This is an article from Briana Myricks, freelance writer and social media specialist (one of the fastest growing careers according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics).
You guys may remember that Briana as the blogger who came to my defense during the Suze Orman dust up. She was really instrumental in rallying the financial blogging community (using social media, none the less) in bringing awareness to the issue.
I’m excited to have her share her story here today. Here’s Briana…
If you don’t have a Facebook account or refuse to become a Twitter person, you still have more than likely heard about these two websites.
They’re called social networks, and the amount of members on each one rivals the population of many small countries.
Both have been described as addicting, great for keeping in touch, even better for making connections.
They have also been considered a time sink, and the cause of a drop in productivity in the workplace. Your boss comes by, you quickly minimize the tab. You’re always connected because the apps are on your phone.
You get the latest news from it, you share your personal news with it. I just so happen to make a living from them both.
The Rise of Social Media
Social media isn’t necessarily new, but it is quite certainly a phenomenon that has swept not only the nation, but the entire world. MySpace is the first social network to really bring things mainstream, with even television news reporters talking about it.
Now, when you turn on the news, each station usually tells you where to find them on Facebook (by the way, you can find PT Money on Facebook). Watching TV shows has become an event where you can tweet about it using a special hashtag. Social media isn’t just fun, it’s a business all its own.
I’m a Social Media Specialist
My job title is Social Media Specialist. While this is my second full time social media position, I’ve had over 12 social media internships, and have been a freelance Social Media Coordinator since 2010. My friends and family members turn green with envy when they find out I get paid (handsomely, I might add) to do what they do in their spare time. So how did I get into it?
It started off with one of my first internships in 2009 with a career services company geared towards college students. Since our target demographic was college students, and social networks were where they hung out, I was tasked with connecting to students of universities across the country through Facebook and Twitter.
Incorporating social media into a business strategy was fairly new then, but I did as much research as possible to learn how other companies were doing it. It was also nice that because I was already on Facebook and Twitter, I had the mindset of a regular user, and had a pretty good idea what would work and what wouldn’t.
My Social Media Career
From there, things snowballed. I looked specifically for social media related internships with various companies, many of them small that had a loyal following, but wanted to spread the word more. Some companies wanted me to tweet and post on Facebook for them, because a lot of the business owners either didn’t have time, or simply didn’t know where to start.
I found people who had interests similar to the companies, engaged in quality conversation, scheduled updates to go out throughout the day and week, and slowly but surely grew their following. They were happy and so was I.
Social Media Careers Are Still Being Defined
One thing with being a Social Media Specialist (or Coordinator, or Manager, or Director) is that your job position will vary depending on the company and their needs. Two positions at two different companies may have the same title but rarely have the same duties.
At my current job, I assist small businesses in creating their Facebook business pages, by including their business info, photos, and videos.
The other part of my team schedules updates or “tips” to go out on the page, so the client doesn’t have to do it for them. At my previous job, as a Social Media Coordinator, I shared our content on our blogs to different social networks (Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Tip’d, PF Buzz, Facebook, and Twitter) while also connecting with bloggers on those sites, encouraging readers and bloggers to follow our brand.
One thing many of these positions have in common is the knowledge of social networks and how to use them as a marketing tool. It’s not enough to tell potential employers “I have a Facebook page” or “I’m on Twitter all the time”. More than likely, they’re going to be using social media as a marketing tool, so you have to have experience with this.
You’ll want to prove that you can build the brand’s following, encourage followers and fans to click through to the company’s website, or even do damage control in the event of a PR crisis.
How Much Can You Make as a Social Media Specialist?
Social media jobs pay a pretty nice rate as well. Obviously, most of my internships were unpaid, but the nice thing was, because all the work was done online, most of the positions were also telecommute, meaning I was able to work from home, or Starbucks, or anywhere I could connect my laptop to wifi.
My first full time job as a Social Media Coordinator, I was earning $16/hour. As a freelance coordinator, I charged clients $15/hour to manage their online profiles.
Finding a Social Media Job
I found most of my jobs through word of mouth, or referrals. Someone usually knows someone who knows someone who heard about Facebook but doesn’t understand why walls are now timelines and don’t get them started about twittering (it’s tweeting, but they’ll tell you who cares).
So they bring up my name, send them my info, and we talk about what they’re looking for and how I can be of service.
Obviously, if it’s someone who’s an individual brand or a small company, more than likely, I won’t need to spend 40 hours/week working on their social media things. However, the larger the company, the more time that goes into managing things.
Social Media Tools of the Trade
As a Social Media Specialist, my number one resource is usually the site itself. If it’s Twitter they need, I need the website up. If it’s Facebook I need, I need that page up as well.
However, when dealing with more than one account or client, I’ve found that my very best friend is Hootsuite, a social media dashboard that allows you to manage more than one account through one site, including scheduling updates and viewing more than one column of information at a time.
I’ve also used TweetDeck, CoTweet, and SocialOomph. Hootsuite, however, is my favorite.
Social Media Client Challenges
Social media is the opposite of easy though. One of my biggest challenges has been getting my clients to explain what’s going on. They may be frustrated that they don’t have 1,000 followers after 1 week, when their account started off with 3.
I have to explain to them what I’m doing, the methods (not shady tactics) I’m incorporating to yield quality, long lasting results, and somehow have to set a schedule.
Social media happens during all times of the day or night, not just during business hours. So when I was scheduling updates, I’d schedule them during peak times when I knew other people would be online.
I’d also ensure that I was able to have conversations with followers to let them know it’s not just a robot on the other end.
Some clients think they know what they want or what they’re doing, but I’ve come across some who swear they knew what they wanted and wouldn’t take “no” for an answer, no matter how impossible it truly was.
Getting Into the Social Media Scene and Loving It
All in all, I absolutely love my job. I had no intentions of getting into social media as a way to make money, but it happened that way anyways. My original path was to go into marketing and public relations, but it just so happened that social media sort of took over both of those fields, and I just sort of fell into it along the way.
Even when I’ve tried to distance myself from it, that’s where my experience lies, and that’s where I excel because I have the experience. I can’t complain though.
For someone looking to get into the social media field as a side job or even a career, my first advice is to take a volunteer gig or internship. The paying jobs are looking for people who have the experience, so you have to start somewhere.
SimplyHired.com is currently showing 59,536 jobs available using the keyword “social media”.
Once you build up some skills, confidence, and a portfolio of sorts (always save the URLs of the accounts you’ve worked on), search for freelance gigs for people looking for a short-term social media project, or a small business needing a social presence.
If you notice your favorite local bakery has great reviews on Yelp but they’re not on Facebook and Twitter, offer to help them out. Once you have a nice amount of experience, then start off as a side hustle. Charge people a competitive rate (research the starting salary for a Social Media Coordinator in your area), and market yourself to anyone you think may need your help. From there, you can either continue to build your business, or start applying for bigger companies for a full time position.
I’ll see you all in the Twitterverse or Facebook world!
Image by greyweed