Let’s Talk About Working in Social Media

Please stop calling us interns.

“Fire your intern.”

and

“Your intern deserves a raise!”

I’m pretty sure these are the two most common online replies I received while working on various brands’ social media over the past seven years. As a social media manager, no matter whether you make a mistake or whether you do something great, the internet always sees you as the intern.

To be clear, fairly paid internships are not a bad thing and lots of interns I have worked with are super smart and capable! But it’s what’s between the lines here that matters: social media jobs are seen as a stepping stone or a brief stint—not as a legitimate career path that many choose to take.

I remember how badly I wanted to find a mentor when I was first starting out in social. Someone who had, to some degree, walked a path that was similar to the one I wanted to be on. Where were the VPs of Social Media? Even a Director of Social Media was hard to find! To this day I’ve only met one VP of Social Media, Stinson Parks III at American Express. I hope to meet more. In my jobs at both Plated and Bon Appétit, I had great bosses, but none of them had come up through the path of social media—it was always through some other form of marketing or editorial. Marketing jobs have existed for decades, whereas social media jobs have existed for barely one decade. This contributes to a lack of tenured employees but also a lack of education within companies on the worth of this field as a whole. 

When I turned to books, articles, and magazines to learn more, I often felt like the information was already out of date. It takes a year or two to write and publish a book about social media—at least half of it will feel old by the time it’s on the shelves of your local bookstore. Meanwhile, the more up-to-date articles are often SEO articles from social media tools looking to tease product features to ultimately convert you to become one of their customers. I also often felt like these sorts of articles were so focused on data, and never addressed the creative, wacky, fun side of social that resonated most with me and the audiences of the brands I worked on.

Most of my peers in social media have had to do almost all of their learning on the fly. Not only are they working in a field that morphs and changes on the daily (everyone joking about Twitter’s Fleets feels like years ago) but they also don’t have the luxury of leadership, mentors, or decades of general industry knowledge to build upon. 

But we adapt. We speak on behalf of the brand we work for multiple times a day. We creative direct photoshoots for posts. We figure out how to drive revenue. We connect with our community. We tell stories in smart and digestible ways. We respond quickly to current events. We monitor and check our feeds, even when it’s mentally impossible. We use the platforms we manage to raise funds and do good. 

And while this may sound like a brag, it’s really a wake up call to whatever CMO or overseer of social media is reading this:

Social media managers are burnt out and are rarely compensated in a way that reflects all of the work we do. As Taylyn Washington-Harmon, associate editor at Health Magazine, says in her viral Tweet, “This role requires you to be a copy editor/graphic designer/videographer/data analyst/moderator and you're lucky to make even 50k at an entry-level/associate level role.” Maybe the people on the internet who call us interns don’t see social media as a long-term profession, but we do—and we need better support if you want it to be one too. That support can come in many forms: salary adjustment, monetary allowance for mental health tools, mandatory (and encouraged) days off that are actually respected, meaningful networking opportunities, solutions for weekend social coverage, and more. I plan to discuss these topics in the following months.

I truly hope that this newsletter can be an actually-useful resource for people who work in social media. My goal is to build something I would have wanted as I was getting into this field. (Maybe it would have saved me from posting the same photo on Instagram five times to see if I preferred the Nashville filter over Valencia.) I also hope it will help illuminate all the work social media managers do to any higher ups or CMOs who might be subscribers. 

Along with newsletters on various social topics, I will also be posting social media job openings, accounts I am super into (and why), and lots more. Also! For a fun sneak preview, the next newsletter will be on running social as a small business owner featuring an interview with Calma Floral’s Elizabeth Jaime

Thank you for subscribing! I’m so thrilled to have you here.