NOTE: While my career has continued to grow and I am no longer a Director of Social Media (I now own my own marketing agency), I have receive a lot of questions and feedback about this article and the series. As a result, I decided to update all of the articles with a few more details. I hope they help!
When people ask me what I do for a living and I tell them I’m a Director of Social Media for a digital agency, they usually respond with 1 of 2 questions:
1) Does that mean you get to play on Facebook all day?
2) How did you get that job?
While the answer to the first question is simple and a resounding “No!” (see this infographic on A Day In The Life of A Social Media Manager for more on that), the answer to the second question takes a little more time.
So, for those looking to build a career in social media, I thought I might share the story as one example of how to get a job working in social media by using social media.
First Establish Your Area Of Expertise In Communities
Contrary to the popular belief of some, business-focused social media isn’t all about tweeting, posting, or marketing. It isn’t about demographics or profiling or campaigns.
Social media is about people and relationships. It’s about finding ways to get people to share information with you and leverage the information that you share with them.
It’s about conversations, and engagements. Sure, there is some promotional aspects to it and marketing/advertising has definitely become and important aspect, but at the core social media is about people connecting with each other.
For me, my career in this area started in 1998 when I started planning and designing organizational intranets, long before Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook. I spent the first 10 years of my career building organizational intranets that focused on helping employees share their job knowledge with each other.
Tools like knowledge bases, content management systems, enterprise search, blogs and wikis all played critical roles in the development of these systems.
Luckily, I was blessed to work with some very talented individuals who contributed their experience to the intranet projects in areas like corporate security, knowledge management, document management, usability design and identity management. My collaboration with these team members expanded my areas of expertise and helped me expand my understanding of how to bring people together using technology as easily as possible.
The results were award-winning intranets that not only allowed employees to share their work knowledge, but also helped organizations reduce technology costs, serve customers better/faster, and decrease operating costs.
Pro Tip: Find a mentor who recognizes your potential and willingly shares their experience. I was lucky to have several mentors, one of whom I still meet with frequently to share, discuss, and explore the changing industry. Learning from the experience of others is one of the fastest tracks to growth.
Second, Share Your Experiences And Be Ready To Learn From Others In The Industry
While I was busy leading Intranet projects and learning from my team members in my day job (yes…Managers can/should always learn from their team members), I used nights and weekends to capture these experiences and observations on my blog at IntranetExperience.com and on Twitter at @seanrnicholson.
While working as an intranet manager, I shared my experiences on my Intranet Experience blog and on Twitter. My experience with corporate Intranets easily translated to the emerging social media marketing opportunities.
Using my social channels, I was able to engage in some incredible online conversations with industry leaders in Intranets. People like Toby Ward, Carolyn Douglas, Andrew Wright, James Robertson, Jane McConnell, and Mark Morrell just to name a few.
Luckily, these folks also understood the value of social sharing and were willing to contribute their experiences to the conversation via their
blogs and Twitter accounts.
Basically, my social channels expanded my professional knowledge base beyond those located geographically near to me to professionals around the world. Cool, eh?
Let’s be clear, though. Like most of these industry influencers, my time spent building my social channels and the relationships with others in the industry was above and beyond my day job. It was time I was willing to invest meeting others, building relationships, and exploring the opportunities that these new channels offered.
Blogging and tweeting can be an incredibly-rewarding, but it can also be incredibly time-consuming activity, so anyone preparing for a job in social media should be aware of the time requirements involved in building a social portfolio.
Again, it’s definitely not just playing on Facebook all day.
Third, Devote Time To Demonstrate The Benefits Of Social Media To Your Colleagues
Between my day job and my social media activities (aka my “second job”), I decided to use my free time volunteering on the social media committee for my employers.
The goal of the committee was to help develop a social media strategy for the company, provide initial training, and demonstrate how social could help the company improve their business processes. As a member of the committee, I quickly became “that guy” who everyone knew would talk to them about Twitter, tweets, Tweetdeck, YouTube, Bit.ly, Facebook pages, and a host of other terms that were foreign to many.
To some, I was speaking a foreign social media language that was overwhelming, scary, and (at times) irritating. Others, however, were able to see the opportunities in front of us and worked to determine how we could use social both internally and to communicate with our customers.
In the process, I gained a reputation for being both “the intranet guy” and “the social media guy”. Titles I still hold near and dear.
So…how did all this lead to getting a job offer as Senior Manager of Social Media Strategy, and eventually as Director of Social Media?
Check out the next article in the series and I’ll share what I consider to be the most important secret to getting a job in social media.
Have any questions, so far, about my journey in social media? Drop a comment in the comment form below or ask me a question via my contact form.