Social Media Career Guide: What You Can Do And Where You Can Do It.

Demand for employees with social media skills has increased with many new possibilities:

  • McKinley Marketing Partners reports the top in-demand skill is digital marketing including social media skills.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has made social media more important.
  • CMO Survey found social media spending increased from 13% to 23% of marketing budgets in 2020.
  • Marketers say they plan to keep that increase in 2021.
Social Media Jobs Are Growing
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

Social media has gone from one person’s side job to full-time and specialized positions within companies and in marketing communications firms. Click To Tweet Below is a guide to help you consider the different roles that may match your interest and skills and work environment you prefer.

Social Media Strategy Jobs

Social media strategists plan a social media strategy, ensuring it connects to larger objectives and integrates marketing, advertising, and public relations. Strategists utilize tools like social media audits to improve social media content and measure performance to report results to management. Social media marketing managers are more action oriented with creating and executing social media strategy for overall brand presence and specific campaigns. At larger organizations people under them help with implementation and day-to-day tasks. At smaller organizations social media managers may also implement the strategy they manage.

Social Media Engagement Jobs

Some roles are more on the front lines of social media. Social media community managers foster social media communities built around a brand. They monitor and respond to conversations across social media platforms or are assigned to specific social networks. Social media coordinators plan, implement, and monitor a brand’s social media strategy working with content creators, internal departments, and external partners to measure and improve performance. Social media specialists focus on implementation of social media strategy, writing copy for social posts, scheduling social content, and tracking KPIs while staying up to date on the latest trends.

Social Media Content Creation Jobs

Other social media roles are focused on creating social content. Social media copywriters plan, create, and analyze channel-specific brand social media written content, build content calendars, write brand guidelines, and find internal and external sources for content. Social media graphic designers create and maintain visual brand assets and find and create appropriate images and graphics for various social media channels. Social media video specialist capture, edit, and produce videos for brand assets and specific social media channels.

Social Media Specialists Jobs

Some social media roles are oriented toward more specialized areas. Influencer relations managers identify, build, and manage relationships with celebrity, macro, and micro influencers to create and share brand social media content. Social media analysts focus on social media measurement developing systems, processes, and reporting to gather and analyze social metrics to make better decisions and optimize strategies, tactics, and content. A journalist social media content developer uses journalism skills to promote news brands or create news-style content for corporate brands in social media.

Besides specific social media roles, there are various types of organizations within which social media professionals can work. The CMO Survey reports that 3/4ths of social media activities are performed inside a company and 1/4th are performed by outside agencies. Click To Tweet What are the options for outside agencies?

Marketing Communications Firms

Many marketers and brand managers hire outside communications firms to create and execute their integrated marketing communications campaigns. Some firms have changed over the years to call themselves integrated marketing communications agencies. Yet, they traditionally have come from companies focused on advertising and public relations. Both disciplines and agencies have increased their social media services over the years and thus require social media specialists.

Advertising agencies are hired by marketers to create, produce, and manage paid commercial messages through TV, outdoor, ratio, print, digital, and social marketing to promote products and services. Ad agencies can be hired to produce a single ad campaign or may be agency of record for a brand, providing multiple integrated services in an ongoing relationship. As a brand partner they provide strategy, implementation, and measurement. Today, any position in an advertising agency is required to have digital and social media knowledge and there are many specific social media positions.

Public relations agencies are hired by marketers to create, produce, and manage unpaid messages to the public through media to change public actions by influencing opinions. PR agencies often provide services to their clients such as strategy development, messaging, media relations, content marketing, social media marketing, event planning, crisis communication, and influencer relations. Today, social media is seen as the number one skill required for public relations new hires.

Specialized Agencies

In 2019 digital media ad spending surpassed traditional media for the first time. With digital representing 54% of all US ad spending the growth in digital marketing specialized agencies as followed suit. There are digital marketing agencies that include social media services and social media agencies that focus on social media strategy and implementation.

Digital marketing agencies are hired by marketers to create, produce, and manage brands through digital media including website, mobile, and digital ads to promote products and services. Digital agencies often focus on services such as website design and development, apps, search engine optimization, search and display advertising, social media and email marketing, content creation, online lead generation, plus mobile apps and campaigns. With the increase in social media spending digital agencies are increasing their social media services and hiring more social media specific roles.

Social media agencies are hired by marketers to create, produce, and manage the presence of a brand through social media channels such as social networks, messaging apps, blogs and forums, podcasts, ratings, and reviews. Social media agencies focus on social media strategy, content creation, community management, paid social advertising, influencer engagement, social listening, measurement and monitoring, promotions, and crisis management. They have grown into significant companies with many employees in physical offices or through virtual collaboration.

Social Media Self Employment

There is also a growing option where social media professionals work for themselves. Social media freelancers provide the services of specific social media roles on a project or campaign rather than as a full-time employee. This could also be called a social media solopreneur. A solopreneur is an entrepreneur who runs a business without full-time employees. This often means working virtually from home with more flexibility in your schedule.

Companies or Organizations

Many social media positions today are hired in-house at the company or organization, working directly in or with the marketing department. The marketing department in an organization promotes the business and drives sales of products and services. This could be a separate social media role or within an in-house marketing communications department. A social media professional at a company could also be housed in the corporate communications department which manages a company’s reputation and develops communications plans with stakeholders.

Some companies create a separate social media department that works with other departments including marketing, communications, sales, customer service, and human resources to plan and implement cross-discipline social media strategies. Finally, journalists could be hired for social media content developer roles for news organizations.

The great opportunity with social media positions within companies or organizations is to marry your social media skills with your passion for another field. Click To Tweet Perhaps you love sports. You could look for social media jobs at sports teams, leagues, college athletic departments, or e-sports brands. Or perhaps you are into fashion. You could look for social media positions at fashion brands or fashion retailers. No matter your interest, from cars and tech to health and nonprofit causes, brands in that field need social media professionals.

Which position and type of organization are you best suited for?

To get better idea of specific responsibilities and opportunities:

What Do We Do With Out-Of-Date Advertising Professors?

What Do We Do With Out-of-Date Advertising Professors?” was a recent article in the trade journal Advertising Age by small advertising agency owner Marc Browstein. He made a lot of good points making the case that colleges need to find ways to offer a more state-of-the-art experience for undergraduates. Graduates tell him, “they learned more in a single summer internship in an agency than in four years in college.” Students also tell him, “classes promise integrated marketing while delivering insights about only traditional tactics.” Still more students complain, “subjects like mobile marketing aren’t even offered at their schools.” Professors have grown out of touch so agencies are left to spend valuable resources teaching new hires what they should’ve learned in college.

As a professor who only just recently left the professional field I can see both sides of this issue. I am not too far from professional practice to forget, yet I’ve been teaching long enough to know the issues and environment of universities and academia. Mark really plays up the importance of Internships and his connection to the C0-op program at Drexel University (looks like an excellent program – one of the first founded in 1919).

I am personally grateful for internship opportunities and Mark because he gave me my first copywriting internship at Brownstein Group almost 20 years ago (ouch that hurt to say). I was an enthusiastic, yet naive undergrad at Temple University in the advertising program. They took the time to give me that valuable hands on experience. After 17 years in the business as a copywriter and creative director and teaching part-time in the Temple Advertising Department and the graduate IMC program at West Virginia University I now teach full-time in the Center for Leadership Education at Johns Hopkins University.

My plan is to remain current and since joining the university I have launched courses such as Social Media Marketing and Blogging, Online Copywriting that cover among other things mobile marketing. This spring I am publishing an Ad Age White Paper on Social Media Integration. I follow trade journals and ad leaders on Twitter and write a blog (this blog) about new developments in marketing and advertising.

Our center has a vibrant internship program and an upper level class that creates integrated campaigns for real clients as our students compete with other universities in a new business pitch situation. Our intersession class gives students an intense week of professional guest speakers followed by tours of top New York Advertising, PR and Media firms. We focus on hiring professors with significant professional experience, but also supplement with part-time professors who are current working professionals.

My hope is to stay current through research, lifelong learning and continuing to freelance and consult. I will also always teach from a case study method, giving “real life” project based assignments. I also teach graduate classes where 90% of my students are working professionals – this keeps me learning as I teach them. But like anything in life different programs and professors will have different strengths and weaknesses.

A big issue to consider is that most professors on the tenure track must conduct research and publish in peer review academic journals. This can take a lot of time and effort. Most professionals don’t read these journals (for one reason we speak different languages) and professors looking to get promoted don’t get credit for trade publications or continuing to gain practical experience.

Another issue is that many PhDs don’t have the practical experience because they choose academic careers at a young age instead of professional. This is not a bad thing, we need these types of people as well – many of the principles and strategies we take for granted were developed by academics, who have the time and perspective to think about issues the way professionals don’t. On the other hand, for a professional to give up a high paying career, take an average of over 8 years to get a PhD and then get a teaching job that pays a lot less doesn’t make sense or isn’t even possible.

These may sound like a lot of excuses, but that is the reality of the system. Fortunately it is starting to change, but (here comes another excuse) academia moves much slower than the corporate world. But this isn’t just a problem in the marketing field. In a recent survey by The Chronicle of Higher Education half of employers said they had trouble finding graduates qualified to fill positions and criticized bachelor’s-degree holders for lacking basic workplace proficiencies, like adaptability, communication skills, and the ability to solve complex problems.

I hope to work hard to stay current, teach the latest things, keep working freelance and strive to make the education system better. But who knows, maybe I should get on the AEF Visiting Professor Program waiting list now. Oh, and thanks to every agency that takes the time to give undergrads internships and mentor juniors. Industry veteran Sally Hogshead said in another Advertising Age article, “Sadly, there are not enough mentors in the business. Our business squeezes people out at the age of 50 or so. Then we look around and scratch our heads and say, ‘Huh, gosh, why don’t we have any mentors?'” So I am grateful for Mark Brownstein for giving me an internship and taking the time to mentor.