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Want to work in social media? Here’s 10 things you need to know

Having “social media” in your job title sounds exciting, doesn’t it? You may think “this sounds like a trendy career” or “it’s gotta be a lot of fun”, and it really is. Social media jobs expose you to a range of people, allow you to be creative and lets you communicate in a unique way.

If this is a job you’re interested in, it’s important to know exactly what’s in store. It’s not an easy ride but it’s worth it.

1. Digital skills are becoming more common, but you’ll still know best

Brooklyn Nine-Nine characters Amy and Rosa. Amy looks disapproving while Rosa says "Your entire life is garbage"
Let your professional knowledge shine through…but maybe be nice about it.

People in a range of industries are developing their digital knowledge, including how to use social media and how to write for websites. It’s a great thing, but it means many people will consider themselves “experts”. If you enter a social media job for the first time, you’ll meet people with the knowledge to support you, but you’ll also meet people who think they know it all.

It’s difficult to be a digital expert. The sector is constantly changing and to stay on top of these developments is easier said than done. Despite this, you will still know more than almost anyone else in your organisation. Let your voice stand above everyone else’s, and make sure people turn to you for advice and support.

2. Being active on social media is good, but it doesn’t guarantee anything

A gif from RuPaul's Drag Race. Drag queen Max tapping a phone and saying "status update: dead"
Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve and Talent certainly help though.

When we think of people who work in social media, we think of people who spend their lives attached to their phones. They’re addicted to Instagram, constantly snapping selfies and sharing them with their thousands of followers. Sure, this is the case for some people, but for many it’s further from the truth.

If you’ve amassed a huge online following already, great! However, think about the other qualities you need. Can you adapt your writing/visual style to fit an organisation? Can you respond to people (especially angry people) in a professional manner? Can you maintain a high standard of work when given a deadline? Consider these before thinking “I’m so popular on Twitter, I’d kill at any social media job”.

3. There’s loads of skills you can transfer from other jobs and degrees

Two nuns are dancing.
A dancing nun may or may not be one of them.

If you’re thinking “I’d love to do a social media job, but do I have enough experience?”, don’t worry. Working in social media, you’ll do a variety of tasks including answering enquiries, understanding your audience and interviewing people. Great news: you may have some of these skills already!

Customer service roles (like retail) can adapt to social media jobs. You’re answering a range of questions, dealing with irate customers and trying to sell products. Each of these will lend themselves well to a social media role, especially if you know how to keep your cool.

Marketing people can come from a range of degrees, as many skills are adaptable. Got a Psychology degree? You know how to understand and analyse other people, so you’ll grasp how to know your online audience. Got a Creative Writing degree? Add a little extra flair to your tweets! Social media is too exciting and creative to only hire people with a specific education or skill set.

4. You’ll need to develop a thick skin

Hilary Duff is crying.
The job isn’t always What Dreams Are Made Of

Social media is a vast universe filled with hilarity, thrills and new experiences. It’s also a breeding ground for hatred and negativity. Some people will be justifiably angry at your organisation, while some will irrationally lash out. It’s difficult not to take these comments to heart — they’re not directed at you personally, but it still stings.

Not every mean tweet will bounce off you. On a bad day, other people’s negativity will have a big impact. During these times you need someone to lean on, or something to do outside of work. We’d all love to live in a kinder world, but we need to take care of ourselves when negativity strikes.

5. Create a separation between your digital work life and digital personal life

A gif from Parks and Recreation. Donna says "Treat yo' self" and Tom responds in glee.
The world would be a better place if we were all like Donna Meagle.

This is far more important than you think. When you spend 7–8 hours a day using social media at work, you don’t want to come home and spend an extra 4–5 hours still using social media. Granted, they’re your own personal accounts, but it’s important to not be burnt out by overuse. Spend some time away from your phone and find a good offline hobby, such as writing or exercise.

You also don’t want your two social media lives to be one and the same. It’s all well and good supporting your organisation, but you need some “me” time. Outside of work you’ll probably watch Love Island, go for drinks with your mates and love a good viral video, so why not let your own social media reflect this? There can be some crossover (such as sharing big news from work) but your own Twitter account doesn’t need to be a professional account.

(Although bear in mind you still need to behave on your personal accounts)

6. Your job is important

A gif from Parks and Recreation. Jerry says "Oh boy, I am blessed"
Another Parks and Recreation gif, because we deserve it.

Don’t let anyone tell you your job is “just tweeting” and “anyone can do it”. On social media you need to know your audience, speak to them in the right way and filter what’s important to share. You’re also responsible for answering a wide range of questions, from “Where are you located?” to “Why are you responsible for every moment of misfortune in my life?”

(That last one is only a slight exaggeration)

Know the value of your work and know the impact it has on your audience. Once you do that, it becomes easier for others to know your job’s worth.

7. Make yourself known in your organisation

A gif from the Kelly music video 'Shoes'. Kelly says "I'm going to get what I want"
Get what you want (especially if it’s shoes), but don't walk over other people.

When you work in social media, you need to take your work offline too. Sometimes you’ll work with people who don’t know the first thing about social media. It isn’t easy; after all, how do you introduce your work to someone who doesn’t know what a tweet is? That person may not understand what you do, but their co-operation is still important.

It won’t always be easy, especially in a large organisation. Some people won’t make the time for you. Some people will dismiss your work. Some people will even claim they know more than you. Don’t take it to heart — persevere, because it’ll make your job a lot easier.

The one thing you should never do is walk over other people, because it can come back to haunt you. The better you work with people and the more you openly value their work, the more co-operative they will be. At the end of the day, we all want to get along with the people we work with.

8. Take inspiration from the most unique places

A man kicks a large ball designed to look like the Earth. It hits a small child and knocks them over.
The world can have a huge impact on you.

Inspiration isn’t something you can summon at will. Some days you’ll be filled with amazing ideas, some days you can’t think of anything at all. A lot of marketing people will look at others in their sector for ideas — councils will look at other councils, for instance. It’s good to see what works, but don’t forget that you can be inspired by anything.

You won’t always find inspiration in a corporate setting. You may find it in a beautiful place near where you live, or in a video game you hold close to your heart, or from a person you love. Take these ideas and run with them — even if they don’t pan out the way you want them to, they’re still something unique and different.

9. Mistakes will happen, and that’s okay

A gif from RuPaul's Drag Race. Drag queen Akashia falls over on the runway, but spins around and poses.
If you make a mistake, make it in style.

Nobody in this world is immune to mistakes. Whether big and small, we all make them. If you’re doing something for the first time, it might feel like you’re doing everything wrong. It’s like going into a new job — you don’t know the workplace, you don’t know the office culture, you don’t know exactly how things were done before. You’re not expected to know everything.

Learning from our mistakes is what makes us strong. Look at what went wrong, pick yourself up and try again. Don’t be scared that what you’re doing isn’t how things were done before, or if something hasn’t gone as you wanted it to. In the words of Whitney Houston, “it’s not right, but it’s okay”.

(Read this in a “this doesn’t have to be perfect” context, not a “my boyfriend’s cheating but I’m gonna rise above and be powerful” way)

10. Be creative

Video game developer Shigeru Miyamoto nodding.
Shigeru Miyamoto, the man behind some of the most creative video games of our lives.

What makes you stand out?

Creativity is all about individuality, not being a part of the crowd. You don’t always need to do things in a certain way.

Try new things. If they work, wonderful! If not, at least you did something different.

Think outside the box. Your ideas can be as simple or as wild as you want.

When you’re creative, you leave your mark. Make people remember you and your work.

This article was originally posted on Medium.

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