlew, Founder & CEO, AKA Internet Marketing. “I’m all for having employees being educated as to the social media goals and how they can play a role, but when it comes down to it, the strategy must be led by a strategist (often with a team) who can stay on top of all of the trends in order to keep the brand in front of the right eyeballs. I recall speaking with one business owner who said, ‘All of my employees are on Facebook… I am sure one of them can handle it.’ I explained to him that being on Facebook and marketing a business or a brand are two different things.”

…but their duties are often given to marketers with more general titles.

Although brands are recognizing how important it is to have a social media manager on staff (or at least on call), those social management duties are becoming part of the responsibilities for general digital marketers, or PR specialists. “I have been the media relations manager for a non-profit for the past four years and saw great success on social media,” Jennifer Bement tells us. “I grew their Facebook page from 2,500 fans to nearly 51,000. Even with that much connection in the social media world, upper management did not see the importance  and I was let go. They made the decision to back off of social and focus more on traditional means of PR, so my job was being chopped up into several pieces and given to other people.”

Marketing Consultant Magda Walczak has noticed this trend, too. “When it comes to managing social media for a company or brand, small marketing departments divide and conquer. It’s often the content marketing or the online marketing person who takes charge of social, and at high tech companies the job often falls to the product marketing team. At bigger companies there’s still definitely a trend to use a specialized social media person.”

The industry seems to be moving away from “social media managers” and towards well-versed “digital marketers.”

“I believe that as social media and other areas of online marketing evolve, there will actually be less of a demand for social media specialists, and more need for holistic online marketers that can tackle social media along with SEO, paid search, email marketing and so on,” says Dustin Christensen, Digital Marketing Manager  of JacksonWhite Law. “A holistic marketer will be able to adopt and evaluate (and terminate, if needed) strategies in a more sustainable way than a SM specialist may be able to because if SM doesn’t work, they’ll be able to focus on other marketing channels.”

Trends in marketing education certainly seem to back up Christensen’s prediction. “As a recent graduate from S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication, my major in public relations put heavy a emphasis on being well versed in the world of social media, to the point that we had a required Klout score to maintain,” Ashley Seigel, Business Developer at MyClean, tells us. “Not only that, I took a class specifically in social media called ‘Social Media- What U Need 2 Know.’ As Newhouse prepped me to be well versed in social media, they also required me to take classes in each field of communications (i.e., broadcasting, advertising, graphic design, journalism, etc.), this way I was prepared to transition into a role like business development or marketing and succeed.”

What do you think? Will social media managers have to transition into being well-versed digital marketers, or will the specialized experts still be wanted and needed by brands? Share your thoughts with us!