Social media has changed the dynamics of the modern way of working. It is not just the channel itself that is now being used by brands and companies to find talent rather social media itself has grown into this giant web of conversations and interaction that we now need professionals to manage this new medium.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be a social media addict or a crazy content publisher to get a ‘social media’ job. There is more to the social media scene than just content publishing and to be good at it, you need to be a patient learner and a content consumer yourself to keep up with the trends and buzzwords.
The professionals working in this field use various titles. The most common one you will find is ‘social media officer’, or a ‘digital media manager’ but other titles have also begun to hit the job market such as interactive media manager, inbound marketing specialist, new media specialist, marketing engineer, marketing technologist, digital marketing officer, online media officer, web and social officer, digital communication specialist etc. Essentially, regardless of the title, the responsibilities of a social media professional remain the same.
There are three avenues to this game. First, the creative part where your ability of idea generation and coming up with new interactive campaigns matters most and second, the monitoring and analytics area where your ability to draw stories from collected data is put to test. And third, technology.
As for the education and qualification requirements, most companies looking for a social media professional would prefer hiring a fresh candidate who has done their bachelors/masters in marketing or a bachelors in social sciences but that certainly doesn’t leave out those who have done a degree in engineering or arts. In fact it would be safe to say that getting into social media doesn’t require you to have a degree in a specific discipline at all and what matters is how much you are into this game and what experience you have in managing social media platforms. In fact, degree programs such as computer sciences and mass communications or journalism are also very relevant as long as you understand the work and have the ability to deliver.
Although, computer science and engineering graduates with a knack of digital marketing definitely have an edge as they understand the platforms and technology that is used behind-the-scenes which facilitates them in developing a teach-and-learn relationship with their clients.
Managing social media for a company, whether working from within that company or working as a servicing professional in an agency, has no such rules and boundaries and therefore should not be taken as an operational job where there is an excel formula to rule every spreadsheet. The key ingredient to be eligible for such a job is to have the element of creativity as there is no rule-book or any guidelines which will tell you if you are going in the right direction. In fact, unlike electronic and print media where there are certain yardsticks to measure the performance of your ads, press release or announcement, in social media there is no standard of calculating feedback and this makes it a great opportunity for social media professionals to create a flowchart of feedback as they progress with their campaigns.
Analytics is another important area in the social media culture and it’s also its biggest value proposition for companies and brands who are looking to invest more in this medium. As a social media professional, you must have the skill to create stories out of data as social media gives you the opportunity to work in big-data environments where you can run campaigns, experiment with new technology and interact with your audience on a massive scale.
The third and most important pillar of the social media triangle is ‘technology’ and one that decides how far you will go up this ladder in this industry. Wireframes, search engine optimization, memes, webinars, hashtags, engagement rate, infographics, app development, social insights, viral videos, media optimization, retweets, followers: these are just some of the social media jargons that you will get to hear everyday and will also probably use them in your daily reports and monthly social media strategies but jargons can get you only so far. What matters at the end of the day is how good you are when it comes to delivering what you promise and how will you make best use of the knowledge you have to solve a problem. Questions like ‘why should I have a Facebook fanpage?’, ‘Please create a viral video for me!’, ‘Can we integrate a blog on our website?’ are just few of the many questions that you will be answering and therefore it is good to have knowledge of web development, content creation, graphics design and video editing because it will differentiate you from the rest who are applying for the same job and possess almost same amount of experience as you do. Diversity of skill matters more than years of experience you have in such an industry.
It goes without saying that you need to have an inviting attitude towards change as social media is fast, robust and roller-coaster crazy. From YouTube getting blocked overnight to Facebook’s change of layouts and Google’s algorithm upsets, you will have to consistently keep yourself updated so you can sync up to the trends of this industry.
Overall, social media is a very unique industry and very welcoming for those who want to do a job where there is a mix of creativity, numbers and technology implementation. Depending on the company/agency, you can start your job at around 40,000/month and go up to as high as 200,000/month (or even more) within just two years depending upon the diversity of your work and skills.
As the industry is new, there is a lot of room for experimentation and a great opportunity for innovative minds out there to get started and have a greater impact on the online community.
A version of this article appeared in June 2013 issue of Spider Magazine.