Career path of a social media pro: These managers work harder, will leave their positions sooner

by | Oct 19, 2020 | Public Relations

The job of a social media professional is a relatively new one in the communications sphere, but is quickly becoming a critical, multi-division role with workloads piling up—and driving these pros to reconsider their vocations.

Approximately half of social media pros say they work more than their colleagues and plan to leave their current role within two years, according to a new study of social media managers from The Institute for Public Relations, Ragan Communications, and the University of Florida partnered on a survey of more than 450 social media professionals about their career path, including the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

The report focuses on the structure and budget of the social media function within organizations; the background, experience, and career path of the social media manager; and the job skills, work-life fit, and performance of the social media manager.

Career path of a social media pro: These managers work harder, will leave positions sooner

“Today there are more than 55,000 social media job listings on LinkedIn,” said Marcia DiStaso, associate professor and public relations department chair at the University of Florida, in a news release. “At all levels, most of these positions are looking for someone who is collaborative, creative, and detail-oriented. Unfortunately, beyond this, we know little about the social media career ladder, so that is why we conducted this study.”

Career path of a social media pro: These managers work harder, will leave positions sooner

With the widespread use of social media, nearly every organization has a social media account, as resources are increasingly shifting to these digital channels and networks. In the USC 2019 Global Communications Report, 38 percent of U.S. CEOs said social media and online influencers would be the most valuable component of their company’s communications strategy in the future, more so than owned, earned, and paid media. Social media managers are responsible for giving brands a voice.

Career path of a social media pro: These managers work harder, will leave positions sooner

“This survey points to both the critical role of social media in storytelling and reputation management and the lack of a clear career path for many social media managers,” said Diane Schwartz, CEO at Ragan Communications, in the release. “We’re hopeful that this research will help organizations address this dichotomy.”

Key findings include:

Social media managers are ambitious

Seventy percent of social media managers want to be promoted in their positions, but only 40 percent saw that possibility in their current roles. More than half (57 percent) of the social media managers did not anticipate being in their current role for more than two more years.

Career path of a social media pro: These managers work harder, will leave positions sooner

Social media managers typically work more than the standard 40-hour workweek

Most social media managers worked slightly more than the standard 40-hour workweek, averaging 41-59 hours per week. In terms of comparing how much they work in relation to others in their function, 48 percent said they worked the same number of hours as their colleagues while 47 percent said they worked more. Research has found burnout is definitely a concern for the “always-on” social media manager.

Career path of a social media pro: These managers work harder, will leave positions sooner

Social media is often housed in communication/public relations and marketing departments

Half of the respondents (51 percent) said social media was in the communication/public relations function while slightly more than one-third (38 percent) said it resided in marketing. Only 4 percent said it was a stand-alone function.

Career path of a social media pro: These managers work harder, will leave positions sooner

The primary role of social media managers is to create content and strategize

Two-thirds of respondents said their primary role as a social media manager was to create content (41 percent) and strategize (27 percent). Twenty percent said their primary role was to improve brand awareness and reputation.

Social media managers frequently participate in internal strategy conversations

At least two-thirds of social media managers are involved in social media strategy (76 percent) and department/function strategy (68 percent). Forty-one percent participate in the overall business and organizational strategy.

“Little research exists about this increasingly critical position within organizations,” said Tina McCorkindale, president and CEO of the Institute for Public Relations, in the release. “We wanted to learn more about the career path of social media managers and also look into our crystal ball to see what’s ahead for them and the function.”

Career path of a social media pro: These managers work harder, will leave positions sooner

Read the full report here.

The Institute for Public Relations, Ragan Communications, and the University of Florida conducted a survey about the career path of social media professionals, including the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Respondents were given an opportunity to enter a drawing for three $50 gift cards and to receive a copy of the report at the end of the survey. A total of 451 respondents participated in the survey. Twenty-two people indicated that they are not involved with their organization’s social media, so they were removed from the study. Fifty people did not complete the study after the first question. Therefore, the study included 379 respondents with a margin of error of +/-5%.

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Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richardc@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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