12 Habits of Successful Social Media Managers

Secret tools and hacks

Bella Foxwell

Bella Foxwell

12 Habits of Successful Social Media Managers

The life of a social media manager can look hectic. But it doesn't have to be this way. You can be highly successful without working every hour under the sun.

Sep 14, 2021
Update on
November 9, 2021
09 MIN.
Table of Contents

A day in the life of a social media manager can look pretty hectic. 


Between managing campaigns, creating content, dealing with unhappy customers, collaborating with various parties, and pulling compelling insights from social data, finding time to squeeze in a cup of coffee can sometimes feel impossible.


But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can be a highly successful social media manager without working every hour under the sun. And feeling more energized and less scattered will make your work better and your clients happier. Win-win.


In this article, I’ll share some key habits to implement to guarantee long-term success as a social media manager. These include planning content ahead of time, making the most of tools, demonstrating the value of social media to the wider business, and last but definitely not least: taking breaks. 


1. Set realistic goals

It sounds obvious and yet even in 2021, some brands still believe that racking up social media followers is the key to generating more sales.


That’s why it’s important to get on the same page right from the beginning and make sure those goals are SMART. Smart, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based.


So your client wants to grow their followers. The first question to ask is: why? How is that going to increase their bottom line? 


The second question to ask is: How many followers do you want to grow by and in what time-frame? 


With any goals, be as specific and realistic as possible - and always map them back to the bigger business goals. For example:


  • Business objective: Increase brand awareness
  • Measured by the Reach of individual social media posts?
  • Business objective: Increase engagement
  • Will you track an average engagement rate across accounts or measure more specific metrics e.g. saves, shares, comments, retweets, etc. per post?
  • Business objective: Increase website traffic
  • Will you track how much traffic is coming from each social media platform?
  • Business objective: Increase leads 
  • How are you qualifying cold, warm and hot leads? How many of those are you converting every month?


These goals are a good starting point, but now they need numbers attached to them e.g. “Increase Reach on Instagram by 25% by the end of August 2021.” 


Goal-setting is one of the most important habits of any effective social media manager. It sets you up for success from the start by empowering you to set expectations with your clients and dazzle them with stellar results when campaigns and content do better than expected!


2. Create a social media sales funnel that converts

After setting realistic goals, the next vital habit of a successful social media manager is to create a social media sales funnel that converts.


This is where you set yourself apart from every other social media manager out there. Rather than creating a content calendar based on national holidays and one-off events, you’re going to develop a content strategy that takes the customer journey into account.


This is your social media sales funnel - and with it, you can create intentional content that plays a key role in attracting, nurturing, and converting social media followers.


Remember: every single person in your community is at a different stage of their customer journey. Some are new to the brand and know very little about the benefits of the product/service. Others have been following for a while and just need the right offer presented at the right time to jump off the fence and convert. 


This is why more specific, purposeful content - rather than content linked to tenuous occasions like National Dog Day - is so much more impactful. 


When you’ve finished this article, read our full piece on how to develop a social media sales funnel that converts to find out more.


3. Make sure your content is really good

It might sound obvious, but it’s worth saying that in 2021 your content has to be good. Really good.


That doesn’t mean you have to invest a lot of time and/or money into flashy video content. But it does mean providing value with every single post you publish. 


Review graphics with a critical eye. Will it stop the scroll? Are you giving people a reason to engage either by sharing, saving, commenting or hitting follow? 


You should be able to answer these questions easily - and if not? Get rid. There’s no room for “filler” content. The purpose of every post - and how it’s serving your followers and the brand - should be crystal clear. 


And be mindful of content types that perform particularly well. Value-packed carousel posts, clever memes, Tweet screenshots and, of course, video content like TikToks, Reels, and Lives are very popular with social media users at the moment. The more you can factor one, or some, of these into your content calendar, the better.


4. Focus on communities, not followers

Despite what some of our clients might think, social media success in 2021 is all about relationships. 


It’s up to us as social media managers to communicate the value of a strong engagement rate (and retention rate on video content), rather than getting caught up in big follower numbers.


For starters, get super clear on who your target audience is. This will help you refine your messaging and create content that resonates with the right people. Get this right, and your strong, aligned community will attract others like them. 


And remember that building and, more importantly, fostering a sense of community is an ongoing commitment. Assign time each week to engage with existing followers. Respond to comments, chat back-and-forth in the DMs. Understand what they’re struggling with, what topics interest them, and what content particularly resonates with them. 


The more tuned-in you are with the individuals within your communities (as opposed to the “followers”), the easier it will be to achieve and maintain results on social media.


5. Create templates

Being a successful social media manager is about working smarter, not harder. One way to do this is to create templates for tasks you repeatedly carry out for different clients.


When I’m extremely busy or about to start work with a new client, one of the first places I turn to is my template library. Over time I’ve built a collection of caption formulas, content calendars, hashtag trackers, and Canva graphics to help stay organised and streamline my workflow as much as possible.


So, take a look over the work you’re doing for clients and see which jobs could be (somewhat) automated with the help of templates. Here’s some examples to get you started:


  • Social media reports
  • Hashtag library
  • Canva design templates
  • Headline formulas
  • Caption formulas/templates
  • Content calendar
  • Social media strategy deck/template
  • Social listening template
  • Social media image dimensions
  • Response matrix 


Every successful social media manager has a stash of templates up their sleeve because they’re such time-savers AND life-savers. I really recommend putting some time aside to organise and/or create yours. You’ll thank me later!


6. Use tools to streamline processes

One very important habit of all successful social media managers is automation. 


Templates help with this a lot (see the previous point). But having your preferred set of tools to save time, get better results, and make the most of every single social interaction is an absolute must.


Every social media manager is different and for that reason, I encourage you to explore the variety of tools available to see which you prefer. 


First, think about the tasks that make up your day-to-day, including:

  • Content creation and review
  • Content scheduling
  • Customer service/engagement
  • Analysing insights
  • Social listening
  • Trend forecasting
  • Communicating with teams


Then, explore tools to help with these. There are now a variety of social media management tools that allow you to manage your social accounts all in one place. 


If you have relatively small needs, many of these are free or low cost. For those that aren’t, most offer a free trial to allow you to test out their features before making a financial commitment.


The fewer, more holistic tools you can use, the easier it will be to stay organised. Here are some of my favourite social media tools - past and present - to inspire you:


Project/team management

  • Asana - for organising and keeping track of campaigns and tasks
  • Slack - for keeping in touch with team members


Social media management

  • Iconnosquare - an all-in-one solution for scheduling, insights, competitive analysis 
  • CoSchedule - for planning and publishing content


Content creation

  • Canva - for beautiful graphics
  • G-Suite (Google Docs, Google Sheets) - for caption writing and content calendars
  • BuzzSumo - for ideation and trend forecasting
  • Answer The Public - for common customer queries and content ideas


With so many social media tools out there, it can feel a bit overwhelming knowing where to start. Give yourself permission to test some out and ask peers in the industry for their recommendations too.


It might even be that your clients are using one, or some, tools that you love and start using within your own business!


7. Be the voice of reason your clients need

You’d be forgiven for believing that to be successful in social media you need to jump on EVERY social media trend that comes your way. 


I get it. It can sometimes feel relentless. Especially if you’re working across a range of social media platforms. One week Reels launches, then the entire Instagram homepage changes. Then Clubhouse is suddenly a thing. Next it’s all about Twitter Spaces.


Having worked in social media for the better part of six years, experience has taught me that features and trends are a prerequisite for the job. 


However, not every single one needs to be tried out or followed. Far from it. And it’s your role as social media manager to counsel your clients on when a trend is worth tapping into or not. 

We’ve all had that client that says: “I was reading last night about the rise of [insert new app/platform/trend] - can we jump on that asap?”  


As the expert, you can and should provide guidance - with clear reasons for and against - to help you and your client(s) come to a decision that maps back to the business goals. Otherwise, trends and glitzy new features can quickly become a distraction from your main mission on social media.


8. Stay curious

While it’s essential not to have shiny object syndrome - as discussed in the previous point - it is important to retain your sense of curiosity. 


Being willing to try new things and taking (educated) risks on social media will set you apart from the vast majority of other social media managers. And that’s the wonderful thing about working in an industry like this - there’s always something new to learn.


So stay curious. Keep an open mind. How you stay up-to-date with industry trends - whether through podcasts, blogs, YouTube videos or events - is up to you. With one ear to the ground, you’ll stay ahead of consumer trends and have the intel you need to make smart decisions day-to-day. Decisions that aren’t made hastily to capitalise on the “next big trend”, but those which align to your clients’ bigger business goals. 


9. Be strict with your time

Before I stepped into the world of social media freelancing, I loved to-do lists. There was something so satisfying about writing down a lengthy list of jobs to complete each day, crossing them off one by one as they were completed.


But as I’m sure you know from experience, to-do lists are rarely ever “completed”. More often than not, at least one unfinished task carries over into the next day. This is not an efficient way to work. 


It wasn’t until I started calendar blocking and using timers that I transformed my productivity. Now, every Sunday I review my meetings, deadlines, and day-to-day actions for the week ahead and add them to my Google calendar. Every task is assigned a specific day and time, and if I don’t complete it in the given timeframe, I block out additional time later in the week.


In addition to calendar blocking, I’m also a huge fan of timers. I use the Pomodoro technique - a time management method that breaks work down into intervals (typically 25 minutes in length) separated by short breaks.


I use a Pomodoro app on my phone to help me stay focused and remind me when it’s time to take a break, grab a cup of tea, and avert my gaze from the computer screen.


10. Understand (and demonstrate) the business value of social media

Want to stand out in your role as social media manager? Show how invaluable social media is to your clients’ business. Having a role throughout their entire organization really is one of the best habits you can adopt. 


Social media doesn’t operate - certainly not as successfully as it could - in a silo. To unlock its full potential, aim to work closely with other teams like sales, marketing, IT, customer service, and product development. Experts within these departments have valuable information that will strengthen the success of the brand on social media - a huge win for you. 


Here’s a few areas where social media managers can shine: 


Sales

What happens when a prospect on social media decides to take the next step and purchase a product or service? Knowing exactly how the sales funnel operates allows you to create a seamless experience for customers. 


Customer service

What keeps customers coming back for more? Great customer service. In other words, great communication. As a social media manager, timely responses might be your responsibility. However, it may be the case that you’re channeling customer queries to a dedicated team within the organization. 


By aligning on messaging and understanding the protocol for different scenarios, you’ll strengthen customer satisfaction and retention. 


Advertising

If paid social isn’t something you manage and you’re not having regular meetings with this team, schedule some in stat! 


Too often, marketing teams develop paid strategies based on past results rather than as part of a comprehensive social strategy. A lack of integration between paid and organic social strategies leads to a disconnect in goals and messaging.


Paid social has powerful targeting options and is a great way of broadening reach. On the other hand, organic social is incredibly powerful at building community and deepening relationships with potential customers. 


Both have their pros and cons, but the magic truly happens when they complement one another. So make friends with the paid social team! Together you have huge potential to grow brand awareness and exceed your KPIs.


11. Take breaks

Many of us enjoy using social media in our downtime. To share content, connect with friends and family, and discover new products and services. 


This is why being a social media manager can be such a draining job. The lines between work life and personal life become very blurry and collectively, we end up spending huge amounts of time online.


This much screen time and exposure to social media platforms is detrimental to our mental health, which is why it’s so important to take breaks. Especially since so many of us are now working (mostly) from home and switching off from work is harder than ever before.


So, take a step back by switching off your phone and laptop at the end of the working day. Nothing is so important that it can’t wait until the morning.


Or, if there really is something that must be handled immediately, set a timer for 15 minutes and then step away.


These are small ways to prevent burnout day-to-day, however they are no substitute for holidays and digital detoxes. One key habit of successful social media managers is taking time off from being a social media manager. 


Regular, scheduled breaks will boost your energy, creativity, and mood, and make you a better, more productive social media manager in the long-run. 


12. Build your network

Now, more than ever before, having a support network is vital to your success as a social media manager. 


Social media, while connecting us to hundreds of people in the palm of our hand, can also be a lonely place. That’s true for consumers of social media, but it’s also true for people that work in this industry. 


With so many trends to keep on top of and client expectations to manage, building a community of like-minded people around you that get what you do - or better yet, work in the same industry - will allow you to reap the benefits of support, referrals, and insider knowledge. This is especially true if you’re a freelance social media manager.


If you’re new to social media or haven’t yet found your people, there’s no better place to start making friends than… on social media! Engage naturally with people. Comment on their content. Send them a thoughtful message if they share something that particularly resonates with you. 


Initially, this can feel a little counterintuitive - make friends with the competition? But I promise you that there’s plenty of room for all of us social media managers and strategists. And there’s nothing better than being able to swap stories (horror stories and amusing stories!) about experiences only other social media managers will understand.

Conclusion

It’s never been a more exciting time to be a social media manager. Hardly a day goes by without the release of a new app or feature, and a new trend to try your hand at.


However, with the constant innovation comes challenges. At times, being a social media manager can feel simultaneously very overwhelming and very lonely. 


This is why it’s vital to implement certain habits to set you up for success - ones that streamline your day-to-day tasks and empower you to build strong online communities that surpass your clients’ expectations. 


Bella Foxwell

Bella Foxwell

Copywriter @Iconosquare

Hey! I'm Bella. Super curious about any new feature released on social media platforms. I do have a preference for Instagram, even though each platform has its specificity ;)

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