So you want to work in social media?

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When explaining my role to others, I often get the “that’s awesome!” expression or the ever popular “gosh, I’d love to get paid to mess around on Facebook all day.” While yes, my job IS awesome, and yes, I love getting paid to scan Facebook, there is obviously so much more to the job…I have to scan Twitter. (Kidding!) Again, there is SO much more to the job.

Like most careers, there are misconceptions. And over the past few months, I’ve received several legitimate requests for career advice and the recipients are often surprised at the aspects that they haven’t considered. The information that is out there often only teaches the tools, not the meat of the medium. So if you’d like to truly launch yourself into the field of social media, listen up. Here’s a list of the top 5 aspects that I think are crucial to a career in the field. P.S. You’ve got a lot more to learn about than just the mechanics of the medium.

1. Fundamentals. To be successful in this field, you need to know the business of advertising, including the principles of marketing, media and strategic planning, brand management, organizational behavior, market research, sales, public relations and promotion. Social media requires their application using new school technology. Personally, my best preparation stems from a degree in Advertising as well as from the social media internships and marketing jobs that followed. (ah hem, more than an understanding of social networks)

2. Brand Management. Branding is such a powerful aspect of the job. You either “get” branding or you don’t. And if you don’t understand branding, you won’t be successful with a career social media. So study all that you can because it must become second nature. Think of it this way, as a social media manager, you will be the online voice for a brand. (quite possibly the voice of multiple brands.) Every status update, every tweet, every response comment must represent the voice of a certain brand. I can’t say it enough – you better understand branding and you better understand your clients. You better live, breath and CONSISTENTLY speak any given brand at any given time.

3. Details. You MUST be detail oriented. The job is high profile in the sense that hundreds, if not thousands will instantly see one minor slip up. And it’s soooo very easy to post a typo, incorrect information or *gasp* even the wrong message. Never let a mistake happen. If a slip-up does occur, you better realize it quickly so that you can adapt and respond with corrections. Mistakes in social media are instantly seen by your fans, followers, customers, client, client’s employees, the competition, brand haters, your boss, your coworkers and heck even your mom. And they don’t only reflect on you, they vastly reflect the brand (HUGE!)

4. Nerd. If you’re not a geek at heart then take your advertising skills elsewhere. You need to be a sponge of technology and trends. Things are changing so quickly in media, you need to know tomorrow’s biggest trends yesterday. You should also understand the nuances of social networks and their applications in technology so that your clients will be in those spaces when they go mainstream.

5. Lifestyle. You must have a passion for social media because it is quite literally a 24/7, 365 kind of job. Primary messages, editorial calendars and postings can be done beforehand, but monitoring occurs well beyond the hours of 8AM-6PM, Monday – Friday. You must be willing and able to speak any given brand at any given hour. And you must always be on the lookout for your next bit of information. But if you love it, you won’t give a damn. Instead you’ll just keep pinching yourself while thinking “damn, I get paid to do this?” And if you’re good at it then yes, yes you will.


  • Peter Abatan
    June 10, 2010, 7:18 am  Reply

    Angela, having read your post, I am inclined to disagree with you on a few points mentioned. From what I have learnt and read those with a degree in advertising or marketing are the worst to employ into social media.

    People from a marketing and advertising background are too old school and fail to grasp this new concept wanting to apply what they have learnt on the job or in college.

    I know many people who have got into social media from backgrounds other than marketing and have been very successful. I believe if you have a passion for customer service, innovative, and love meeting people you will succeed in social media.

    In fact your customers or propects are more willing to forgive your blunders, if they sense you genuinely care about them.

  • Angela
    June 10, 2010, 5:00 pm  Reply

    Hi Peter, Thank you so much for the comment. I really appreciate the different point of view. Social media is a field that we’re all trying to figure out and there are many different ways to approach it. That being said, I stand true to what I wrote. I should, however, clarify that I wrote this from the viewpoint of someone working within an ad agency as a social media manager. The rules are indeed different in this role versus someone like a small business owner trying to get into the social media space.

    While a marketing or advertising background is not required to “work” in social media, I do believe that it is immensely beneficial for strategy. In fact, a marketing or advertising background is fairly critical for the creation and development of online marketing strategies, tactics and programs. It is not a requirement for the daily execution or customer relations aspect of the role. And I’ll go on to acknowledge that I’m speaking from the viewpoint of someone who graduated within the past five years, so my studies revolved around integrated marketing communications. That is different from “old school” advertising and I understand the point that you are trying to make. There are indeed marketers who don’t get the medium, however, there are also a lot who do.

    And I whole-heartedly agree that prospects are willing to forgive blunders. Authenticity and passion are huge (in any role, for that matter). But again, I’m speaking more from the role of within an agency when you are executing specific programs across a variety of brands and channels. While simple goofs are ok every now and again (because yes, mistakes do happen), posting incorrect information can indeed reflect badly on your accounts.

    Thanks again for your comment and I hope to see your viewpoint around here more often!

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