Internships Advice

Social Media Marketing: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Meet the Speaker: Alex McCann

In order to understand how is working in social media marketing, it can be good to meet the AlexMcCann, a social media manager.

Who is Alex McCann?

Alex runs the company Altrincham HQ, a social media management and training business based in the south of Manchester. 

Alex started studying marketing and business and took a side route into the music industry. He was a journalist for a number of years and got to interview rock and roll bands like My Chemical Romance and Paramore. He then launched an event company and put on bands like The 1975 and Catfish and the Bottlemen. Since September 2009, he’s been working in social media marketing.

What is Social Media Management?

Social media management is often seen as a really glamorous thing. So when you look at a lot of social media managers, you’ll see them doing cold water swimming, having lots of cups of coffee, and dining out all the time. The reality is, that’s probably about 5% of your time.

Social Media Manager typing on MacBook

How do you constantly adjust to the emergence of new social media platforms?  

The Challenge

Now, the current challenge for a lot of marketers is learning the nuances of TikTok. In 2009, when Alex started, there was only Twitter and Facebook at the time. Instagram wasn’t around then and not everyone was using Linkedin. So there was continuous change and adaptation. 

Skill Sets

If you want to work on social media you need to know a little bit of everything such as graphic design, video making, and public speaking. So there are lots of skills that fit underneath the title of social media manager, or social media training and you have to pick them up along the way. 

With so many different and ever-changing platforms, how do you avoid becoming a jack of all trades but a master of none?

Alex’s Perspective: Experts are the key

As a social media manager, part of the skill set is to know when to outsource to an expert. So even though Alex can do talking head videos quite easily on a phone, if he needs a professional videographer, he has got four or five people that he can call. The same thing goes for photography as well. He can do basic shots on an iPhone and make a restaurant go from 2 out of 10, in terms of photography, to a 6 or 7 out of 10. But when there is the need to take it to 10 out of 10, it is good to pull in experts. 

A standard day for a social media manager (freelancer)

There is no standard day for social media managers that are into freelance because every day is different.

Examples Day 1: Onboarding new clients day

  • Having phone calls and zoom chats with lots of new clients
  • Finding their new interest
  • Finding out what their messages are
  • Finding out how we’re going to operate with them

Example Day 2: Training session day 

  • Working with clients 
  • Networking meeting 
  • Various training sessions 

You need to be reactive

Always check if there is breaking news because that can change what you put out there for clients. So imagine a terrible tragedy that happened this morning, we can have some really jovial, fun, relaxed content that’s going out half an hour later. So sometimes a world event can throw out your social media plan that you planned two weeks ago, and that’s a really hard thing. You never know what a day is going to look like. But that’s the exciting thing. 

How do you manage work-life balance when you always have to be connected online? 

One thing that massively impacts working in social media, is the social life with your friends because there is the need to be present. On the other hand, a work-life day can start at 7 am in the morning, and doesn’t end till 11 pm at night. It’s a long day. 

What are the negative sides of working on social media?

  • Work-life balance
  • As a freelancer or agency, there is no 100% security to be paid on time
  • Debt collectors if clients don’t pay on time
  • Everyone thinks that they can do social media, without any studies

Working For an Agency vs As a Freelancer

“And I have plans initially to go to about six, or seven. And what sort of putting me against going down that route and going smaller, as you turn into what’s called an HR manager, looking after staff rather than actually doing the job, which is the bit I enjoy. So we had several scenarios where we had one of our freelancers that lost a father. And that was really hard to deal with. Because as a person, you want to reach out and say we’re taking all that work out for you. So essentially, I was doubling my workload overnight, because you don’t see that thing happening. And then I had another Freelancer whose husband was ill. And again, that came all around the same time. So imagine taking on two extra people’s workloads. That’s the bad side of it, the good side of it is you’ve got someone to lean on. 

So usually in an agency, what you’ll have is the person who’s good at organic marketing, the person who’s got paid marketing, the person who’s good at design, the person who’s gonna videography, and you can pull on those experts. So the cross-section between both of those is going out networking and meeting experts in those fields, where you’ve kind of got an agency feel without having an agency. 

So as I said, any type of business owner that I want, I can pull in, whether that be marketing, or whether that be non-marketing, things like accountants and things like solicitors, and IT experts, there’s always someone that can lean up. And it feels like you’ve got your own sense of community from that.”

What is the best place to start gaining freelance experience in social media management?

There are a lot of routes:

  • Going by yourself – set up your own business and freelancing 
  • Work for an agency – you can learn and study the job
  • Offer to work for free for a friend or a family member that has its own business – you can get case studies that you got the success

Is it essential to know all platforms?

You can either be specialized in just one social media, for example, you can be an Instagram manager or a TikTok manager. The most important thing is that you show results through ROI (return of investment). It doesn’t matter how many followers you gain with your campaigns, it matters how much you have attracted those followers to buy your products/services.

What are the most beneficial skills in social media?

Marketing is essential and understanding the theories and fundamentals of marketing is crucial. 


  • Competitive analysis
  • Copywriting – it is good to know how to write a Tik Tok or Instagram caption 
  • Graphic Design (photography and videography included)
  • Language – understand what makes an interesting headline and interesting hook look like
  • Persuasiveness
  • SEO 
  • Be open-minded and try to learn every day

What is the best thing about working with social media?

The best thing about working with social media is to have a positive impact on people’s lives. For example, you are working with a business and you generate 10,000 pounds worth of sales in one day, and this is really good! On the opposite end of the scale, it is good to celebrate the small wins. For example, at a restaurant where you are working as a social media manager, you make a campaign and suddenly a booking is worth 200 pounds. Maybe for someone else, 200 pounds isn’t a huge deal for a business, but for that business, if they’re getting 200 pounds here, and 300 pounds later in the day and 500 pounds the next day, this can make a difference between them and they can take on a new member of staff and be able to pay the bills. So they’re getting results. It’s really rewarding for clients.

How do you get new clients?

The best thing to do is to go “door to door” and explain to people your services. Some of the biggest leads are joining different communities of people who are interested in similar things because they’ll be able to set up different activities where you are able to meet with different business owners. 

It is also good to run your own events but for sure you need to know whether it is working for you or not. Once you find what works for you in order to get clients, you need to keep up that level and keep doing it. 

What is the ugly side of social media marketing?

There are a few ugly sides of social media marketing like:

  • Not switching off
  • Not getting paid 
  • People that fake their expertise

What advice would you give someone hoping to enter the social media marketing industry?

Testimonials, testimonials, testimonials! Testimonials are a great way to show your credibility and gain referrals. 

Another piece of advice is to set up a website where you can post these testimonials and showcase your work. You need to set up a content machine, like a blog, as well!. 

Every Journey is Different

Alex is 44 years old and he had essentially 3 good careers: a journalist, events, and social media marketing. Don’t feel that what you’re doing now in 2022 is what you’re doing for the rest of your life. Be flexible to change and look at where the world is going. You’ve got to look at the market, look where it’s going and listen to what people are saying.

Do you ever have to compromise your values when working with clients?

“A restaurant contacted me and they are a meat-based restaurant, and I’m vegan. Do you take money from a steak-based restaurant that you’re selling meat or not? And because I am vegan, I said, I’m not the right person for you. But I think there are things you’ve got to understand who you’re prepared to work for, and who you’re not prepared to work for. 

For example, I wouldn’t work with cigarette companies and I don’t drink either, but I would work with bars because they deal so they still sell soft drinks and stuff like that. You’ve got to decide where the line you’re prepared to draw? 

So definitely questions your morals, I don’t think marketing, it’s got a bit of a bad reputation as in people in marketing, you’re always liars. But I think actually what all you’re doing in marketing is accentuating or amplifying the truth. 

So again, I won’t work with businesses that have a really bad reputation offline. So I think sticking true to your morals will set you up in the long term, a lot more than just taking the money just for the sake of it.”

Find Alex on LinkedIn and check out his website