Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Growing skills gap for social media marketers amidst accelerating pace of platform change

The accelerating pace of change in ‘video-first’ social media platforms is leading to a growing crisis for social media professionals. They are struggling with widening skills gaps and unrealistic expectations from businesses that underestimate the challenges of the role. These were some of the key findings of a new study by The Social Club based on interviews with 400 social media professionals. 

The report charts a social media landscape vastly different from five years ago, with a shift towards short-form video and the explosion of TikTok. 81% of respondents admitted to struggling to stay on top of the daily changes on the platforms with 74% of professionals believing this is more time-consuming now versus when they entered the industry. Over half of respondents believe their boss/client underestimates the time it takes to market their brand on each platform which rises to 4 in 5 for Instagram, cited as the most time-consuming and challenging platform.  

The report highlights three key themes of concern for the industry.

  1. An impending skills crisis
    The report highlights significant gaps in skills, particularly in content creation areas. While 64% identified videography as important in the ‘video-first’ social media ecosystem, less than a third (29%) had this skill. Meanwhile 64% cited photography as being important but only 42% possess this skill. 70% saw graphic design as important, but only half (51%) had this skill. Not being able to offer all the necessary skills required for their role was the most shared concern according to 64% of respondents. 
  1. Higher expectations in an increasingly competitive and complex marketing space
    Professionals are facing increased expectations from brands to deliver on social while dealing with increased competition, more platforms, more content formats and features. They are also needing to adapt for the trend towards video and the increasingly ‘pay to play’ nature of the algorithms. Both the quantitative and qualitative data showed that respondents find Instagram the most time-consuming and challenging platform. Worryingly the data indicates that professionals are still in the dark about TikTok, don’t understand this platform and don’t possess the knowledge and skills required to see success. When asked how long it takes to market on TikTok 44% of people selected “not sure” far higher than the other platforms. 
  1. Professionals aren’t getting the pay or recognition they deserve
    Another big area of concern was the lack of understanding from those working with and managing social media professionals. Over half of respondents felt their boss or client underestimates the time it takes to market a brand successfully on all the platforms. This rises to three quarters for Facebook and 4 in 5 for Instagram. While respondents strongly feel their role requires training, skill and experience (93%) they did not believe their boss/client felt the same, particularly self-employed respondents whose most common answer was (30%).

The reports’ authors have a series of recommendations in a new campaign called Social Media SOS, calling for more understanding of the complexities of social media professionals from those that employ them, as well as focusing on upskilling.

According to Kathryn Tyler, founder of the Social Club and agency Digital Mums:

“We are concerned about a potential crisis in the industry. The accelerating pace of change and growing need for a wider skillset means social media professionals are struggling to keep up whilst also delivering on increasing expectations in an increasingly competitive and complex social media landscape.”

She continued: “We are urging those working with and managing social media professionals to recognise that social media marketing is a very challenging specialism and to deliver results skilled professionals need to be given the time and focus they need and should be given the recognition they deserve.”

Social media consultant and industry analyst Matt Navarra wasn’t surprised at the findings. “To stay at the cutting edge of social media I spend hours every week reading through hundreds of social media news articles and tweets. Things are being tested and changed daily it’s no surprise professionals are struggling to stay on top of it all. As someone that’s worked in the industry for over a decade I agree that this pace of change is accelerating. This feels like an important conversation for the industry.”

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