From education to employment

Social marketers in higher education: Challenges & opportunities

alex wedderburn

In the dynamic landscape of our digital age, social media is now firmly entrenched within the ivory towers of higher education and has become an indispensable tool for connecting institutions with their students and stakeholders. Social marketers play a vital role in making this space engaging – their tech savvy, industry expertise and creativity can shape perceptions and bring communities closer together. Their influence is immense – and so is their workload, according to a fresh study from Hootsuite.

Although much has been reported about the evolution of social media, not much is known about the state of mind of modern social marketers who drive this evolution forward. For example, while there may be merit to the stereotype of social being a ‘women-dominated and happy’ industry, salaries still skew towards men and over half of social media professionals identify as having a mental health condition.

There is undoubtedly a wild side to social media, but equally, there are unsung opportunities to kickstart a social media career – and thrive. Let’s delve into each individually.

The challenges of modern social media managers

Social marketers in education face a unique set of challenges. According to Hootsuite’s micro report on higher education, they grapple with time constraints, resource limitations and a lack of understanding from leadership.

  • 66% feel they don’t have enough time to do their job well
  • 58% say their bosses don’t understand social media
  •  45% agree that their work – with its fast-changing responsibilities and mounting expectations – has had a negative impact on their mental health

Social media marketers also face a gender pay gap. Even though the majority are women (73%), the average man in a social media job makes $91,586 (~£75,500) per year while the average woman makes $69,404 (~£57,200).

However, there’s a formula for happiness in social media marketing, as the Hootsuite Social Media Career report indicates. Despite the challenges, 77% of social marketers express contentment in their roles, 67% find satisfaction in their work-life balance, and 61% envision a long-term career in social media.

Educating and empowering the next generation of social marketers

The future of social marketing lies in the hands of a new wave of highly-educated young professionals. Today, 87% of social media marketers hold degrees, mostly in journalism/media/communications (30%), followed by English literature (14%).

Yet, social media professionals face a training gap, highlighting the need for ongoing education and skill development. Only 40% of those who work in social media for educational institutions have done any formal education in social marketing, with 37% having received a certification in social marketing after graduation.

Skills and competencies for a career in social media

There is no doubt that social marketing is a multifaceted profession. Social marketing professionals handle multiple tasks and are specialists in various areas like content creation, social customer service, graphic design, paid advertising, and crisis communications. Their competencies range from technical skills like data analytics to soft skills like communication, teamwork, problem-solving, and adaptability – and most importantly, relationship-building.

As social media continues to evolve, the ability to adapt and acquire new skills becomes paramount. To empower these individuals – and help others pave a way into a career in social marketing – learning platforms can offer a treasure trove of education resources and certification programmes. For example, Hootsuite Academy has delivered over one million courses to more than half a million people worldwide, in collaboration with over a thousand universities.

A world of opportunities

In the ever-shifting landscape of social media, modern-day social marketers embody the essence of adaptability, resilience, and unwavering passion. Their job is more than just managing social accounts – they are building and nurturing relationships that contribute directly to an institution’s success. As the frontline to, arguably, institutions’ most important engagement channel to build relationships, social marketers deserve a seat at the decision-making table. Now’s the time to change this.

Social marketers’ challenges may be plentiful, but so are their opportunities – and the way to success is through continuous learning. To this end, Hootsuite’s Social Media Career Report serves as a spotlight, illuminating the extraordinary efforts and hurdles faced by social marketing professionals, along with helpful resources to help them advocate for themselves and educate their marketing leadership. To help co-create a positive future in this space, social marketers should strive to continuously learn about the state of this industry – from job satisfaction and mental health to salaries, benefits, skills and prospects.

Social marketing holds great potential to continue to impact the education space and society at large. There’s a new generation of social marketers who are raring to make their mark and propel this transformative industry forward. Let’s give them a helping hand and a hooray!

By Alex Wedderburn, Senior Customer Account Manager for Higher Education at Hootsuite

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