Open Colleges

How To Become A Social Media Manager [Interview]

by Yvette McKenzie
Posted: October 18, 2016

  Return to blog home


What does it take to have a career in social media management and marketing? There is a huge shift happening in the marketing landscape and it is happening very quickly. Open Colleges Careers spoke to Jonathon Tanner, the CEO of Social Media College to find out about this awesome career. 

Traditional marketing channels are being superseded by social media, as the marketing landscape evolves. Social media managers can read the trends and analyse the business opportunities in them. 

Jonathon Tanner [left] is a director of Social Media College, one of the first to offer an accredited course in social media. Our chat with Jonathon focused on the rise of social platforms and their increasing sophistication.

Social media management is one of those careers that not so long ago, simply did not exist. A lot of people stumbled into jobs in the field, but now it is seen as a viable and exciting career

Social Media College is one of the first colleges to offer an accredited course aimed at careers in social media marketing and now they’ve partnered with Open Colleges to deliver nationally recognised qualifications online, in a self-paced format. 

Jonathon, can you just tell us about Social Media College?

A girl wearing a bracelet and grey t-shirt learning how to become a social media manager

We recognised a few years ago that there was a need for a specialist education provider that concentrated solely on social media. Our first course launched in 2014 and was a general course. 

Then in 2015, we launched our nationally accredited Diploma of Social Media Marketing – a world first. We partnered with Open Colleges so students can access the most up to date social media qualification.

We all know what social media is. And we’ve heard about social media marketing. Why do you think it is becoming such a desirable career? 

Social media has completely revolutionised marketing and communication. And it has done that very quickly. It has fundamentally disrupted the way organisations (whether they are governments, businesses or charities) communicate with their particular audience. 

There’s a huge groundswell of people who have come through high school being social media literate and are aware of the power of social media. They now realise there is an actual career in social media. For these people, this is a very exciting proposition. 

Can you tell us how social media has changed the marketing landscape, particularly in Australia?

A female wearing glasses with brown hair in a bun undertaking social media management and marketing and analysing data

The old school way of marketing was very broad and there was a lot of wastage. Advertisers would send out a message and it would reach a huge number of people. The message would go out again and again and if it hit enough people often enough, it would influence their purchasing decision. Read more about the evolution of marketing here.

I think the big shift with social media is the ability to measure everything. We can tell how many people interacted with that message, how many people ‘clicked’ on it and went through to a website. 

If it’s a retail website, we can tell instantly how many people made a purchase. That makes social media marketing much more accountable than traditional marketing channels like radio, television and print.

Social media is a powerful tool as it combines these insights with the demographic information that huge social media juggernauts like Facebook, Twitter LinkedIn and others gather on their users. 

“Demographics” refer to things like how old customers are, what sex they are, where they live, what their likes and dislikes are. What that does for an advertiser is allow them to define precisely the audience they want to target, and then reach them in a very cost effective way. 

This means that instead of trying to broadcast a message to a million people and hoping to reach some of the right people, social media marketers say, ‘I want to talk to mothers aged 30-40 who have two children and live in this particular state.’ 

Then when they send the message out, there are some really, really great reporting functions they can use in social media networks so they know very quickly whether the campaign has been successful at getting that message to the people they wanted to reach. For an advertiser, this is a very compelling proposition.

Let’s talk briefly about ethics in social media marketing. how important is it that social media marketers behave ethically?

I think it’s incredibly important. When you look at social media marketing, you shouldn’t be anything but ethical. In this day and age, brands can’t hide. If a brand does something on social media that is unethical, or even potentially unethical, the user base on social media has a voice and they will respond with negative comments.  

Unethical behaviour can cause a lot of damage to a brand even if it’s just perceived to be doing the wrong thing. We’ve seen a number of different brands try to launch social media campaigns and make damaging mistakes that affect their brand.

Recently a major supermarket tried, and failed spectacularly, to piggyback on the Anzac legend.

[This Australian supermarket] became the perfect example of a brand trying to hijack something and use it for the wrong reasons. In this case, it was Anzac Day, and to Australians, Anzac Day is more than just a public holiday. 

I think people on social media saw straight through it and responded accordingly. It’s always been a requirement of brands and organisations to be ethical. In this day and age, they’re forced to by the public. They have to be ethical, otherwise, they’re going to get called out. A social media manager needs to be aware of this.  

Another important point is that the requirement to behave ethically also extends to social media leaders. There is a trend where an ‘influencer’, a social media user, has a large user base, typically hundreds and thousands who follow them. 

Brands are actually paying them to promote their products, so the influencer will make a post on social media which promotes the product. Consumers are beginning to see through this tactic - and where a particular social media influencer is posting too many blatantly obvious advertorial type of content post, they get called out by their followers on social media. 

You have some industry experts at Social Media College. How do you find and select them?  

Deborah Lee, Eric Tung and Trevor Young

As part of the development of the course, we wanted to ensure that we had people who were obviously very knowledgeable in the area, but who had also walked the walk and were practitioners of social media themselves. 

We looked for social media experts with global knowledge and experience and we contacted them. For us, it was really important to have a good geographic spread in our industry experts because the way in which social media is used in Australia can be quite different from the way it’s used elsewhere. 

Social media in Indonesia, for example, is used differently from the way it is used in the UK. We wanted to make sure we have knowledge and experience that covers off most of the major regions.

We have Deborah Lee [above left] who is based in the UK. She’s a social media strategist who works with major corporates and was one of the pioneers in Europe of social media marketing. Deborah is in the Forbes Top 50 Global Media Power Influencers list, so having her on board is a real coup.

 Eric Tung [above centre] was a social media pioneer and one of the first million Facebook users. He speaks at some of the world’s biggest conferences and leads social media strategy at BMC, a top-10 independent software company.

And there is Trevor Young [above right], an Australian. He is known as the ‘PR Warrior’ and is a former journalist who became a PR professional. Trevor’s blog, PR Warrior, is listed by Smart Company as one of Australia’s top business blogs and he is the author of a book called Micro Domination. It’s a great read.

One of the biggest challenges for people in digital marketing must be how to keep abreast of new technologies. How do they keep track of trends? 

Photographing food to post on Instaram social media platform

Social media is changing at an amazing rate, that’s why training is important. Students have to continue to train and continue to educate themselves in this space. It's not something that you can have a career in if you're not keeping up-to-date and refreshing your education and training on a regular basis. You simply get left behind as things progress. 

There are also some great blogs out there, like the HubSpot Blog. Their social media networks have some incredible resources that they provide also. It’s in their best interest that users and marketers are up to date, knowledgeable and using everything available. This is particularly important with something like Facebook where people pay money to advertise and need to maximise that investment. 

Collaboration is also important. People working in social media need to talk to other people in their organisation and beyond. It’s the people who live and breathe this stuff every day who know it best.

Thinking about trends, how do you personally identify something which may go on to become a trend or something which may fall flat?  

Something like Facebook is at the safe end of the spectrum. It's a very trusted and tried social media network that definitely does produce results, but it's becoming increasingly more expensive to advertise on that particular platform.  

At the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got some new social media networks, like Snapchat, Vine and Vimeo, which are not really tried and tested in terms of a marketing proposition. 

There have been campaigns and greater awareness of these platforms and people are looking at them as potential marketing channels, but they are more “risky” because results can’t be guaranteed. Of course, on the flipside, the untested channels will be cheaper.

What we’re starting to see is that within an organisation, you do need social media managers with a broad skill set who understand all of the social media networks and how they work, “the social media landscape”. 

You also need people who are very specific, for example, a Facebook paid advertising expert because having one person who's an expert in that area and knows it inside out can make a big difference for the advertiser. 

I think social media has always been about experimentation. If you see a particular trend, it's worth experimenting. It’s the job of a social media manager to know about trends and help make a call on how much of a budget it’s worth risking to test something new.

What are three personality traits you need to have to get into social media marketing?

Group of social media marketers brainstorming around their desks

Potential managers definitely need to be someone who wants to work in a really dynamic industry. It’s a very exciting, evolving space, so they need to thrive on change. You’ve got to have the sort of personality that likes to move all the time, that likes the fact that things are going to change and change constantly, which can be great fun.  

The second set of skills in this day and age is the ability to be quite analytical. There’s so much data out there and you need to be able to understand the results you’re getting from your actions and make decisions based on the data that you receive and the analysis you’ve done.  

Social media managers also need to be great communicators, and not just on social media. You need to be able to communicate about social media. Whether you're working for an organisation as a social media manager, or you're working for an agency that is supplying organisations with social media services, you need to be able to communicate your ideas and your results with your management or clients.  

Name a couple of upcoming trends on the horizon.

Let’s look at Facebook. If you scroll through Facebook, there are advertisements there that almost look like a post from your friend – you might not realise they’re actually an advertisement.  

The only real difference is a line or two of text, so they’re advertisements which seamlessly blend into the other content that you’re reading as you’re going through one of the biggest social media networks; it’s almost seamless. 

Social media advertising is really taking the online advertising space by storm because it allows marketers to target their audiences, and is advertising that has really strong engagement levels as users comment, share or click on the ads. 

Customers might then take some type of purchasing action, whether it be offering up an email address, subscribing to a mailing list, or actually purchasing a product. So, that’s why I’ll be watching the display market as a trend. The display market in social media is very robust*.

*According to eMarketer, “By 2017, when US digital display ad expenditure will reach $37.36 billion, Facebook and Twitter together will account for 33.7% of the market, up from 30.2% this year. 

Jonathon, what was your career path?

After high school, I took a year off and did some travelling. Then I started a commerce law degree. After some more travel, I did an internship at a law firm and didn’t like it. Then I moved into management consulting – mainly strategy – and did that for seven or eight years. 

I started up an e-commerce business, which is still going. Then we started Social Media College. People these days who want to get into this industry can take a quicker route than I did, and speed is the key. 

What else should you know about a career in social media marketing? 

Marketing team sitting around a table in a meeting

The social networking world is growing faster every year. In 2015, there was 10% growth in the number of active users. Nearly one-third of the world’s population use social platforms. In 2015, there was a 17% rise in the number of mobile social networking users. 

There are huge opportunities for companies to be a part of this phenomenon. It is social media marketers who spot trends, analyse them, and work out how best to use them for their clients and employers. 

If you have a passion for all things social media and want a nationally recognised qualification, you can get the very latest, first-class industry knowledge and expertise with the Diploma of Social Media Marketing.



Yvette has over a decade of professional experience at some of Australia’s largest media corporations, including Southern Cross Austereo and the Macquarie Media Network. With a degree in Communications (majoring in Journalism), she covers stories on education, new knowledge technologies and independent learning.

Interested in online study?

See what it’s like with our 7 day free course trial.

Find out first-hand what it’s like to study with Open Colleges. Experience our world-class learning platform for yourself and discover how online learning can work for you. There are no obligations and no payment details required.

Start Today

Course areas