Perhaps you are just graduating and hoping to start a career in this field, or maybe you are looking to make a career change. Either way, there are a few traits that a social media expert must inherently have (and a few things they must understand about the job) in order to be successful. You can read more about that in this earlier blog post, what makes a qualified social media candidate. But as for the skills and tools that you need to develop, how do you get there? You get there by starting with the following:
1.) Use Social Media Personally and Frequently
This may sounds obvious to you, but you’d be amazed at how many people gunning for a job in social media do not often use many of the channels themselves. You must use social media channels personally, including the ones that you are not even personally interested in. To successfully market across social media channels, you need to be able to know how to navigate each one, and be aware of how they are each used from a consumer’s perspective. (Not to mention, you want to be in-the-know about all the current trends, memes, etc. that get people talking.) So if you’re not into Twitter, or you don’t care about Google+, do it and get familiar with it before applying for that community manager job you’ve been eyeing.
2.) Use Social Media Professionally
If you have never had the opportunity to work in social media in a professional capacity, I recommend one of two things: first, try to get an internship and learn from skilled professionals. If an internship is not an option, perhaps you can volunteer for a local non-profit organization that is in need of social media assistance and offer to help them set-up and manage their social channels. A win-win! Second, you can always practice setting up and managing your own “professional” social media channels. You can make “test” business pages on Facebook, Google+, etc. and start exploring the set-up process and admin functions. If you’re a real go-getter, you could create a blog (see #8 below) and start building and promoting your “business” pages.
3.) Read Up on Social Media Daily
One of the most difficult things about the social media industry is that it is always changing. However you are used to doing something on Facebook might be history by tomorrow, and you’ll need to learn about the changes quickly. The best way is by having a handful of trusty social media publications you can refer to. I highly suggest subscribing to the following: SmartBrief Social Media, Jeff Bullas, Social Media Examiner, Hubspot Blog, Mashable, and Ragan. (There are several other great publications, but those are my top choices.) Besides being aware of the constant changes, it’s also good to read about social media often so you are aware of what other companies are doing on social media and the successes/failures of their campaigns so you can make the most informed decisions for your company/clients in the future.
4.) Explore Social Media Tools
There are a million social media tools out there, and you should explore them to find which ones work best for you. Social media tools can be used to help you save time, better measure your efforts, find your biggest/best social media advocates, and more. You don’t need to use every single tool (in fact, you shouldn’t) but you should find the ones that work best for you and your goals and learn how to use them. If you do not have the budget to use the tool, try watching the videos or take a demo so you are aware of its capabilities. Then, if the time comes when you do need it or do have the budget, you have an understanding of what options exist. Additionally, having this background knowledge will help you just better understand the social media landscape overall and be able to speak adeptly to these options with a possible employer.
5.) Understand Analytics
Every company or client will want to know the impact of the social media efforts. One of the best ways to show this is by understanding analytics. Get your hands on every analytics training that you can, and work towards getting a Google Analytics certification as well.
6.) Understand PR, Customer Service and Marketing
Social media is closely related to public relations, customer service and marketing, and requires an understanding of each of those fields. If you already have a background in any of the above, that will be extremely helpful for you in a career in social media. If you do not, you will want to do whatever you can to learn the foundations (at minimum) of each. Go to networking events and meet people in those industries, attend workshops, find a mentor, read what you can of those fields, and even consider taking some classes! Most community colleges have relevant courses, or local colleges/universities often offer certificates.
7.) Join Social Media Groups or Meet Ups
Start making connections in the industry and learn from those around you. Look for a professional meet up in your area that other social media managers are attending and go!
8.) Start Your Own Blog
A lot of social media campaigns involve working with bloggers or social influencers. Starting your own blog will not only help you understand the intricacies of setting up a blog and promoting it on social media, but you will understand the blogger’s perspective when partnering with them. Bloggers also tend to bond and form connections with each other, so you will be able to build authentic blogger-to-blogger connections with them that will only help you when reaching out to them about collaboration with your company or client.
So there you have it! There are many more tips that could be added to the list, but the eight listed above are a great place to start. And for my last tip? Even if you become a social media expert, never call yourself a social media “guru”. Please.