7 habits of highly effective SMMs
But, like, stuff that actually matters and isn’t fluff
I’m only 23 years old. But I’ve been in the social media game for about 6 years now.
I’ve spent 1000s of hours on these platforms. I’ve published more content than I can keep track of. And I’ve grown quite a few accounts and brands from 0 → 1.
There are a handful of habits that I’ve found to help me create better content and see real, meaningful success as a social media manager and content creator.
Today I want to share 7 of them with you.
Habit #1: Don’t ignore content consumption.
“Create more than you consume” is BS.
Every good output (a piece of content) requires a good input (inspiration).
Without your own quality inputs, all your content will start to blend in…
I wrote a whole piece on this one topic for Social Files, but the TLDR is that you need to allow yourself to go down rabbit holes.
Watch hours of YouTube videos on a subject. Scroll TikTok and let the CCP’s algorithm rot your brain cells for a bit (jokes… kind of 😂). Use Pinterest to get aesthetic inspiration for your content.
Consuming content you enjoy and are genuinely interested in is such a cheat code.
You can pull from a unique combination of muses — and make content that really stands out.
How do I do this in practice?
- I like to set aside a few hours per week for open content consumption. Just scroll. See what people are talking about. Look for recurring topics, memes, and trends.
- I listen to my gut. For example, I just spent my Saturday night reading papers on AI prompt engineering because I wanted to learn about it. I’m a nerd. So what.
If you stopped reading right now — hypothetically, don’t actually do that — this one habit could change the trajectory of your content.
Consume more — with intention.
Habit #2: Actually update your damn ‘swipe file.’
Let’s keep running with the topic of inspiration.
Once you’ve consumed interesting content and gathered inspiration, you need to organize it in a way that is easily accessible. You should be able to call upon that inspiration when you need it.
And no. 1000s of disorganized screenshots in your camera roll isn’t enough.
Build a ‘Swipe File’ — a place where all of your content inspiration lives:
- Meme templates
- Thread hooks
- High-performing TikToks
Whatever it is that you are making for your brand on a regular basis.
I built my Swipe File in Notion. And I’ll be releasing it to you via my first digital product (exciting!!) soon. Will keep you in the loop on that.
And once you build your Swipe File, there’s one more step. Update it regularly.
I’m not as great at this as I should be. Life gets busy. I get hit with more ‘push this to social’ requests than I can count.
But in a perfect world, I would try to update your Swipe File every 1-2 weeks. Not everything you source is going to make it in. Items will get lost and disorganized.
The goal is to build a library of inspiration over time. It doesn’t need to be perfect.
Habit #3: Always be selling.
Want to get paid more?
Well, no shit, Tommy.
Good. Now that we’re on the same page, I want to share what is probably the most important thing for you to do to get paid more.
Always be promoting your work — internally. Of course selling outwardly, to new clients and jobs, is important. You already knew that.
But promoting and selling your work internally, to your current boss and/or clients, is just as important. You need to be constantly keeping social’s value and the ‘ROI’ of your work at the top of their minds.
Your life is consumed by social. But your boss’ isn’t. That’s why they hired you.
They’re worried about their own shit. They have their own KPIs to hit.
So if you aren’t reminding them and keeping them in the loop on your department’s (or department of 1’s 😆) progress, you are at risk of falling off their radar.
The solution to this is to have a rock solid reporting process. Every week, send over a summary of:
- Social stats (I use Sprout Social for this)
- 3 major WINS (make sure they know you’re killing it)
- 3 opportunities for growth (make sure they know there is more you are working on)
It’s that simple. This habit will 1) get you more promotions if you’re in a W2 job or 2) let you retain clients for longer and increase their LTV if you’re freelancing.
Always be selling yourself. Especially after the sale.
Habit #4: Copywriting. Get good at it.
Copywriting is the highest ROI skill a social media manager can learn.
It’s not just about writing. It’s persuasion.
And it influences every aspect of your work:
- Writing copy for captions that doesn’t suck (duh)
- Writing scripts for videos that perform well
- Writing compelling reports for your boss or client
Master copywriting and you’ll have a leg up on everyone.
A few resources I have found helpful:
- The* *Adweek Copywriting Handbook by Joseph Sugarman
- The Boron Letters by Gary Halpert
- Copy MBA by Mason Doerr
Learn this skill ASAP.
Habit #5: Know when to shut up.
Spotting trends is important. Hopping on the right trend can lead to a huge boost in impressions and engagement for your brand. It can also lead to an ‘inflection point’ in your social growth.
If you don’t remember from pre-calculus, this is an inflection point. The easiest way to think about it is the point where things go from flat → massive growth.
BUT. But. But.
It’s just as important — no, even more important — for social media managers to know when to shut the fuck up.
Sometimes, the upside of using a ‘risky’ meme template isn’t worth the downside of the backlash that may come along with it.
Also, you should just generally know when to shut up. Like if an international crisis goes down, and you have some tweets scheduled? Yeah. Probably unschedule those.
For example: when the war in Ukraine broke out, The Weeknd (or his social manager) forgot to pause posts promoting his upcoming tour. So, the tour schedule dropped like 30 minutes after Russia launched its offensive. Not great.
The best social media managers know enough about current events to know when to shut things down and stay on the sidelines.
It just might save your brand’s reputation.
Habit #6: Learn how to tastefully ignore requests.
People love to give input on social media ideas.
Marketing in general deals with lots of folks that think they know how to do our job — but social is a whole other level. Perhaps it’s because everyone ‘has’ social media. Idk.
My point is that you’re going to get loads of requests and ‘suggestions’ on what to post to your brand’s social media channels.
Sometimes, you have to bite the bullet and post the horrendous piece of content that you know is going to flop to the depths of hell.
But, most of the time, you (and your brand’s content) can skate by unscathed.
A few tips for this:
- Have SOPs for social content scheduling. For me, if something doesn’t live in Notion, it doesn’t exist.
If you really want me to publish that random thing, you are going to have to make a Notion project and tag me in it. One-off Slack messages don’t count.
You’d be surprised by how much that super small addition of friction limits the amount that I have to deal with these requests.
- If someone who isn’t the founder or your direct boss randomly Slacks you a ‘suggestion’ for what to do on social … you can ignore it. Lol.
Half the time they never follow up again, which means that the content wasn’t that important to them anyway.
And if they do, gently remind them to tag you in whatever project management software you are using.
- Don’t be afraid to respectfully push back.
You’re the expert. You were hired for your social media prowess.
If someone wants you to put a fucking link in an Instagram caption — you have every right to tastefully list out why that is a stupid idea.
Habit #7: Take care of your physical and mental health
This might come as a surprise, but I got my college degree in Nutrition Science. I’ve never taken a marketing class. And I believe this is one of the best ‘accidents’ that has happened to me.
Completing a degree in Nutrition and going deep down the internet rabbit hole of health and fitness has paid dividends, even though I’m not working in the field anymore.
Social media can be a high-pressure environment, and it’s important to prioritize self-care. Find ways to relax and recharge outside of work, whether it’s through exercise, meditation, or spending time with loved ones.
This could be a whole newsletter topic in and of itself. But here are a few pillars of my routine that help me maintain (most of) my sanity as a social media manager:
- Gym 4-5x per week
- Well-balanced nutrition and hydration
- 7-8hrs of sleep 90% of the time
- Meditate for 5min in the AM
- No phone for 30min after waking up (this is a big one)
And look. I get it. I’m 23, single, and with no kids. I also was an athlete for over a decade so I’m used to having a regimen dialed in.
Sticking to this routine could get way more complicated as I move to different stages of my life.
But I stand by the importance of prioritizing your physical and mental health — no matter what else is going on.
I don’t think that take is super controversial.
- Consume more interesting content
- Actually update your Swipe Files
- Always be selling
- Learn copywriting ASAP
- Know when to shut tf up
- Tastefully tell people to F off
- Take care of your physical and mental health
This isn’t an exhaustive list. But if you get proficient in these 7 habits — you’ll be much better off as a social media manager.
That’s all I’ve got for you today.