Why Social Media Managers Don’t Need to Be Graphic Designers


In the rapidly evolving world of social media, the skill set required to succeed as a social media manager (SMM) has expanded and diversified. However, there’s one common misconception that continues to surface: the belief that social media managers need to be proficient graphic designers. Recently, a family friend asked if his son needed to know Photoshop to get a job as a social media manager. He kept seeing it listed as a requirement in job descriptions. Here’s why I advised him differently and why you might want to reconsider this expectation too.

The Shift to Video-First Tools

Embracing Intuitive Content Creation

In today's digital landscape, the emphasis has shifted significantly towards video content. Platforms like TikTok, Instagram Reels, and YouTube Shorts are dominating the social media scene. As a result, using intuitive, video-first tools is far more valuable for a social media manager than mastering complex graphic design software like Photoshop. These tools, often accessible via smartphones, allow for quick, engaging content creation that resonates with audiences.

The Value of Short-Form Video Content

Engaging Audiences with Quick, Impactful Videos

For aspiring social media managers, the ability to create engaging short-form videos on their phones is a critical skill. Understanding what content works best on each platform, from the type of video to the optimal posting times, is essential. This skill set is far more relevant to the day-to-day responsibilities of a social media manager than advanced graphic design abilities. Engaging videos drive higher interaction rates, increase follower engagement, and ultimately, contribute to the growth of the brand’s online presence.

Basic Photoshop Skills: A Bonus, Not a Necessity

Learning on the Job

While a basic understanding of Photoshop can be helpful, it shouldn't be a primary requirement in job descriptions for social media managers. These skills can be learned on the job, and many social media managers pick up the basics as they go. What’s more important is their ability to create compelling content, understand platform dynamics, and engage with the audience effectively.

Distinguishing Between Roles

Social Media Managers vs. Graphic Designers

It’s crucial to differentiate between the roles of a social media manager and a social media graphic designer. If your goal is to hire someone who can create intricate graphics and visual content, then you should be looking for a graphic designer. Social media managers, on the other hand, should have an eye for content creation, storytelling, and the ability to produce quality user-generated content (UGC).

Focus on Core Competencies

Leveraging Key Skills for Success

Social media managers need to excel in several core areas: understanding audience engagement, creating compelling narratives, and leveraging analytics to inform content strategies. Their primary focus should be on content creation, community management, and staying ahead of social media trends. Expecting them to also be expert graphic designers dilutes their focus and undervalues their primary contributions.


In summary, the role of a social media manager is multifaceted, requiring a blend of creativity, strategic thinking, and an in-depth understanding of social media platforms. While having basic graphic design skills can be beneficial, it should not be a core requirement. By focusing on the essential skills that drive engagement and content effectiveness, employers can better harness the unique talents of social media managers.

So, to answer the question: Yes, I believe advising a focus on video-first tools and content strategy over advanced graphic design was the right call. Social media managers bring immense value through their ability to connect with audiences and create impactful content. Let’s ensure job descriptions reflect the true nature of their role and set them up for success.

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