How NOT to Start a Career in Social Media
13 Aug 2014
There are not a lot of topics on which I feel that I am truly an expert, but building a career in social media happens to be one of those topics. You see, in addition to working in online since 1997 (when Mark Zuckerberg was 13 years old), I sort of literally wrote the book on it in 2012: “Starting Your Career as a Social Media Manager” (and if you are one of the ten people who bought the book, thank you). Interestingly enough, one of my kids found the Goodreads reviews of the book (I had never seen them), and they didn’t suck!
Eleanor Pierce’s post in Spin Sucks this morning, “Are You a Certified Social Media Professional?” got me thinking – and worrying – about the future of my craft. In her post, she pointed out that someone found, and alerted her to, a GROUPON deal for a certificate that one can gain as a CERTIFIED social media professional – for the low, low price of $99. That’s probably if you order before midnight tonight. And they’ll throw in a free Flowbee too (extra credit points for ANYONE who knows what a Flowbee was – tell me in the comments).
There is so much wrong with this topic that I don’t know where to start, so without echoing what’s in Eleanor’s informative post, I’ll just add:
- You get what you pay for. I have taught social media at the graduate school level at two universities where my students paid THOUSANDS of dollars for a top-notch education, and many have gone on to be successful in their respective careers – many of which have involved social media. It’s not something that you can get on the cheap, and potential employers will see right through it if you do. Those people with degrees from Georgetown are your competition.
- You can’t just have a lot of followers on Facebook and think that you can walk into a business setting and be successful. Sure, it’s great if you have 1,000 friends, but that does not guarantee that you can give sage counsel to internal nor external clients on how to build a brand, respond to a crisis, or even gather a following for a business. Nope, nope, nope.
- Your professional path can take you many places, but most will have you working with two types of clients: internal and external. A lot of what I talk about in the book and taught in the classroom was not only how to make external clients happy, but how to manage internal clients. You see, there will be inevitable turf wars: IT will want to “own” social media, as will communications, public relations, public affairs, legal, and others. To be an effective social media practitioner, you need to develop a skill set to manage the internal turf battles of who “owns” social media in your workplace.
- You need to have a firm foundation in communications FIRST. Of the dozens of people whom I interviewed for my book, not one of them began his or her career in social media. Their backgrounds were varied (broadcasting, speechwriting, politics, marketing, public relations), but all had one thing in common: they first learned how to craft a message and deliver it to a targeted audience. That’s a fundamental skill set in social media. The magic in NOT in the bright, shiny social media tool, it is in your ability to use that tool to accomplish a communications objective (oh, and measure it as well to prove that you were successful).
I could go on and on (and do in the book – another shameless plug), but please, please beware of snake oil salesmen when it comes to making one of the most important choices of your life – which direction your career will take. People increasingly spend more and more time at work, so it’s more important than ever to make the right choice – and NOT to drink the snake oil that people try to sell you in the form of a “certified social media professional” certificate.