Whether you're just getting started in the job market, or changing careers, what does it take to get a job in social media? We ask the experts.

Working in social media is the dream job for a lot of people: working in an ever-changing, digital environment, in a creative space where your job involves inventing memes and viral videos while having a laugh with your customers online. But there’s often a lot more to working in social media than meets the eye, so getting a job in social media can be very competitive.

I talk to industry experts about just what it takes to get a job in social media today.

Related: Social Media Job Interview: The 12 Curliest Questions Answered

Wearing many hats

Working in social media means that you need to wear many hats and understand a lot of industries – and it’s most certainly not just posting memes!

When you craft a single Facebook post, you need to be a good copywriter, understand your audience, understand your brand voice and anticipate your community response (whether that is to create conversation to reach your engagement targets – or to prevent a crisis). And that’s not even including having sharp graphic design skillsif you’ve got images in your post.

Julie Delaforce, GM of Quiip, says “You need to understand marketing, advertising … customer service and PEOPLE.”

Love the spreadsheet

While social media involves being creative with content and a people-person, learning to love the spreadsheet and reading data is becoming more and more important because data tells the story of what your audience is thinking.
Having the ability to export, read, find patterns in data and analyse those patterns is a really useful skill across digital media roles. And it’s not just your Facebook and Twitter reports – but having an understanding of Google Analytics so you can see your traffic sources and if they are coming from your social media campaigns is essential.
Nicole Jensen, social media specialist, says that “loving both numbers and people” is essential to the role, as is “having an appreciation for both quantitative and qualitative”.
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Be Strategic

Understanding who your audience is and what marketing goals your social media is contributing towards is essential. Having a strategic mindset means that you are working towards a goal in a directed way, and not jumping on the latest thing just because it’s new – it needs to work toward your business goals.
Social networks rise and fall each year, and while being the frontrunner on a new social network can look awesome if you are on the next big one – but it can just as often be a waste of time and resources if you’re on one that doesn’t maintain momentum to scale (Google Plus, Vine, Foursquare, both new and old Myspace – are a few that tried and didn’t gain traction).
Jenni Beattie, social media specialist, says “Understand the basics of marketing, not getting obsessed with shiny objects all the time, learning a good range of tools is critical and starting at the bottom and learning all the way.”

Get hands on

It’s hard to get a job in an industry without practical skills – whether you’re fresh out of uni or retraining. Even if you don’t work for a company in social media already, start practising your skills in the real world because so much of social media is learnt on-the-job.
Julie Delaforce says, “Create a portfolio of dummy examples showcasing your knowledge of those things. Work for some small businesses to get hands-on experience. Be willing to start at the bottom in a non-social job in the right industry and make a move from there.”
While there are courses to teach hands-on social media skills, Nicole Jensen shares, “industry knowledge is still very much the norm. Volunteer if you have to, but pitch and be sincerely passionate.”
Volunteering for not-for-profits, or taking internships are a great way to build up your experience base – but what is key is that you show to potential employers that you are eager to learn.
The reality is that social media is not an industry where you can ‘learn it’ once and then do the job for the next decade. The industry changes every day, with big shifts happening every few months where you need to drop the approaches you’ve been using for years and try something completely different that no one has done before in order to adapt to the changing environment.
The ability to research, explore, test, hypothesise, draw results from your tests are essential – because in social media, you are often enough put in a position where you are creating something brand new that has never been tried or tested. So experimenting, and making assumptions based data (not gut feelings) is important. Showing you can be innovative while being strategic, is a killer combo.

What are the key lessons?

What are the key lessons we’ve got from our specialists? Let’s recap.
Start from the bottom – there are a lot of essentials skills learnt on the job that you only gain from hands-on experience
Practice, practice, practice – volunteer, intern, help out a mate with their social. Practice, test, learn in the real world. Be a scientist in your work.
Keep learning – social changes regularly, so keep up to date. Whether it’s being part of a Facebook Group, studying online courses or just keeping up with the social media news each week – keep abreast of the changes
Love people and love data – social media is a beautiful mix of art and science. You need to love people and creating content – but also appreciate the depth data can tell you about people.
Any other tips for how to get into social media? Feel free to share them in the comments!


About Rachel Beaney

Rachel Beaney is an Australian freelance social media specialist with over a decade in digital media. She’s worked with global names like Microsoft, Samsung, News Corp and General Assembly, in addition to not-for-profits and government bodies. She loves helping clients solve their business needs with creative and data-driven solutions. Get in touch today to jump on a free consultation call to find out how Rachel can help you.