What is a Media Buyer? Salary, Career and Strategy Guide

Zachary Murray

It was a typical night for you, scrolling through your Instagram feed after a long day at work, and bam! You get hit with an ad for the shoes you discussed with your friend earlier that week. Platforms like Facebook and TikTok have been using data to target you for some time, but you might not have known that there was probably a person in charge of using this data to deploy targeted ad campaigns to get you to buy those shoes. The technical role for this person is known as a Media Buyer. This article is a complete guide to the state of social media buyers, including salary guidelines and how you can hire your own media buying weapon or get hired by your dream company as a buyer.

marketer working in a minimalistic office space

What is Media Buying?

Whether you are scrolling through your high-school friends' Facebook feeds or looking for new recipes on TikTok, the primary role of a social Media Buyer is to get their brand's ad creative in front of the right target audience.

They often work closely with the entire marketing ecosystem to help accelerate the growth of businesses by deploying social campaigns.

When a company is trying to grow, it will usually set an advertising budget, either monthly or quarterly, with a portion dedicated to buying "paid media," which is ad space sold by platforms with eyeballs - think TV, Social Media, or Billboards. This article will focus on programmatic media offered by social platforms like Facebook, TikTok, or Google ads.

Media Buying vs. Social Media Management

A media buyer and a social media manager are both roles related to advertising and marketing, but they have different areas of focus and responsibilities.

A Media Buyer is responsible for purchasing advertising space or time across various media platforms, such as television, radio, print, and digital (Although this article is focused on digital-only platforms). Media buyers must deeply understand different media channels, audiences, and advertising capabilities.

Often confused with media buyers, a Social Media Manager manages an organization's organic  presence and engages with its audience on social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. They create and curate content, monitor and respond to comments and messages, run social media advertising campaigns, and track metrics to measure the effectiveness of their efforts. Social media managers need to be creative, strategic, and familiar with the latest social media trends and best practices.

What do Media Buyers Do?


As social media platforms evolve, so do the most effective media buying strategies. Before you start throwing money at these platforms, a seasoned media buyer will want to understand the campaign's objective, set achievable KPIs, and understand the budget they are trying to deploy.

In more recent months, the role of Creative Strategy has also become more important when strategizing a successful paid media campaign. Depending on the size of your marketing team, this could be an entirely independent role that works closely with the person deploying media.

Identify Target Audiences

Audience Targeting is at the core value of most modern programmatic advertising platforms. Whether you buy media on Facebook, Google, or TikTok ads, each has different methods for narrowing down your target audiences.

As a media buyer coming on to a new account, their primary role will be to mix and match different audiences with creatives, landing pages, and more to find which campaigns, ad sets, and ads can scale profitably.

Campaign Setup

This is where they finally get their hands dirty. Every marketing platform will have a unique backend that allows you to build and deploy campaigns across various ad spaces and placements. Although every platform has its UI, most follow the structure listed below, answering, "What is the difference between a Campaign, Ad Set, and Ad?"

Campaign: the top-level structure of an ad account. It is where you set your overall objective, target audience, and budget. Each campaign can have multiple Ad Sets and Ads, and you can run multiple campaigns simultaneously.
Ad Set: the second level, where you set your targeting, budget, schedule, and bid strategy. Each Ad Set can have multiple Ads, and you can run multiple Ad Sets under one Campaign.
The Ad: the visual creative content that your audience sees. It can be a single image, video, carousel, or collection, including a headline, description, and call-to-action button. Each Ad must be linked to an Ad Set, which is linked to a Campaign

Track & Optimize Results

Although Google Analytics will often be used at this stage, as digital campaigns take over more of the marketing budget for most companies, more advanced media analytics software has been created that aid in tracking and optimizing your marketing campaigns. Depending on the company's KPIs and reporting requirements, this role might involve an additional data scientist or analytics expert to help understand the data.

Creative Testing & Iteration

No one scales their first campaign to the moon on their first try. Using the data observed at the reporting stage, media buyers will transform their learnings into improvements to their future campaigns and communicate creative optimizations to video editors, graphic designers, or UGC creators.

If you find yourself needing more ad creative inspiration. Platforms like Foreplay can be very useful for saving ads from competitors as well ads discovering new ad ideas from other digital advertising experts.

Most Popular Digital Marketing Platforms

Although the role of "Media Buyer" originated in the Mad Men days, when advertising professionals would purchase ad space in newspapers, tv, and radio, the modern media buying climate is heavily weighted toward companies buying ad space on the primary social channels.

Facebook Ads Manager UI
Facebook Ads Manager UI

1. Facebook Ads Platform (Meta)

A Facebook media buyer is responsible for deploying ad creative across all Meta advertising channels, including Facebook Ads Platform, Instagram ads, Audience networks, Whats App, FB Messenger, and more.

All media campaigns purchased from Meta are deployed through their platform known as the "Meta Ads Manager," formerly Facebook ads manager.

TikTok Ads Manager User Interface
TikTok Ads Manager User Interface

2. TikTok Ads Manager

One of the hottest new ad platforms for 2023 is TikTok; with a large amount of ad inventory, many brands have been shifting some of their advertising budgets to TikTok.

If you are wondering How to run a TikTok ad Campaign? You can start running them from the TikTok ads Manager, where you can deploy branded ads or "Spark Ads, " allowing you to run your ad placement on an organic creator account.

3. Snapchat for Businesses

Due to the average demographic on Snapchat, they market their ad product as a great way to connect with young customers. With a highly active user base, Snapchat ads can be a great way to build awareness for your brand. However, it is not known to drive conversions and other platforms.

If you are wondering how to run Snapchat ads for your brand, they have a programmatic platform similar to Facebook and TikTok.

Google Adwords Interface
Google Adwords Interface

4. Google Display and Video 360

When looking at a brand's paid digital channels, Google ads have always had a giant slice of the pie with massive advertising inventory. The Google ads ecosystem, often known as "Ad Words," includes traditional display and banner ads and search advertising, and you can even run YouTube ads from their platform.

If you decide to become a Google Media Buyer, you will spend a lot of time keyword planning and versioning your creative to work across the various display network sizes.

Some google ad alternatives would be other search engine-focused ad networks such as Bing ads which have traditionally lower volume but may be less competitive.

5. Pinterest Advertising

Purchasing ad space on Pinterest is very similar to other digital media platforms. However, the media strategy and advertising creative must be native to the platform. Unlink the broad marketing channels; Pinterest ads work very well for specific industries, such as Home, Gardening, Crafts, and other highly visual products that may have a DIY culture around them.

How to become a Media Buyer

Becoming a media buyer can be an attractive job for many reasons. First and foremost, it offers a dynamic and exciting career in the fast-paced world of advertising and marketing. Additionally, unlike some marketing roles, media planning is often directly correlated to a company's revenue, meaning your job will most likely be safe during an economic downturn. If this interests you, here is how to get hired as a media buyer.

Most important skills a Media Buyer needs in 2023

  • Analytical Skills: Media buyers must have strong analytical skills to monitor and evaluate campaign data and make data-driven decisions.
  • Communication Skills: Effective communication is key to deploying strong media campaigns with other team members, clients, and media vendors
  • Technical Proficiency: Media buyers should use various media buying tools and platforms, including attribution software, programmatic buying platforms, and reporting tools.
  • Time Management Skills: Media buyers must manage multiple campaigns simultaneously and adhere to tight deadlines, all while keeping an eye on the campaigns that may be spending thousands of dollars a day on autopilot.
  • Adaptability: The media landscape is constantly evolving, and media buyers must be adaptable to changes in advertising and media trends, including consumer behavior.
  • Critical Thinker: As a media buyer, you will be exposed to copious amounts of data so being able to digest from multiple sources while having a critical eye for how this could affect the business will be a key to your success.
  • Understanding of Psychology: Media buyers must understand consumer behavior, such as how people make purchasing decisions, what motivates them to buy, and how they respond to different advertising messages.

Educational Requirements for Media Buyers

If you ask yourself, "Do you need a degree to get hired as a media buyer?" the short answer is No! Unlike other jobs where you may need a bachelor's degree to earn six figures in marketing, a media buyer is often considered a performance-based role similar to a sales position meaning that qualifications to be a media buyer can be looser.

If you want to be hired by a larger brand or agency, you may want to consider traditional education that can help you get past the first round of screening while giving you complementary skills to become a successful media buyer. Here are the top complimentary degrees.

  1. Psychology: This is a great option, as a Psychology degree can give you a thorough understanding of customer behavior, emotional drivers, and more.
  2. Business Studies: Understanding the impact of digital marketing on a business can be a superpower, especially for bootstrapped and direct response-focused media buyers.
  3. Public Relations & Media Studies: A softer degree such as PR or general marketing can be a great way to introduce you to the entire marketing ecosystem, where you can build complementary skills and understanding. Additionally, it can be a good stepping stone to getting an entry-level agency job as a client manager or account manager.

Media Buying Certification and Courses

Alternatively, if you are looking for free or low-cost online media buying education, here is a list of options that will get you on your way to being hired by an agency or brand.

  1. Meta Blueprint - Facebook offers free online courses, learning programs, and certifications to become a good Facebook media buyer. The best part is that it is 100% free.
  2. Foundr - If you want to learn from industry superstars like Gretta Van Riel or Nick Shackelford, the Foundr platform offers free and paid media buying courses.
  3. Bootcamps- If you have more of a budget and would like in-person learning outside of a traditional university, then companies like Brain Station or General Assembly could be a good option. An additional benefit to this route is that you will also build a personal network within your class.

Where to Find Media Buyer Jobs

If you are a seasoned veteran with ROAS-shattering abilities or a beginner looking for your first gig, finding the right role as a media buyer is not always straightforward, even with proven experience. Here are the top destinations to find a new media-buying job and some secret digital marketing job boards.

  1. Company Website: One of the best ways to find a job and love your work is to work for a company you love. Before broadening your search to job boards, we recommend looking at the Careers page of your favorite brands or agencies.
  2. Marketing Hire: Founded in 2004, MarketingHire has grown to be a leading marketing-focused niche job Website and an important part of the prestigious Marketing Career Network
  3. Remotive: Focused on both technical development jobs along with marketing-focused roles, Remotive is one of the best places to find a remote media buying gig.
  4. Dynamite Jobs: work with remote first employers who offer 100% work‑from‑home jobs.
  5. Demand Curve: Discover growth and marketing jobs at leading technology and software companies.

How to Hire a Media Buyer

Hiring the right media buyer can profoundly affect your business growth; here are the key steps to making sure you hire a good media buyer.

  • Have a clear understanding of what platforms you want to advertise on
  • Define the role and responsibilities
  • Develop a Job Description
  • Post your listing on multiple job sites and boards
  • Screen Candidates yourself or using a virtual assistant
  • Conduct interviews and understand their previous media-buying jobs or clients
  • Check references and conduct background checks
  • Make a Job offer

How much does it cost to hire a media buyer?

It is important to remember that hiring a media buyer comes with additional costs, such as your ad spend, sourcing, and creating high-converting  advertising creative. More so, the total cost of a media buyer is much higher than their salary or hourly rate alone.

Salary Ranges for Media Buyers

Salary Range for Media Buyers
Salary Range for Media Buyers

A media buyer's average salary can range drastically based on the industry you are working in if you are working for an agency or are being hired by internal teams. Intuit shows that NYC's average media buyer salary is $67,000/year.

  • The average Salary is $67,000 per year
  • Low Range Salary is $37,500 per year
  • High Range Salary is $132,000 per year

Where to find top-tier Media Buyers

Finding the ideal candidate to join your marketing team can often be difficult because the skill can lead to better-than-average freelance income on platforms like Upwork. Finding an amazing paid social buyer will come down to attracting the right candidate with a stand-out job description.

How to Write an Effective Job Description

In today's digital marketing climate, media buyers are in high demand, so you must write a rock-star-level job description to attach a-players to your organization. Here are some tips when writing a job description for a media buyer.

  • Start with a clear Job Title
  • Outline the key responsibilities (including platforms)
  • Specify the required qualifications and skills
  • Include information on the work environment
  • Be concise and engaging
  • Offer a Remote Media Buyer option

If you want to take a shortcut, here is a full job description you can copy for your job post.

Media Buyer Job Description Template

Title: Paid Social Media Buyer

Company: [Enter your company name]

Job Summary: As a Paid Social Media Buyer at [Enter your company name], you will work collaboratively with clients, members of your growth team, and other team members to guide and execute media buying strategies using data analysis and best practices. You will analyze historical data, identify trends and opportunities, build campaign structures, write copy, and optimize campaigns to meet KPIs. Your ability to adapt to changes and evolving market conditions, communicate effectively with clients, and provide timely feedback to the team is critical to success in this role.

Key Responsibilities:

  • Collaborate with clients, growth team members, and others to analyze data and identify trends and opportunities to build campaign structures.
  • Write compelling direct-response advertising copy, build campaigns in Facebook Ads Manager, and ensure all strategic initiatives are built and launched according to strict timelines and agreed-upon budgets across multiple ad accounts for direct-to-consumer brands.
  • Continuously adapt and evolve strategies to meet KPIs, tweak and optimize campaign creative, copy, audiences, and buying tactics.
  • Conduct multivariate tests to determine the best-performing creative and target audiences for campaigns.
  • Provide regular feedback to your team on ad account performance and excellent, clear, and timely feedback to clients through email, slack, and conference calls.
  • Manage media buying across social platforms and optimize toward clients’ goals.

Key Requirements:

  • Bachelor's degree with a focus on Marketing or Business or relevant experience required.
  • Expert knowledge of Facebook Ads Manager and Google Analytics.
  • Proven ability to plan, develop, execute, and optimize paid advertising campaigns for  brands with $XXk+ in monthly spending.
  • Data-driven with a consumer-first focus. You have a track record of using analytics to provide strategic recommendations and drive growth.
  • Solid understanding of marketing research and consumer psychology.

Top Performance Marketing YouTube Channels Need to Follow in 2023

Like an industry learning from the experts is usually a great place to start; luckily, several media professionals share their insights on podcasts, Twitter posts, and YouTube videos. Here are the top 8 media buying experts you should be following.

  1. Ezra Firestone: Founder Smart Marketer where the mission is to serve the world unselfishly and profit! This YouTube channel is a goldmine for media strategies, email marketing, and more information.
  2. Dara Denny: With a heavy focus on how your ad creative impacts campaign performance, Dara has in-depth knowledge of UGC ads, agency workflows, and more.
  3. Foundr Magazine: Beyond digital advertising content, Foundr is an amazing resource for media professionals with entrepreneurial ambitions.
  4. Iman Gadzhi: If you want to turn your advertising skills into a thriving SMMA (Social Media Advertising) business to drive client sales, Iman's channel is a great place to learn that business model.
  5. Nick Theriot: From understanding the iOS 14 attribution troubles to learning how to find new winning creatives, Nick's channel is a transparent look into what process works for his agency business serving clients.
  6. Triple Whale: For the Shopify business that is scaling to the moon, Triple Whale's YouTube channel consists of podcasts with industry experts and guides on using their attribution software to accelerate performance.
  7. Davie Fogarty: Primary focused on building your own DTC business with Facebook ads, Davie gives you an inside look at how he has built over $500M in value with media buying strategies.
  8. Chase Chappel: Known as a primary thought leader in the TikTok advertising space, Chase's channel breaks down how you can grow any business with TikTok media buying.


To summarize, a Media Buyer is a technical role responsible for deploying targeted ad campaigns to the right target audience. Their role involves strategizing, identifying target audiences, setting up campaigns, tracking and optimizing results, and creative testing and iteration.

They work closely with the marketing ecosystem to accelerate business growth by deploying social campaigns. The Media Buyer role differs from the Social Media Manager role, as media buyers purchase advertising space or time across various media platforms.

The modern media buying climate is heavily weighted toward companies buying ad space on primary social channels like Facebook Ads Platform. A media buyer's role has become increasingly important as social media platforms evolve and the most effective media buying strategies change.

Zachary Murray
Founder of Foreplay.co
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