Social media is occupying a growing place of importance in brand strategies, with 63% of CMOs saying it will soon be the most important way of reaching customers. As a result, CMOs are looking to increase social media spending to 21.4% of the marketing budgets in that time. Therefore, a social media job is an exciting career option and looks set to remain one for some time. But as those social media budgets go up, employers will want more from their prospective employees than the ability to just send an amusing Tweet (although that’s a plus). So how does a potential applicant stand out?
We’ve spoken to a mix of professionals who are either working in social media at major brands, or are responsible for hiring people into those roles. Whether you’re looking to join them, improve your own abilities, or hire your own social media specialist, these are some highly informed opinions to take on board.
Think Bigger Than Social
The modern social media professional needs to have an understanding of how their work can be applicable outside social channels, and what it means to the wider business.
“Too many candidates are just users of social media, the ones who stand out have the passion to take that user experience further and to apply it to business goals, to set strategies that work alongside other platforms, and have a keenness to test and learn! You need a good understanding of business objectives and how social media can play a role in this. This includes thinking beyond social media, such as how can it tie into PR, to digital, to traditional media.”
Pollyanna Ward, Digital & Social Media Manager, Mondelēz International
Show You Can Think From The Company’s Perspective
Every company needs to have something that stands out about them, and a way to communicate that to their audience. On your first day (or during your application) your idea doesn’t need to be perfect, but by researching the company, its competitors, and its industry you should be able to think of an angle that sets them apart in their field.
“Talk to companies about what their potential USSP could be – Unique Social Selling Point. The social world has become a very noisy space, and a lot of the time, companies are talking about the same thing (retail is a great example of this). Do your research and propose ideas about what their USSP could be based on your findings. Once you’re in the role, you’ll be able to fine tune your thinking.”
Lisa Maynard-Atem, Social Media Manager, Harrods
Experience & Knowledge Can Trump A Degree
A good education will work in your favour, but if you don’t have a degree in marketing or communications then don’t think your social media career is over. Social media can also require mathematical ability, problem solving, art and design, video editing, and knowledge of the brand’s industry. All of these skills can provide you with an angle to enter a social media role, where you can develop other skills to bring to a larger role further down the line.
“A lot of people ask me what degree they should do, but I don’t think there’s one correct answer. Sure, some may give you a flair in certain areas, but with so many aspects to the job your experience will soon count for so much more. This can be combined with regularly consuming high quality content from industry professionals, news sources, or service providers, which will help you build an industry-specific knowledge base.”
Bernado Donkor, Social Media Analyst, Microsoft
Bring Ideas, And How To Implement Them
There’s no point hiring an applicant who has no fresh thoughts on what the company could be doing. Moreover, they need to have a solid grasp on what’s required to activate the results of these creative bursts.
“When I hire for a social role at Airbnb, I’m looking for; Creativity, so when there is a new project or technology they can spin up 50 ideas in 5 mins. Entrepreneurship; so they test and learn what works and have a passion for making their ideas reality. And finally Storytelling; because everything we do is about understanding people, building human relationships and expressing emotions – all of which need a brilliant storyteller to capture attention for the right reasons.”
Holly Clarke, EMEA Marketing Manager, Airbnb
Social media platforms are still fast moving mediums, with best practices sometimes evolving quickly. The ability to move with the times is more valuable in the long-term than mastery of one specific platform.
“When hiring candidates the two traits I look for are openness to learn and develop new skills, and an innate passion in the business. Platforms will come and go – products and features within them will refine – a skill needed throughout is the hunger to be curious and inquisitive about what is possible. Being able to then translate brand messages into the community with an authentic voice is essential to establish trust and a strong relationship with the fans.”
Sean Meehan, 2015 Rising Star Of The Year, The Drum Marketing Awards
Know The Platforms, Know The Differences
The distinctions between social platforms are rapidly becoming a key factor in how brand messages and content are communicated. Social professionals need to know how to optimise their posts to fit the platform.
“When looking for anyone to join my digital communications team, a successful candidate will have a strong grasp of digital video and understand how it should be packaged and tailored to suit different platforms and social networks. They must also love sport and understand that brands must have different tones of voice across various platforms (including social networks) to ensure they connect with the different audiences who use them. It is old-fashioned and frankly lazy to always put the same content in exactly the same form on all your social channels. You must tailor your content to suit the platform and audiences engaging with them.”
Mark Gilbert, Head of Digital Communications, The Football Association
Don’t Think In A Silo
Every company has its stories, and a social media professional won’t find them without establishing a solid understanding of the wider company. Demonstrating that this is something you’re aware of, or even highlighting previous stories and ideas to communicate them, will show that you’re thinking about social’s role with other areas of the business.
“For social media pros in the corporate space, the most important skill to have is the ability to work across the business. Keep up to speed on everything that might be going on and to ensure that all the buried stories that will exist are allowed to come to the fore using your social channels or advocacy programme.”
Keith Lewis, Social Media Manager, Zurich
Want The Right Social Media Job? Get The Right Attitude
Technical skill is important, but there will be some companies that can hone those skills and provide training. The ideal applicant will bring personal traits that can’t be taught.
“At Social Chain, we look for passionate, bright, enthusiastic people. It’s all about attitude and commitment to our cause over knowledge and experience. We’re in an ever changing landscape; there’s always a new update, platform or trend, so the right attitude is essential. We can teach you the rest.”
Lucy Clarke, Marketing Director, Social Chain
Keep Building Your Skill set
As a mature medium of communication, social media roles encompass a wide mix of skills, and will likely continue to grow in that respect for the foreseeable future. Don’t sit on the skills you have, building them now will prepare you for your next role.
“The ability to wear many hats is of vital importance. The days when you specialised in one area for many professions are over, and nowhere is this more evident than in the social world. A social role will require you to be many things. Be willing to embrace this and see it is an opportunity to acquire new skills.”
Lisa Maynard-Atem, Social Media Manager, Harrods
Taking note of these points will help you become, or identify, the ideal candidate for a top social media role. Take note of them before an interview or application and you’ll be on your way to getting the best possible result. What are some other facets that you think make an ideal social media professional in 2016? Leave your comments below.