When people ask me how I “got into social media” they’re always surprised to learn that my journey into the depths of the social sphere actually began before social media had been invented!
In a testament to how quickly technology advanced and information was democratised, only some 17 years ago when I was finishing my undergraduate degree in the late 1990’s – did the start of the digital evolution occur.
Cameras went from using film to storing pictures on small computer disks and the internet became more widely accessible through the bleeps and pings of dial up telephone access. Apple Macs were the size of a small coffee table and we saved our files on a then revolutionary ZIP disk that could hold up to 100MB of data. Email was something you checked once or twice a week and mobile phones were almost small enough to fit in your pocket. And that was all before Facebook was founded in 2004.
Unimpressed by MySpace’s early offerings, it wasn’t until 2008 that I started to embrace Facebook, which was later followed LinkedIn (2009) and Twitter in 2012. The advent of the iPhone and ability to use these social networking apps on it were a big drawcard.
So when did I “get into” or start to use social media professionally? 2010.
I had moved jobs and quickly discovered that a lack of professional development opportunities in my new workplace meant that I had to self-motivate my career goals outside of the public service and learn the skills I needed to remain competitive for promotion in my career. This meant I had to quickly learn about social media. Much to my disappointment, there were no online services or training providers like UpSkilled to assist me on that journey. All I could do was read extensively and put those new found skills into practice by guiding others through the same process as a part-time social media consultant.
Fast forward to today, some seven years, two companies and one book later, and the social media landscape has changed beyond anything I could have imagined back in 2010. Gone are newspapers (literally the ones made of paper) and 9-5 news cycles. Online is now the place to be and social media is your brand newsroom, salesroom and customer service centre.
Great social media strategists and community managers are social media all-rounders. From eCommerce to social media marketing; customer relationship management and digital media production – traditional public relations and communications roles that are not filled by social media professionals now need to know everything from how Facebook’s pixel is used to remarket and retarget, through to deciphering social data and insights.
So – if you are pursuing a career in social media, here are my top 3 tips:
- Be a GREAT communicator first. Learn how to be an amazing storyteller. On social media, you need to take your audience on one great adventure after another. Listen to your social media audiences with the intent of really engaging. Be helpful, be smart and be bold. Cultivate skills that will give you the ability to quickly risk assess social chatter and deliver the right response.
- Learn to love data. Social media and big data give you so many insights into your audience to enable you communicate with them better. Use this information wisely and strategically – it’s your superpower amongst an industry where many people are scared of “data.” If you’re not using your social and big data to drive social success, you’re flying blind.
- Upskill now and never stop learning. Social networks will evolve and you need to evolve with them. Do a short course every year. Attend as many professional development events as you can.
Social media is in a state of constant evolution BUT having core communication skills and qualifications (and updating those skills regularly) is the key to a success social media career.