How to Craft the Ultimate Social Media Job Description

by | Aug 8, 2012 | EduSocial Blog | 0 comments

Finding qualified employees to manage your company’s social media presence can cause headaches. From defining job duties, to setting an appropriate salary level, there are many considerations that must be made in order to ensure the candidate is not only the right fit for the company, but also has the best opportunity to succeed with confidence. If their job duties are not clearly defined or if the salary level is set too high, an employee may not provide the returns that an employer may be looking to achieve. If their job duties are too demanding or if the salary level is too low, an employee may quickly become frustrated and turnover may become an issue. Finding the middle ground between these two extremes is the key to an effective relationship, and an effective social media job description.

Last week we at NISM announced the public release of our Social Media Strategist certification program. The purpose of this program is to provide standardized learning outcomes in social media that colleges and universities are able to adopt into their unique program areas, which in turn gives their students an opportunity to further their education and job prospects with a college degree, and a nationally recognized certification. The reason that this certification is relevant to helping you write a professional job description is because until now the amount of practical data to show what knowledge, skills and abilities you as an employer should be expecting from the social media talent pool has been limited. The following sections are written based upon the data that we have gathered in the development of our certification program. It will guide you in your efforts to present your future applicants with a written description of what you might expect of them in their job and may also help to protect yourself in the event that their activities or attitudes require disciplinary action or termination.

Those who are involved in an organization’s social media efforts, like it or not, are ambassadors of that organization. They will be having conversations with potential customers, referring issues to an appropriate person or department, answering questions about the company’s products or services, creating and sharing content for the world to see, and more. If an employee is not the right fit for your organization or its culture, it is likely become clear to your stakeholders very quickly. Writing this information into the job description, perhaps within a “position purpose” statement to begin the document, will help to increase the potential of finding the right person.

There are many job titles in the world of social media – some more grandiose than others. During the certification development process we had the opportunity to study over 100 social media-related job descriptions, and their corresponding job titles. From our research the most common titles we found were:

  • Social Media Coordinator
  • Social Media Strategist
  • Social Media Specialist
  • Community Manager
  • Social Media Manager

Upon analysis of this data, the NISM Industry Advisory Committee, the group of professional social media subject matter experts who guide our efforts in the development of our certification, decided to use the standard title of “Social Media Strategist.” It was determined that this title would most appropriately define the required duties that will be expected of professional social media practitioners due to the strategic planning task elements that employers will often require. It is our position at NISM that using the “Social Media Strategist” title for social media-related positions will provide employees with a much clearer understanding of their role, but we do not discount other common alternative titles.

Prospective employees will need to be given a reasonable sense of their duties and responsibilities, and will also need to know how those duties and responsibilities will generally consume their workday. The first step in this process for you will be to define all of the essential tasks that they will be expected to perform. Each task must then be assigned a percentage of expected time spent on average based not only upon the frequency of the task, but also based upon a hierarchy of importance. This is often a step where employers get stuck. You may find yourself unsure about how much to expect of an employee or how to define their responsibilities. Similar to the old adage, “You can’t teach what you don’t know,” you also can’t assign responsibility if you don’t know all of the potential responsibilities. In response to this, some decide to go in search of examples of what duties and responsibilities other companies have included in their job descriptions. Although that can be one solution this problem, we would like to provide you with what we feel is a more effective alternative.

In order to become a NISM-certified Social Media Strategist, our candidates must pass a rigorous examination at a proctored testing site. The NISM Social Media Strategist exam was built, and is based upon the results of National Job Study which was performed in partnership with Assessment Systems Corporation. This study surveyed nearly 200 social media industry practitioners asking them to review a list of common tasks that our Industry Advisory Committee had identified as common in the industry. Participants were asked to rate the tasks by; a) how frequently the task is performed per week; and b) the task’s overall level of importance. The results from this national survey allowed our Industry Advisory Committee to group those tasks into what we at NISM refer to as “content domains” but for the purposes of a job description, would be a list of the common duties and responsibilities in social media along with a percentage of their time and importance. The following are the common duties as identified by the NISM Social Media Job Study along with a short description of each domain. It is our position at NISM that the content areas outlined here are not exhaustive to the qualifications of all social media vocations, but represent a general level of proficiency and theoretical knowledge.

  • The strategic planning domain consists of determining how social media can best be leveraged to advance the greater goals of the organization, and aligning a social media strategic plan with overall organizational goals.
  • The compliance and governance domain consists of creating social media policies to govern activities, along with defining when, and when not to participate in a conversation.
  • The project management domain consists of designating who will be participating in an organization’s social media interactions, and delegating activities to partners, or other team members with skill-sets that are applicable to the task at hand.
  • The marketing and communication domain consists of identifying who is in your core audience, segmenting your core audience, identifying and offering social media content your audience perceives as valuable, and determining the methods that your core audience prefers to interact with the organization.
  • The community management domain consists of frequently reaching out and engaging with your audience, fostering a sense of excitement about the organization within the social space, and reacting quickly and appropriately to unexpected situations.
  • The research and analysis domain consists of practices for monitoring appropriate analytics, quantifying online traffic/impressions for content, and adjusting/optimizing key performance indicators (KPIs) in response to analytics data, are also examined.

Depending upon the organization, you may require a minimum amount of education, experience, knowledge, and skills. It is our position at NISM, based upon the results of the national social media job study, and adhering to the position of our Industry Advisory Committee, that any candidate who is interested in earning our certification must have at least 64 academic credits (Associate’s Degree) or at least two years of business-related experience in social media. The National Institute for Social Media and its Social Media Strategist certification program is attempting to support those who are setting these job specifications. By improving educational standards, we can help to provide you (the employer) with a much more well-rounded pool of talent and offer you a neutral source to connect with consultants or applicants who you can feel confident employ industry best practices, and are among the best qualified for their role.

At present the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has no salary range data on its website about social media vocations. However, their data does include a “Public Relations Specialists” description that contains many (but not all) of the content domains described in the previous section. The median annual wage of public relations specialists was $52,090 in May 2010. This information is somewhat consistent from the data that we found in our analysis of the current social media-related jobs. We found the average salary of the social media job descriptions that we analyzed to range from $31,500 – $59,700. However, these amounts may vary according to several factors, including location, concentration and experience.


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