Ever seen an advertisement for what appears to be an entry-level social media role only to discover that you need 1-2 years experience to be considered? How are you meant to get that experience when it seems all roles require it? How do you get a foot in the door?
Times have changed significantly since I first started working in social. It’s hard to believe that only five years ago, next to no-one in Australia had the term ‘social media’ in their job title. While my initial role in social literally was ‘right place, right time’, I worked my butt off to build up my experience and reputation as much as possible in order to establish myself in the field.
Whether you’re a student, graduate, or looking for a career change, here are my top tips for preparing yourself for your first social media job.
1. VOLUNTEER YOUR TIME
Small charities and community organizations often have no resources for managing social media, so you’re likely to be welcomed with open arms if you volunteer to help out. At the start of my social media career, I managed the social media channels for The Warwick Cancer Foundation and also for my local community theater company. Not only did I get invaluable experience for my CV, I also built up my networks and enjoyed the charitable nature of what I was doing.
2. GET BLOGGING
While I had to start a blog using WordPress, these days there are far simpler tools for blogging such as tumblr and LinkedIn. You don’t have to run your own fully-fledged blog but a few articles here and there show that you are active in the social space, understand it, and have an opinion.
Analyze a social media campaign from your own perspective, write about updates or changes to a social media platform, or write about your view on how the space affects buyer decision-making–there are endless opportunities to showcase your knowledge and thinking.
I also love seeing young people who have a blog or vlog series that is about their passions outside of their career. I once recommended a young grad I’d never met for an entry level social media role for well-known cosmetics brand because her beauty blog was outstanding.
3. KNOW THE SPACE INSIDE OUT
I aim to set aside a small portion of every day to read up on what’s happening in social media. Let’s be honest, this doesn’t always happen. Life is busy. But if you’re serious about getting into the industry, you need to wow people with your knowledge, whether you’re lacking in experience or not.
In fact, this was how I first got a full-time opportunity in social media. The Head of Marketing pulled me into a meeting where social media was being discussed as nobody in the room understood Twitter. I was able to rattle off statistics, case studies, and ideas to a room of people because I had bothered to keep myself informed. A few months later and that same executive created a position for me, 50% of which the remit was social media.
I love logging onto my Feedly (news aggregator application) and reading articles, but don’t discount other tools for staying in the loop including Slideshare and YouTube. A great starting point in Australia is the annual Sensis Social Media Report.
4. CONNECT WITH THE EXPERTS
It’s often who you know that will help you get a foot in the door. LinkedIn and Twitter are fantastic for giving you access the very people who you a) can learn from, and b) might consider hiring you in the future.
Easy ways to identify social media experts include scouring Twitter lists, reading articles on Adweek's Social Times, and doing searches on LinkedIn. Once you connect with these professionals, introduce yourself and engage with them when you see opportunity.
5. ATTEND EVENTS
I have to admit that these days I’m not a regular attendee at social media events, but back when I was establishing my career I was an avid participant. Most major cities have a Social Media Club, whose gatherings often include a number of speakers as well as being great opportunities for networking. There are usually plenty of other free events and groups that you can find on sites like MeetUp.com. Not only are these events great for developing knowledge but it transforms you from being an online avatar to a real person. Also consider some paid events if you have the budget and time to attend.
6. BE ACTIVE IN PUBLIC SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS
One of the first things I check when recruiting for social media roles is the candidate’s Twitter and LinkedIn profile. If they don’t have either, then this is immediately a red flag. Equally as disappointing is a dormant Twitter account. I don’t understand how anyone can consider themselves a social media professional if they don’t regularly use Twitter. I’m not talking someone who posts every five minutes - or even every day - but if your last tweet was 10 months ago, I will have some reservations about your credibility in the space. Similarly, your LinkedIn profile should be up-to-date and have a photo.
There’s a lot of debate regarding whether or not you need a university degree in order to have a role in social media marketing. My personal opinion is that you don’t, but I do look more favorably on those with with a qualification in marketing, communications or media (which these days often include units in digital and social).
If you haven’t got a degree in one of these fields, or simply don’t feel you social media knowledge is up-to-scratch, then consider one of the many short courses that are available. Do your homework as there are plenty of courses out there and not all of them are delivered by people who really know their stuff.
How did you get your foot in the door? Do you have any other tips for those trying to break into social media?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lauren is the Social Media Manager for the National Australia Bank (NAB). Previously heading up social media for technology company MYOB and the University of Melbourne, Lauren has a spent the last ten years in digital marketing, communications and content strategy. Lauren's work has been featured in Mashable, Wordpress Top Blogs, and Smart Company. Also a qualified workplace trainer, she regularly delivers workshops, webinars, and speaks at conferences.