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Advice / Job Search / Finding a Job

How to Break Into Social Media & Community Management

With social media and community management being such a new field, navigating a career in it can be challenging. Is having an awesome personal social media presence enough to show expertise? If you spend all day on Twitter, is this the right gig for you?

Well, if you have a passion for building community and connections, you may just be on the right path. We talked to two women who made it into the field and got their advice on what it takes to be an (employed) social media rock star. Check out their interviews, then see if you can find a gig for yourself!)


Elizabeth Presson, Social Media and Community Management Strategist

Company: Digi International

Years of Professional Experience: 4

Brief Description of Job: I look at all of a company’s interactions or touch points with users and potential users (or customers and potential customers) and I ensure that they are delivering the best community experience possible. Community experience means the way someone feels when he or she interacts with a brand, system, service, or other person. This could mean creating valuable content, optimizing engagement on social channels, or even making people feel inspired when they get their hands on the product for the first time.


Why did you choose this field?

In college, I was the advertising manager for a newspaper. With the economic downturn in full swing, we had to think of ways to make up for lost revenue. My clients were asking about Facebook and this new thing called Twitter, and I thought that it was the perfect opportunity to sell knowledge and strategies on social media channels. We sold this alongside ads and pitched it as a two-punch way to create a feeling or experience with students.

Since then, no matter what my official job has been, I’ve made it my mission to create a very specific experience for customers or potential customers. That experience can be on social media, but it also extends to other touch points like email marketing, events, and user experience. I’ve expanded my niche in social media to focus more on community experience.


What did you want to do growing up?

I’ve always wanted to be a CEO—a CEO who puts experience first. That’s why I care so much about my job today. If you can’t create an awesome and unique experience from the first touch point with people, you’ve lost them forever.


What was your first job in this field, and how did you land it?

While my heart was set on working for a large PR firm, I knew that experience trumped a gap on my resume between my internship and first job. So, I applied for many seemingly random positions. I knew that if I kept helping people for free while applying, going to networking events, and networking online that eventually I would work my way into a job. I heard about the open position through an event, and within a matter of days, I was starting my first job.

I was hired to work for an interactive agency. My first day of work, the founder called me into his office and asked me, "How would you like to be a part of something bigger?" Of course I said yes, and when I did he told me about an idea he had. Then, he handed me a piece of graph paper and told me to draw what that idea would look like if brought to life on the internet. Little did I know, I was drawing wireframes for what would be the earliest version of the company's social media management system. Two and half years later, our small team of what was then three had turned that piece of graph paper into a $2.5 million business.


What has been the most surprising thing about working your field?

What’s most surprising to me is that we’re still in a place where the importance of social media and community management often needs to be sold to stakeholders. It’s incredible to me that many C-suite executives are still trying to wrap their heads around the fact that the way people communicate has changed. The playing field has been leveled, and the companies that know how to create the best experiences will win. That’s the most surprising and most challenging part of my job, but it’s often the most rewarding, when people see how it can impact the business.


What advice would you have for someone breaking into your field?

Even if your previous job titles don’t say it—even if you have no job experience at all—if you inherently love people and connection, then you do have experience in community building. You just need to uncover those skills and position yourself as the community builder that you are.


What is different about the hiring process in your field than in other fields?

Usually when companies are hiring for social media or community management, they’re not quite sure what they want or need. They may list “5 years of relevant experience” in the qualifications section, but who’s to say what relevant experience is? You have the opportunity to position yourself to help them understand what they want. A new field like this is an opportunity for newcomers to shine.


What industry-specific job search resources would you recommend for job seekers in your field?

First and foremost, your own network. If you don’t have the people you need in your network, use social media and in-person events to connect with new people! I’ve found that all it takes it an ask. I’ve received help and advice from mentors that I thought I’d only dream of interacting with. You’d be surprised at how willing people are to help.


Manisha Marberry, Account Supervisor

Company: VaynerMedia

Years of Professional Experience: 5+

Brief Description of Job: I manage the day-to-day of accounts both internally and externally to ensure brand and agency objectives are being met. The day usually starts off with me checking in with each team member to ensure we are aligned the agenda for the day, followed by numerous meetings for brainstorming, content creation, and creative briefing. I also spend a lot of my day researching the latest and greatest in social media.


Why did you choose this field?

My greatest passion in life is forming relationships. Whether building personal relationships of my own or connecting others, I believe in the power of having a strong network. Social media embraces this mentality and fosters environments where these types of interactions thrive.

It wasn’t long ago that when people would meet at networking events, they would connect afterward via e-mail or phone call. But social media allows people to keep the conversation going and build deeper, ongoing relationships with those they meet. Additionally, the wide range of social platforms allows people to use what works best for them.


What did you want to do in college?

My first year at the University of Oregon, I was studying pre-medicine in hopes of a career in pediatrics or psychiatry. I knew that I wanted to work in a field that encouraged interaction and engagement with other people.

It wasn’t long before I realized that my true calling was within the world of communications. I found myself constantly thinking about why people do what they do, decide what they decide, and buy what they buy. At that time in my academic career, Facebook had just launched and the idea of managing social communities as a profession was unheard of, so I studied both psychology and business in hopes of pursuing a career in marketing.


What was your first job in this field, and how did you land it?

It happened out of the blue. Working in account management at a youth marketing agency, I was asked if I had any interested in managing the agency’s social presence. This was based solely on how I managed my personal profiles.

Within months, there was a major shift in the marketing industry and brands were starting to look toward social media to drive brand love and drive users to action. I saw this as an excellent opportunity to explore what I believed would be the next big thing (and it was!).


What has been the most surprising thing about working your field?

The most surprising thing is how many people and how many companies claim to offer social media capabilities. From traditional media shops to PR firms, from social media “gurus” to “ninjas,” everyone is trying to get a piece of the social media action.

Buyers beware: Make sure your social partners truly understand, live, and breathe it. It’s one thing to apply new tactics to old models. It’s an entirely different thing to pioneer the models and practices of the future.


What advice would you have for someone breaking into your field?

Always be genuine, authentic, and do your best to stay on top of the trends. The world of social media is ever-evolving, so it is important to always keep up to speed on best and next practices.

Additionally, make sure to keep your own personal social networks polished at all times. Showcasing how passionate you are about social media through your own networks will go far and make a great impression.

Finally—be bold! Tweet at an industry executive you respect. Contact the leadership of a company you admire. If there isn’t a job opening listed, you may be able to create one!


What industry-specific job search resources would you recommend for job seekers in your field?

There are a lot of great resources out there. Two of my favorites include the job search section on Mashable and @socialmediajobs on Twitter.


Photo of woman on laptop courtesy of Shutterstock.