Home Blog HAPPO|Trends Are social media pros underpaid?

Are social media pros underpaid?


According to a recent survey by CIO magazine, the median salary for a social media professional was $43,400.

The median pay for those social pros in companies with fewer than 100 people was $40,900, while the median pay for those with companies of more than 1,000 people was $58,400.

Sounds low, doesn’t it?


The median $43,400 sounds low. And, even the $58,400 figure for bigger companies sounds low. Remember, that’s including the biggest of the big–companies like Coca-Cola, Intel and Google.

Sounds low, right?

Now, I’m probably not the best judge of salary totals. I haven’t been in the workforce for five years.

But, I talk to a whole lot of people. And, I help a lot of people find jobs (one of my “side projects”). And, I even have a few recruiter friends I talk to from time to time.

But man, I just can’t get over how low those numbers sound.

Here’s where my head goes.

By all accounts, social media and digital skill sets are in pretty high demand right now. Especially those on the more senior-side of the mix (10+ years experience).

Every time a friend or colleague calls me looking for that 10+ year experience mark who’s digitally savvy, I just cringe. Because I know there aren’t that many good people who really possess that experience–at least here in Minneapolis.

And, those who DO have that experience are in HIGH demand.

Let’s look at two examples (albeit, examples not based in Minneapolis): Chuck Hemann.

Just five years ago, Chuck was a manager at a PR firm in Cleveland called Dix & Eaton. Since Chuck was an early social adopter, and had a keen interest in the analytics scene, he was inherently marketable. Five years later, he’s the executive director of analytics for Golin Harris, one of the more prominent PR firms in the country. Now, I have no idea how much money Chuck makes, but I’m going to take a wild guess and say it’s a heckuva lot more than the median listed above for larger companies ($58,400).

Let’s take another example: Sean Ryan.

Six years ago, Sean was a communications associate at a firm called Otoka Energy. After a couple jobs–one of which, a key job at Target as part of their social media team–later and Sean is now the director of digital marketing for JCPenney. Again, I have no idea how much Sean makes in his current role, but I’m thinking it’s more than the median of $58,400.

I could provide countless examples like this. People who’s careers have skyrocketed in the last 4-6 years due to their background, interest and talent in social media and digital marketing.

Now, I know there are many, many people operating at jobs far lower than Chuck and Sean’s positions I get that.

But, given the huge demand we’re seeing (which I’m not sure anyone can refute at this point), the $40,900-$58,400 median figures still seem low.

And, I think there’s a few reasons for it:

An emphasis on junior-level positions

As a newer discipline, junior-level hires were the first priority. We’re now seeing more senior-level social media positions, but we’re also seeing social media being built into other job functions (like PR, marketing and marketing communications).

Social media is still a newer discipline

Mentioned above–social media is still relatively “new”–therefore, the pay scale for it is probably a bit lower than it should be at this point.

Companies don’t understand the pay scale

And since it’s so new, many companies simply don’t know what to pay these folks. So, of course, they’re probably going to err on the low side. This seems like it could be one of the issues at play, too.

But, mine is just one opinion. So, I thought I’d also ask someone who might know more about wrecruiting than I do–my friend Paul DeBettignies (who first shared this survey–at least that I saw). Here’s what he had to say:

“Are Social Media folks underpaid? Yes and no. A LOT of folks flooded into this space over these past years and there is no barrier to entry. Many call themselves a Social Media Strategist because they have a Twitter account, a Facebook page and a LinkedIn profile that has the title. So if you are an employer… you have A LOT of options. If who you really want to hire will not accept $80K for your job frankly, someone else will. That puts downward pressure on salaries. If I were a Social Media practitioner and I have results (case studies), that is what I am leading with. I am going to show how I increased revenue, engagement and (enter other buzzwords here) so that an employer can then decide if they want someone with a proven track record or just someone who Tweets a lot.”

What do you think? Are these salary figures low, spot on or on the high end?

photo credit: ToGa Wanderings via photopin cc



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