Blog and tweet your way to a new career
By Carol Tice
The world of marketing has changed with the rise of social-media sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Now companies are seeking their customers' attention with tweets, videos, articles, pictures and anything else that will stir up comments and create a following. And, you know what this means? They're looking for people who know how to create online buzz.
A growing number of job hunters are turning their blogging skills or experience setting up Facebook fan pages into new careers in social media. A background in marketing, computer technology, copywriting or journalism is often a plus in landing Web 2.0 jobs.
Pay rates are all over the place right now in this emerging field, but good pay is already to be found, with full-time jobs ranging from $45,000 to six figures.
"My rule of thumb is you get paid in social media for what you've done in the past," says Jim Durbin, who operates the niche job site JobsInSocialMedia. "A fresh college grad may make $25,000 as a social-media marketer, but if you already have a marketing job where they pay you $80,000 a year, your employer might move your duties over to social-media marketing and keep that salary."
Many ad agencies that offer social-media help to major corporations are hiring. Still, the majority of the jobs in social media are freelance rather than full-time. On the up side, hourly rates can be high – $200 an hour and more, says copywriting coach Chris Marlow.
"The lowest rate anybody should charge for social media marketing work is $50 an hour," she says. "Many are charging $100 an hour."
Here's a look at some of the most common jobs in social media and the skills required:
1. Social media strategist/digital strategist
Chris Marlow calls this job "the top of the heap" in social media. These experienced marketing strategists understand how to create social-media marketing campaigns and measure their success. They may oversee a social-media team at bigger companies.
"They're the people who put together a plan," she says.
2. Community manager
At Spherion subsidiary Mergis Group, recruiting practice director Greg Bennett says he recently filled a $120,000-a-year community manager position with a major company. Community managers oversee company blogs and forums, keeping visitors coming to the site through outreach on social sites, and moderating conversation to make sure nothing libelous or insulting is being said.
The job calls for marketing experience as well as work in Web publishing, copywriting, project management and social media. Bennett says his recruiting research turned up several other, similar positions already earning in the same range.
"Everyone I see wants the same thing," he says. "Someone who is a marketing person but has been heavily involved in social media – they know how to run online symposiums, draw people into the company's community, and keep them in."
Posting short articles filled with links to related Web sites has become a popular technique for improving a site's rankings in search engines, such as Google. Marlow says $35 to $75 an hour is typical corporate blogger pay. Many bloggers have journalism training, but others who enter the field have their own personal blogs and use them to audition for corporate blogging jobs.
4. Social media marketing specialist
The virtual-world version of a marketing specialist, this job entails taking existing company marketing materials and circulating them effectively in various social-media channels, says Durbin.
5. Search engine marketing associate
A lower-level position than a social-media strategist or marketer, search engine marketing (SEM) associates work on building a company's results in "natural search," the unpaid results delivered by Google and other search engines.
6. Online customer service representative
A growing number of companies are watching social sites for customer complaints on social media sites – prominent examples on Twitter include Comcast Cares and Best Buy's Twelpforce. "There's a lot of work here, because it's so expensive to take calls," says Durbin of JobsInSocialMedia. Workers with call-center experience who write well are ideal candidates to cross over into this field.
Business writer Carol Tice is a regular contributor to Entrepreneur, The Seattle Times and other major publications.