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Social Media Should Not Fall Under “Other Duties As Assigned”

Uncover the pitfalls of outdated job descriptions and discover why a dedicated team is essential for success in the dynamic world of social media.

The landscape of social media constantly changes, along with the functionality of individual platforms.

Early in my social media career, Google+, Periscope, and Storify were all part of a social media manager’s vernacular.

And as I look at the myriad of new platforms that have come out in the past year I wonder if I’ll be creating brand accounts for any of them in the near future.

Change is omnipresent in the industry – social media managers are always learning how to use new platforms, digital tools, and technologies.

Social media is no longer a hobby or a pastime, it’s a growing industry. It has become much more sophisticated and complex as time passes and technology advances.

Maintaining social media channels for an organization requires, at the very least, a full-time position dedicated to the organization’s social media presence.

I would even argue one full-time position is not enough, and that it takes a team. It certainly should not fall onto the list of duties of a junior member of a department as an afterthought, not if you want to see results.

In its simplest form, maintaining social media channels involves posting content regularly, which requires having content to post and publishing the content to the platforms.

This is time-consuming.

If your organization is adopting social media as a vital part of its communications or marketing strategy it necessitates much more work – creating content, posting content, engaging with content, listening and monitoring channels, keeping up with new functions and practices – and that’s for existing platforms.

Although there are new platforms that are constantly being introduced, there are still only nine hours in a workday.

No one should expect one person to maintain the organization’s social media presence.

An organization’s social media presence is its public presence and brand voice; there is no un-coupling the organization’s social media identity from the brand identity.

If you wouldn’t leave it up to a junior staff member to manage the organization’s public-facing content and communications, you should probably rethink it if you have a junior staff member managing all the social media channels in addition to the regular duties they were hired to do.

In addition to all the social media related responsibilities, those who are full-time social media managers often serve as their own audio-visual team and information technology support.

In the past few years crisis communications has also become a large of portion of a social media manager’s daily responsibilities and it continues to grow.

This fundamentally shifts how the position functions and serves the organization.

Social media managers are the first people to receive feedback and criticism from their audience, as well as often being the first to hear of breaking events, because they are on the front line of public-facing communications.

Therefore, a key part of a social media manager’s job is to relay information and make recommendations to senior officials on the back of this.

They should also be one of the first to know when decisions are made in regard to the situation. If there’s anything 2020 taught us, it’s that no two crises are the same.

While we were becoming better equipped to respond to each new dilemma, there was no creating a template. Every crisis had its own challenges and constraints.

For example, sometimes a crisis would break on a weekend or a holiday, sometimes it would be cut short by an even bigger story, sometimes it was strictly internal, and at other times a global calamity.

And while our responsibilities grew and our work hours extended, you wouldn’t know it by reading our job descriptions.

We need to start thinking about social media as a team sport. Each position on the team would serve a unique and necessary function and there should be bench players available to complete the team.

To be successful at it, it requires the full-time attention of a number of people. Before considering a new platform, here is the necessary makeup of a social media team:

  • Director of strategy.
  • [X, formerly Twitter]–Facebook–LinkedIn specialist.
  • Vertical video specialist.
  • Gaming specialist.
  • Live streaming specialist.
  • Writer.
  • Photographer.
  • Videographer/editor.
  • Graphic designer.
  • Animator.
  • Data scientist.

Of course, there are various ways to build your team, and I’m certain new specializations will arise.

Larger organizations should consider a creative director, and if you do paid social you will definitely need a marketing director or an ad specialist.

A common problem, though, is that the job descriptions for social media managers are antiquated.

While social media might have been manageable as an additional duty in 2004, that’s no longer the case today.

However, a major oversight in the profession is that the job descriptions remain the same.

That’s why they don’t reflect the breadth of responsibilities social media managers handle on a daily basis, which has led to many social media managers being underpaid and overworked.

Many social media positions remain entry-level, even though they now require more senior-level experience.

It’s unreasonable for one person to handle all these skills, which are full-time positions in and of themselves, and they should absolutely not fall under “other duties as assigned.”

There is something social media managers can do about it—we can take the initiative and help to rewrite our job descriptions.

I realize there is a bit of bureaucracy involved, and this is no easy task, but if we don’t do this, who will?

Working with your manager and human resources to rewrite your job description may be the best way to educate them on just how much you do and initiate conversations that could lead to positive change.

It’s an eye-opening exercise when you write down everything you’re doing and are responsible for, and while the process might be arduous the benefits may include a promotion and salary increase.

If people who aren’t familiar with social media and social media job roles continue to write the job descriptions, the chances are they will not fully represent the scope of the position.

For example, they may ask for a social media “whiz,” “guru” or some other label that sounds complimentary but does not come close to representing the profession accurately.

This could lead to them seeking a new intern every semester when what they actually need is a seasoned professional.

Many communication professionals and administrative assistants who have social media as one of their (many) responsibilities start to find it’s taking up more and more of their day.

If this is you, it’s time to separate social media from your duties and help to make it its own position.

If social media channels are truly an integral part of your organization, it’s necessary to allocate more resources toward managing social.

If we don’t do this, then it’s likely nothing will change. This means that even if you move on to a new role, the person hired to do your job after you will have to endure the same growing and unsustainable workload.

I, for one, want future social media managers to have the respect and salary they deserve walking in the door of an organization, and I believe it’s up to each of us to advocate to move the needle on advancing our profession.

This extract is from Organic Social Media by Jenny Li Fowler ©2023 and is reproduced and adapted with permission from Kogan Page Ltd.

To purchase the book, SEJ readers get an exclusive 20% discount and complimentary shipping for all US and UK addresses. Use code: OSM20 here to redeem your offer.

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Category Social Media
Jenny Li Fowler

Jenny Li Fowler is the director of social media strategy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and author of “Organic ...

Social Media Should Not Fall Under “Other Duties As Assigned”

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