Social media is trendy (even if it’s useful). Large companies have positions and even entire departments dedicated to engaging customers on social media. The University of Michigan recently hired a social media director for a cool $100,000 salary.
People like me, who enjoy, understand and effectively utilize social media, dream about a gig that lets us engage with stakeholders via social media full-time. For many of us, the thought of analyzing those interactions, matching them to key business metrics (in the case of higher education—applications and enrollment) and making flashy reports sounds almost as good as a European vacation (hey, I said almost).
In reality, there aren’t a lot of those jobs out there. Unless you work for an agency, or a large organization with customers spread across the country or world, there likely isn’t support for a full-time social media strategist. The more likely scenario is a position in marketing and/or communications that incorporates social media. Or, for my friends in higher education, a position in admissions, advising, or student activities that incorporates social media.
I’ve had a daily search running on higheredjobs.com for months, seeking only the keyword “social media.” In all that time, I think I’ve seen 3-5 positions posted that focused solely on social media. More often than not, the positions are in marketing/communication, admissions/recruitment, or teaching. Social media isn’t just something one person does. It’s part of a larger strategy of communication and customer relationship management.
Social media strategy is a job skill, not a career path.
Do you know any email specialists? Billboard-buying managers? Comment card coordinators? Probably not. Each of these communication functions are a part of a position that fulfills a larger objective, such as communication, advertising or customer service.
Professionals and job seekers would be well-served to develop skills in social media use for businesses. However, this should not be done at the expense of developing your core professional expertise. The key is to understand the role social media can play in the job you already have (or want to have). How does it help you connect with customers or prospects? What goals should have related to social media? How does your use of social media integrate with others in your company using the technology? How do you assess your progress towards objectives? If you can answer these questions, you’ve gained a valuable job skill.
Olivier Blanchard (The BrandBuilder) said it well in his blog post about hiring a social media director:
Before you can be a Social Media Director within a Marketing department, you first have to be a Marketing Director. Before you can be a Social Media Director in a PR department, you first have to be a PR Director. Same with HR, Business Development, IT, etc. See where I am going with this? An individual with “extensive” Social Media experience (please forgive my liberal use of the term “extensive”) cannot function at the Director level without prior experience at that level outside of “Social Media.”
So, suffice it to say, I can predict with a fair level of confidence that I will not become a social media director. Don’t get me wrong—it’s definitely one of my dream jobs—but a large portion of college campuses operate with a skeleton crew for marketing and communication. There’s no room (or funding) to add a social media director. Until my dream comes true I plan to be able to add “social media strategy and management” as a bullet under every job title on my resume. If your job includes interacting with people, there’s room for social media. It may not be all that you do, but it’s an integral part.
How are you using social media in your current position? Do you feel this skill makes you a more marketable job candidate?