So you sit on Facebook and Twitter all day?

What does a social media manager actually do?

My friends often make the mistake of assuming I literally sit on social media platforms and post replies on behalf of brands. Sure, that can occasionally be a part of community management, but that’s not the whole story.

When I tell people I create content for brands to post, they will reply something along the lines of ‘I wish my job was that easy’ without spending a minute considering what it actually means.

When a brand is running a campaign, they (should) spend a lot of time, effort, (and money) on getting the creative right. The right types of images, the right tone of voice for the copy, the right set of headlines and tag lines to use on billboards and printed ads or the end of TV or radio ads. All stuff that helps ensure that when you see their advertisement, you will start to recognise what brand it’s for before without even needing to see a logo.

Digital and social media are now firmly integrated as part of this process. When we work on campaigns, we’ll have input on how the concepts could work on social, and if we don’t think there is a way to make them fit organically, the creatives shouldn’t be (and aren’t, where I currently work) afraid to start from scratch to find ideas which do work everywhere, online and offline, and aren’t just blasting the campaign tagline and logo in peoples faces and hoping they get a few retweets. Agencies and brands know that social channels are where people spend large portions of their day, so if we’re going to promote a Facebook post or tweet in to the middle of someones conversation, it needs to be at the very least good enough not to be hidden or blocked, and ideally it will be something people remember and engage with.

A billboard in a busy town centre could be seen by a few thousand people over the course of its lifetime. And these will be fairly random people — shoppers, tourists, locals, kids, pensioners. You will have vague demographics about the type of people in the area, but it’s going to be quite a broad reach, and you pay a high price for high traffic spots (a billboard in Piccadilly Circus costs £4million a year).

A post on Facebook is seen by a very specifically defined audience. You can segment by age, gender, the brands they’re interested in, the devices they use, their education level, and more. Even with Facebook users who deliberately don’t put this data in, Facebook has made a lot of money from being able to make well educated guesses about you based on the people and brands you connect with.

When an agency produces a sponsored Facebook post for a client, if it is seen by 500,000 people they are the type of people we actually want to see it. Not only that, but we’ll custom the messages to make sure they make sense to those viewers (changing local references, changing the demographics of people featured in photography and so on) so it really resonates.

And then at the end of a campaign Facebook gives specific details of the number of people who take an action — view the post, click on it, share it, comment on it, hide it from their timeline, become a fan of the page. You can work out the exact number of people who have seen an ad and ended up buying a product or signing up to a service online. You can literally work out the exact cost for every action an online advert causes. That’s more than you can ever get from a traditional ad, no matter what their salespeople would have you believe.

So when I say I create content for brands on Facebook, I’m not just posting whatever comes to mind on a rainy afternoon. I’m spending time crafting a campaign that is the very best it can be. We tell entire stories about our clients, because we have the ability to show not just one post, once, but a series of them, all giving more context to the campaign we’re running.

Even at big companies it can still be challenge to get them to see the value in promoting campaigns on social media, but every single client we work with sees positive results compared with more traditional media. The work we produce is seen by a bigger audience than those traditional channels so even though it is ‘just’ a Facebook or a Twitter post, just as much effort goes in to crafting it perfectly as any billboard ad ever receives.