The next time your parents yell at you to get off Tumblr, Twitter, or Pinterest, tell them you’re working on your career.
With the Facebook generation’s first round of college graduates entering the job market, businesses are taking notice of our constant and multifaceted connections to the Internet. In response, a new niche that caters to our tech-savvy skill set is evolving within the corporate world: social media.
Despite being raised on status updates and hashtags, though, collegiettes may still find the ins and outs of an actual career in social media a bit hazy—after all, “Facebook” and “professional” don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand. But if tweeting for your favorite magazine or crafting Facebook posts for a clothing brand sounds ideal, read on for your guide to riding the social media current.
At this point, essentially every well-established business has an online component; the role of social media positions is to increase visibility and the number of ways in which a company’s content can be shared. For recent grads, particularly those of us who have grown up alongside the evolution of social media outlets, the good news amid this economic downturn is the recent boom in this job sphere.
“I think it’s a great time to find a job in social media,” says Hayley Saltzman, social media editor for Seventeen. “Every brand and company wants to have a strong social presence, so there are endless opportunities.”
Saltzman, who majored in communication studies at University of Michigan, manages Seventeen’s Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest accounts and “builds content” (meaning blog posts and contests) for seventeen.com. As the social media editor, she is responsible not only for hourly tweets and four to six Facebook posts per day, but also for updating the magazine’s various media profiles with its current issue’s articles and cover star. In addition, Saltzman develops long-term strategies for linking multiple social platforms to increase the amount of “buzz” generated.
Other jobs, like social media managers and strategists, have similar responsibilities. As in Saltzman’s role, many of these jobs will feature a mix of writing and editing blog and Facebook posts, tweeting, and coordinating various social media platforms in order to present a united front—essentially, cultivating a brand through the same sites that many young adults cultivate a personal image. Common, too, is instigating conversations between fans and subscribers, and the brand for which you’re working.
To keep pace with the evolving environment, most positions in public relations and marketing now have social media savvy as a major component in day-to-day interactions as well, though in these cases the platforms may be used in more specific terms: networking, reigning in a new demographic or clientele, promoting a particular product, etc.
Vicki Salemi, author of Big Career in the Big City and a corporate recruiter, suggests looking at job listing sites like MediaBistro that cater to young professionals interested in the social media sphere. You can get a feel for the types of jobs that are currently opening up, and the majority of postings contain a checklist of qualifications to help you tailor your extracurricular activities and resume.[pagebreak]
The following are the primary players in the social media field. While it’s not necessary to be involved with all of them, you should still be able to navigate them in a successful and efficient manner.
LinkedIn: Allows you to create a professional profile, connect with classmates, peers, and employers, and attract the attention of recruiters. Check out these Her Campus articles on LinkedIn basics and etiquette.
Google+: A social networking and identity site that functions through Google.
Twitter: An information network comprised entirely of 140-character messages (tweets). Here are a few articles from the Her Campus archives that cover who to follow and what not to say.
Facebook: The social networking site that started it all. Share pictures, connect with friends and employers, message, chat, share links, etc.
Tumblr: A network of blogs that allows you to share and re-blog images, videos, music, quotations, links, and written posts. Other users can “follow” your blog, which lets you keep track of your site’s traffic.
Pinterest: A community of virtual pinboards on which users can “pin” images from across the web.
Instragram: A free, image-sharing app that you can download on iPhone and Android phones. Take a picture, apply a filter, and share it on instragram.com as well as other social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.
Kathleen Castro is the assistant director of Hofstra University’s Career Center, and suggests that students majoring in communications, public relations, marketing, even English and journalism, pursue positions for social media editors, managers, and strategists.
Interested collegiettes need developed writing, editing, and critical thinking skills, and a heavy helping of creativity. As Saltzman notes, you can’t compose a successful Facebook post or a tweet without a strong skill base. Necessary, too, are interpersonal skills. Even though a job in social media may seem like the perfect career for someone who prefers computers to people, a huge element of a social media job is to connect and interact with other users. It’s also likely that you’ll be working on a regular basis with members of a PR team to coordinate various initiatives.
And, most importantly, “You obviously want to prove that you’re very socially active/capable,” says Saltzman. “Have a strong social presence. Be on every platform. Learn about all of the new up and coming social platforms.” The best ways to do this are to remain active on the current platforms, and keep an eye on social media job listings. If there’s a new site or program, chances are people will be talking about it on existing ones, and employers will be updating their qualifications.
If you’re still in college, Castro suggests signing up for a position in an organization that allows you to be involved with social media—promoting events, taking ownership of a program’s Facebook page, even organizing and communicating via email will up your chances with potential employers.
Because companies want you to promote their brand, an essential way of illustrating your skills is to market yourself. Consider yourself a “brand,” and conduct yourself online as though handling an assignment for potential employers.
In terms of specific outlets that you should consider necessities, LinkedIn and Twitter top the experts’ lists. “All college students and grads should be on LinkedIn. Build your professional connections from internships to professors to fellow students,” says Salemi. “It will bolster your online resume and it’s a fantastic way to easily keep track of former supervisors to see if they’ve moved onto new employers (more networking, ‘natch).”
Twitter can allow you to follow specific companies or writers, ask for advice, even tweet interviewers a thank you after your meeting. Salemi notes a “job hunt chat” held on weeknights at 10 p.m. ET (follow @cornonthejob for more details). Another handy tool is your “klout score.” By visiting klout.com, you can measure your influence in relation to the networks that you’re active in.
To articulate accomplishments on a resume, simply put the organization name and say, for example, “Maintained Communications Department Facebook,” and mention, in a few sentences, the kinds of activities you did with Facebook; how many times a week you posted, what you posted, whether you increased online traffic, etc. This same structure is also applicable to, for example, a personal blog (so long as its content is something you’d be willing to share with employers). Maintenance, regardless of whether you’re talking about an academic department Facebook page or a blog, is important. If you post something on a daily basis, mention it. Be specific. Everyone applying for a social media job is expected to have experience with platforms; it’s how you utilize them that sets you apart from other applicants.
Another important detail is including your Twitter address on the top of your resume along with the rest of your contact information; a live handle is, at this point, necessary to be considered for a social media position.
The previously unparalleled access to top companies allows students still in college to garner attention for their resumes. Emily Atteberry ’14, a journalism major at Texas Christian University, has been approached for internships by two recruiters on LinkedIn and, after establishing a Twitter rapport with a writer at a major magazine, was offered an internship at their office.
Says Emily, “For me, social media is the perfect way to network with people you wouldn’t have met otherwise. I have made it a point to follow and engage with my favorite writers and news outlets on Twitter, share content related to my industry and build up the best online presence I can. I like to think of my online presence as my brand. I want someone to be able to easily come across my blog or twitter and instantly link to my resume and work samples.”
In Emily’s case, her use of the Internet has landed her several journalism internships, evidence of social media’s increasingly widespread influence, but there are also internships available that focus more exclusively on increasing an online presence.
Saltzman, for example, landed a social media internship after her sophomore year of college. After managing Twitter and Facebook accounts to promote a company’s brand, she returned to school as the social media manager for the communications department, and she applied for opportunities that continued to develop her writing skills and web experience.
The social media market is still in its beginnings and constantly evolving, but our generation is fortunate enough to be growing up alongside it. As Saltzman notes, “Social media is such a new thing that I couldn’t have known I wanted to do this job when I was growing up.”