#SMTLive today!

9 Steps for Starting Out as a Social Media Manager

 As the number of businesses that outsource their Social Media activity continues to increase, I find I am asked more and more for advice on how to get into it. I started as a freelance Social Media Manager & Consultant almost 2 years ago (feels like way longer). Back then, I found businesses were still warming to the idea of using SM but now it’s a different story. Every single business has a need for SM in some form or another and now Social Media Managers are becoming essential allies for SME’s.

I’m constantly asked where to start and how to become a Social Media Professional so I’ve put together a list of 9 steps I would advise anyone to take when starting from scratch.

1. Ask yourself if Social Media Management is right for you.

Be honest with yourself and ask if you can honestly see yourself doing this job. Can you represent businesses in Social Media platforms, add value and enjoy the process?

The late Steve Jobs had a great quote “Get a job as a busboy or something until you work out what you’re passionate about”. If you're passionate about Social Media you’ll succeed in a Social Media Manager.

2. Get the foundation knowledge.

You don’t have to know it all when you’re just starting out BUT you need to know enough. It’s impossible to know it all when it comes to Social Media as it is constantly in a state of flux and there is always something new to learn. “Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail” is my moto. Get to know the platforms, read as much as you can and watch videos. At the end of the day you are selling yourself and what you know about Social Media as a service so make sure your product is quality.   

I’d really advise you to learn “Relationship Marketing”. Relationship Marketing is really the only way of marketing that can be truly successful in Social Media.

3. Get your hands dirty and get some experience.

The way I did it was to offer to handle the Social Media for my employers at the time, Lexus (not for the whole Lexus organisation, just for our Dealership). Quick story – When I was a Car Salesman at Lexus in Liverpool we where told about a special deals weekend we where having that week and shown a mailer that would be sent out. It cost the dealership almost 5K to send this great looking, glossy mailer out to the same database of 1000 people that we mailed all the time. That weekend we were all ready with balloons on the cars and wearing special t-shirts for the event  . . .nobody came in.

After some ear-bending and fuelled by the failure of the mailer the GM allowed me to set up a FB page, Twitter feed and take over his LinkedIn profile (he’d done nothing with it since setting it up). I began to find local prestige car owners and fans through Facebook and Twitter and talk about our company car deals/savings in LinkedIn groups. That week I created several appointments of which over half bought cars and made the dealership over 8K. . . we didn’t spend a penny. That was my first taste of turning Social Media activity into profit and I got some experience under my belt.  

You could even offer your services for free to a local business. You’ be gaining experience and building a portfolio to lead to more business and referrals.

4. Get your own Social Media Watertight.

This is where people will go to check you out first and it’s a good place to showcase your expertise. Its doesn’t matter about having thousands of fans or followers just yet (they will come organically and it takes a little time). What’s important is that your Social Media is well organised, regularly updated, engaging and providing good content.

5. Be the Expert in LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is by far my favourite Social Media Platform. It gives you the opportunity to sell yourself. It’s unlikely you’ll get to connect with the decision makers who hold the purse strings of a company's marketing budget through Facebook. However with LinkedIn you can. It’s a place where the one man band working from home can attract attention and look like the “Go to Guy” in a given field even if their competitors are huge companies with big budgets.

6. Network, Network, Network.

 Networking events are a great place to start to get new Social Media Management business. Go to as many as possible. Business Breakfasts, Cocktail evenings, Networking Clubs etc.

This is were I first started to get noticed and put myself out there as the Local Social Media Manager and it’s a great way to get referrals. You’ll find that once you get your first few clients you’ll get referred and referred to more businesses. 

7. Offer a Free Social Media “Health Check”.

This technique opened lots of doors for me. Promote the service through your Social Media platforms and in the networking events. You can use free online tools to give the business a percentage score (Use sites like Klout and tools offered by Hubspot) Just by offering this free analysis and highlighting areas where the business can improve in SM platforms will give you an ”in” to get the Social Media Management work.  

8. Put on a local Seminar/Webinar.

Make the first one a Free Social Media in Business seminar and invite businesses from your locality. I used this technique to offer some good, usable content for them to take away but also to show how much is involved and why they would be better off OUTSOURCING to you!

I had 30 local businesses at my first one (I held it in a local coffee shop at no charge because the guy would sell lots more coffee and cake than usual) You can use these seminars to showcase your knowledge and expertise in your field, win Social Media Management and Consulting jobs and (my favourite SM income stream by far) sell tickets to your paid seminars. These paid seminars could be on a variety of different subjects e.g. LinkedIn Success, Using Facebook as a Small Business, Social Media for Legal industry etc. I charge $150 (£89) per delegate for my half day courses. It’s a great way to top up your income. The content I use for our seminars is available at Get Pro Social 

9. Partner up with PR & Digital Marketing Companies.

I have gotten some of my best clients by partnering up wit other local Digital Marketing Companies. Contact some local SEO, Media Buying, PR and Web design companies. These companies would already have clients that need Social Media Management. Offer to provide your service on a “White Label” basis i.e. working under the name of that company. The quote that stuck in my head from an SEO company that outsource to us was “You scratch an itch for us”. Go out and scratch the Social Media itch for some companies.

Join The Conversation

  • SocialMediaCompany's picture
    Jul 10 Posted 4 years ago SocialMediaCompany

    Social Media Managers are raking in good money these days.. Infact on Elance itself the number of job postings related to social media have doubled in the past year.

    If you are looking at becoming a social media manager consider visiting us at http://www.socialmediacompany.com


  • whiteblankpage's picture
    Oct 23 Posted 5 years ago whiteblankpage

    Hi Mark,

    Fantastic article. I particularly like point number '7' re: the free social media health check, that's a fantastic idea to give companies a taste of what you are capable of.

    Thanks for the tips.


  • Mark Paddock's picture
    Oct 23 Posted 5 years ago Mark Paddock

    Hi Tasha,


    Networking events are all around you, all the time. Where are you actually based? if you are in a city then I would recommend starting by contacting you local Chammber of Commerce. They run regular events and they will be able to give you details of upcomming events.


    There will be free ones and paif ones. Just go for the free ones to start off. They tend to be held in local coffee shops so you could ask there. And ther's always Google :-)


    Best of luck




  • Oct 19 Posted 5 years ago Ms. Tasha G. (not verified)

    Hi Mark, I just wanted to reach out and say that I truly enjoyed this article. I found to to helpful and insightful. I did have one question, where is the best place to fins networking events? I'm new to this and I would greatly appreciate any tips! Thanks, Tasha

  • Mark Paddock's picture
    Oct 17 Posted 5 years ago Mark Paddock

    @ SGhosh - Thanks for the comment Subhasish ;-)


    @Levi Spires - Dead right Leon! Thats what i sort of meant by "get to know the platforms". Staying on the cutting edge is so important. The last thing you need is for a client to say how can we take advantage of the new **** feature on ****?" and you have no idea what the new feature is. It happened to me when i first started. KNOW YOUR PRODUCT guys! :-)

  • Oct 17 Posted 5 years ago Rashida Thompson (not verified)


    Thank you so much for this post. It was very enlightening. I do have a strong interest in becoming a social media manager, and I will be searching for jobs in this field within the next couple of months, prior to graduation in May. I would say that I'm extremely active on my own sites but until recently, I've had very littie hands-on experience in SMM for businesses. I actually extended my help to a local business last month and since, I've been researching & developing a strategic social media plan. I'm loving it so far and I'm glad to have this opportunity. There are still a ton of things that I don't know but I realize that I will learn a lot of valuable lessons from this experience.


  • Oct 17 Posted 5 years ago Zack Jones (not verified)

    Nice article, Mark. Thanks for the useful tips!

  • Oct 17 Posted 5 years ago SGhosh (not verified)

    Most important criteria is passion. If you have that, everything will ultimately fall in place. Eventually. I had written a detailed account from my daily experiences "Are You Cut Out for a Career in Social Media?"; every aspiring social media professional ought to take a peek into the daily lives of social media strategists and community managers and be well prepared mentally before taking the plunge. 


  • Oct 17 Posted 5 years ago Levi Spires (not verified)

    I think you should also want to be technically savvy. Granted a Social Media Manager must have good marketing messaging skills but for most companies it's the lack of technical expertise that keeps them from starting a social media program.

Webinars On Demand

  • May 09, 2017
    With all of the technologies available to marketers today, have we lost that personal touch? Join VP of Content Marketing for ON24, Mark Bornste...
  • April 05, 2017
    In the ever-changing world of digital marketing, operational efficiency, quick turn-around times, testing and adapting to change are crucial to...