Guidance for Your Social Media Career Path

social media notifications on users gadgets

Do you spend hours scrolling through TikTok, Twitter and Instagram? When you order a fancy meal in a restaurant, do you like to post a picture of it on social media? If you’re enthusiastic about social media, you can turn your passion into a career by earning a degree in social media.

In This Article:

What Is a Social Media Degree and What Can You Expect as a Social Media Major?

Social media is used to build and share content. The better and more engaging the content is, the more followers and larger community it builds for a company. A degree in social media teaches you to evaluate the needs of the market and plan creative strategies for messaging. It also gives you the skills to write, design, and create photos and videos that connect with your audience. Businesses of all sizes want employees with the dynamic digital skill set built within social media degrees.

A social media major focuses on the use of digital platforms in marketing and advertising campaigns. Most organizations, from aesthetician clinics to zoos, use social networks for organic marketing posts and paid advertisements. In social media curriculum, you will likely learn about best practices for the following:

  • Creating compelling social media posts that align with a brand’s style guidelines and voice
  • Photography and design principles that drive interaction and sales
  • Developing effective social media strategies for overall marketing campaigns across multiple platforms
  • Using hashtags and links to drive traffic to the company’s websites
  • Encouraging engagement and building community with the brand by interacting appropriately with user comments
  • Developing and launching paid advertising campaigns through social media platforms
  • Ethical best practices in digital content creation

Planning Your Social Media Career: What Are Your Options?

There are more social media career options than you might think. Social media marketing as a career can lend itself to multiple specializations. For instance, you might choose to become a content creator or you might pursue a specialty in data analytics.

At larger companies, there may be multiple specialized roles for graduates who chose a social media major. At smaller companies, however, all of these specializations may be consolidated into one jack-of-all-trades social media career. Explore the following options as you start planning your social media marketing career path.

Social Media Specialist

A social media specialist is a public relations specialist that manages the social media accounts of one or more companies. Professionals who work for advertising or marketing agencies may manage the accounts of multiple organizations. Other organizations (ranging from sports teams to museums to manufacturers) hire their own in-house social media specialists.

These professionals are responsible for staying up-to-date with the latest trends in social media. They plan, design and upload posts that often include writing and the creation of other media, such as images, videos and GIFs. Social media specialists also develop, implement and manage paid advertising campaigns on social media platforms. Social media specialists often have to develop copy for posts as well as collect data for campaigns. They also observe how certain campaigns and posts are performing on various social media platforms.

The overall goals of a social media specialist are to portray the company in a positive light, draw attention to its products, services or activities and engage with current and potential fans of the brand. Specialists create marketing materials that align with the brand’s voice and style guidelines. For example, most social media marketers working for sports teams use a fun, casual tone of voice, whereas marketers for financial planning companies adopt a more professional tone.

Social Media Manager

After time as a social media specialist or content creator, the next career step is as a social media manager. Although specific job descriptions vary from one organization to the next, the main difference between a social media manager and a social media specialist is that the manager generates and coordinates broader campaign strategies and supervises social media specialists. The specialists, in turn, are responsible for implementing campaign strategies.

Of course, in smaller organizations with only one dedicated social media expert, the social media specialist may act as a de facto social media manager. A social media manager who supervises social media specialists ensures that all posts are created according to brand guidelines, using appropriate voice and style.

Managers may also meet directly with clients (if they work for an advertising agency) or with high-level executives (if they work in an in-house marketing department) to discuss objectives, strategies and progress. Managers are responsible for tracking the results of social media campaigns to assess their impact and make adjustments when needed.

Social Media Content Creator

One important aspect of social media is the content. This is what people will see when exploring a social media feed. Content differs depending on the source. For example, a pizza company will most likely have content that includes images of people enjoying a slice of pizza, while a professional sports team will have videos of their players training or of fans celebrating.

It is up to content creators to create the material that goes on social media platforms. A content creator may take photos or videos, write information or even design digitally. A good content creator is able to catch the attention of their followers and create interest in their page. Here are some various settings in which a content creator might work:

  • A movie theater: A content creator who works for a movie theater might create content showing images that would draw people into the theater. The creator might decide to create short videos showing the popcorn popping or the lights turning off in the theater to make people want to come for the movie theater experience.
  • A butter brand: Focusing on recipes using butter and pictures of different foods with butter may be some of the content that a content creator makes for a butter brand’s social media.
  • A nonprofit organization that works with children: A nonprofit that works with children may want to raise awareness or collect donations. A content creator may focus on using the children whom the organization helps to create videos, images or posts that connect with their audience.

As a social media content creator, it’s essential to always strive to portray the company or other organization in a positive light, such as by explaining what the brand offers. However, it’s rarely enough to only post content about what a brand can do for its customers. Such openly sales-oriented posts won’t attract much engagement from the target audience. Instead, social media content creators must also create posts that are informative or entertaining to build a loyal base of readers.

Let’s explore a hypothetical case study. Meredith is the social media content specialist for a professional baseball team called the Florida Figs. During one series, the Figs hit several home runs. Meredith posts videos highlighting these feats and incorporating clever wordplay on the players’ names.

Meredith’s video tributes to the Figs’ home runs help generate enthusiasm for the team and loyalty among its fans. However, social media content creators must become even more creative when their brand is going through a tough time.

For example, during a five-game losing streak, Meredith continues to highlight positive aspects of the Figs by posting a replay of a smart defensive play and sharing words of encouragement from the skipper. Her social media posts help keep the fans engaged even during a scoring drought.

Online Community Manager

Every organization needs its own online community, since people are no longer content to choose products simply based on the choices they see on a shelf. They expect each brand to have its own personality and values.

It’s the responsibility of an online community manager to build, curate and manage a brand’s online community across social media platforms. They then engage with consumers on social media platforms to encourage them to become or remain loyal fans of the brand. Then, they use analytics tools to evaluate what consumers are saying about the brand.

Community managers may also create social media posts, just as social media specialists do, although their primary focus is on interacting with consumers. They maintain a voice that is natural for the brand. The details of a community manager’s role may vary from one organization to the next. Consider the following organizations:

  • An American history museum: An online community manager working for a museum is primarily responsible for generating interest in the museum’s exhibits among locals and tourists. This manager interacts with users who leave comments on the museum’s social media accounts, answering questions about the museum and thanking people for visiting.
  • A childcare products company: This company’s community manager might respond to user reviews, ratings, comments and questions. The primary goal is to entice people to consider the company’s products. This community manager interacts with parents, grandparents and other care providers.
  • An association for a medical condition: Consider organizations such as the American Heart Association or the American Cancer Society. Associations centered on specific medical conditions may hire community managers to interact with patients, doctors, nurses and family caregivers. A community manager might do anything from helping patients connect to healthcare resources (such as transportation for cancer patients) to pointing them in the direction of useful information on the organization’s website.

As you can see, the job descriptions of online community managers depend significantly on the kind of company they work for.

Social Media Data Analytics Specialist

Jobs in social media can involve data and analytics. The job of a social media data analyst involves a great deal of research. This makes it an ideal role for people who enjoy thinking both analytically and creatively. Data analytics in this field involves the collection and analysis of raw data using various data analytics tools followed by the application of the findings to support the brand’s overall marketing strategy.

A social media data analyst may take a broad look at what people are saying about the brand on social media or do a targeted evaluation of a particular aspect of the brand. Data analysts evaluate multiple business metrics, tracking customer engagement and conducting sentiment analysis and reputation monitoring.

As a hypothetical example, let’s say Diego is a social media data analyst for Pickled, a new meal kit delivery company. Diego knows that although the company has had a boom in customer sign-ups over the past month, the customer retention rate has been poor.

Diego uses his social media analytics tools to assess the common pain points of dissatisfied customers. He discovers that a large percentage of customers who cancel their Pickled memberships are unhappy about paying for shipping. As a result, Diego asks Pickled’s social media manager to focus on posts that highlight their free shipping offer for orders over a certain dollar amount.

Thanks to Diego’s data analysis and the content creator’s posts, Pickled sees an increase in high-value orders that qualify for free shipping, along with a drop in membership cancellations. Although this example and company are fictitious, social media experts perform similar tasks every day to help their brands thrive.

Data analysis careers require individuals who are good with numbers and computers. However, the most successful data analysts see beyond the raw data to identify the reasons for the trends they observe. In essence, this career path is a multidisciplinary one that combines elements of psychology and human behavior with data analytics.

Social Media Graphic Designer

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is the value of great content paired with a striking image? Social media posts are significantly enhanced by eye-catching visual elements. Graphics boost user engagement and encourage post sharing and retweeting.

Companies understand this and consequently they expect their social media profiles to contain an optimal balance of text and visual elements. At some companies, a social media specialist or content creator is expected to possess basic photo editing skills such as overlaying text onto a graphic to create a catchy meme. Other companies, however, may hire their own dedicated social media graphic designer.

If you’re passionate about both social media and graphic design, this hybrid role might be the perfect fit for you. This begs the question: Should you still earn a social media degree if you’re thinking of specializing in graphic design, or should you earn a graphic design degree?

The answer depends on the school you choose. At some schools with dedicated social media degree programs, the curriculum may feature design classes for a comprehensive education. If you choose one of these schools, it’s best to opt for the social media degree, since a graphic design degree program may not include social media at all.

Aspiring digital arts professionals can begin working toward their future career by earning an undergraduate degree at Grand Canyon University (GCU). Explore our Bachelor of Arts in Social Media degree program and consider how you might explore social media marketing as a career. Complete the form on this page to begin planning for your future at GCU.


Approved by the dean of the College of Arts and Media on April 27, 2023.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.