Ten years ago, this job didn’t exist! Here are seven tips from the pros to help you prep for an exciting career as a social media manager.
Just a few years ago, it was hard to believe anyone could have an entire career managing social media. Twitter and Facebook — those were things that you did in your spare time. Even forward-thinking companies simply delegated their social page management to an intern.
Social media management has come a long way, with companies large and small realizing the importance of having a pro keep tabs on their social streams. And that means big opportunities for savvy digital natives.
Here are seven tips for building your career as a social media manager, from pros who have done it themselves: (Click here to tweet this list of tips.)
1. Network, network, network
“When I think about my current crop of clients, every one was [gained by] word of mouth,” says Amy Rogers Nazarov, a freelance writer who manages Facebook pages for three small businesses. Two of those clients were friends with Nazarov for years before they hired her to run their Facebook pages.
“And my third client [is] a realtor who went to her neighborhood listserv and said, I’m looking for someone who can teach me how to use social media for my business,” Nazarov explains. “A third party saw it and shot it over to me. So every one of these clients came out of a friendship.”
Just as in any industry, who you know is sometimes more important than what you know. Referrals account for 40 percent of hires nationwide, so make sure you’re spending as much time meeting people as you are in front of your computer, honing your skills.
2. Study hard, but think outside the box
Marissa Bialecki majored in psychology, but she now has a full-time position managing social media for a group of restaurants in the Washington, D.C. area.
Even as a psych major, Bialecki knew that communications or journalism was her calling, which is why she also double-minored in Spanish and journalism.
“A couple of my professors were like, ‘Why aren’t you majoring in journalism?’ I felt like I could get everything I wanted from the journalism program [as part of the minor]. The way I figured it is, there are certain principles of psychology in marketing. It can’t hurt.”
Now that Bialecki manages the social accounts for restaurants with very different personalities, she says she thinks of each restaurant as a person. “If they were a person, how would they talk?”
Now that’s using that psych degree.
3. Practice what you preach
“This may seem like a no-brainer, but make sure you’re active on social media yourself,” says Amy Reinink, freelance writer and social media manager for a wellness company. “Develop a following and share relevant content on Twitter, Google +, Facebook, Instagram and other social channels to show potential clients that you know what you’re doing.”
Bialecki, in a previous job, used Pinterest to collect a series of social media marketing infographics that were useful to her but also helped show off her smarts to prospective employers.
4. Earn and demonstrate trust
“If I were hiring someone to join my team for social media, I would be looking for a decent sort of track record and trust,” Bialecki says. “Giving someone the keys to social media is huge, because it’s public facing. So just showing that someone has trusted you at some point in a job — whether it’s social media or a public facing newsletter, or an email blast that goes out to the entire company — something that shows you’ve been able to exercise good judgment.”
Not sure where to start building that trust? Local nonprofits and charitable organizations are always looking for help. A few hours a week promoting their efforts on social media could help you build your resume in a flash.
5. Create solutions first
“Developing the voice [of their brand] is not something that has occurred to any of them, but it is something I see as essential,” Nazarov says. By proactively creating solutions you’ll establish yourself as an expert that they can’t live without.
Before she landed her first client, Nazarov sent more than 50 sample posts, which wowed him enough to sign her.
6. Become an expert
“If you have a field you’re passionate about, learn everything you can about it, and establish yourself as a subject-matter expert by sharing interesting, relevant content on that topic,” Reinink says. “It’s a competitive field, and retweeting the same two stories everyone else is sharing won’t get you far in the eyes of clients.”
In other words, on Twitter, links are currency. The better the links, the more valuable you are.
7. Don’t feel like you have to master every platform
“I think it’s important to keep up with the new things rolling out — I think they’re really cool. I haven’t figured out how I would use [everything] for my field. At the same time it’s important to pick and choose,” Bialecki advises.
“This other woman I know [in social media marketing] uses Snapchat. I see no point in Snapchat for a brand. I don’t get it, I don’t get why I would want it as a consumer from a brand. I do not understand it, and I don’t have the time to be on another social media platform,” Bialecki says.
“Same thing with when Vine came out, everyone was like, ‘Get on Vine.’ For me, my gut was like, ‘It’s six seconds. that doesn’t feel like enough time for me. And I’m pretty sure Instagram’s gonna roll out video anyway.’”
Are you a social media pro? What tips would you add to this list?
Rachel Kaufman is a writer and the author of Cover Letters for Creative People, an ebook about how to make a great first impression when applying for a job.