By Whitney Parker
Social media management is a trending career path for 2012, and entry-level strategists are in high demand. In nearly every industry nationwide and even globally, businesses are turning to young, tech-savvy professionals to help them navigate social networks - seeking more sales, better engagement and business leads for their products for less cost than traditional print and TV advertising. A quick search on Indeed returns nearly 30,000 openings in the United States alone, and Simply Hired lists more than 40,000 positions in social media.
But what can young professionals do to get hired for one of these entry-level openings, especially without prior experience? It's probably not enough to tell a hiring manager that you have a Facebook page, so where do you start?
After talking with dozens of recruiters over the past several months and helping hundreds of participants complete social media courses and job skills classes, I've compiled a list of my top five strategies:
1. Test your mettle by committing to an internship
Not only are full-time positions in social media abundant, so are internships, many of which you can do from home. The grunt work involved in social media marketing can be tedious, and it's not for everyone - but it's essential that you understand the time commitment involved in being successful in your online engagement strategies. If you've never helped manage a brand or company social media profile, find an internship to get a little experience under your belt before committing to a full-time position.
In short, you don't necessarily need to have a prior paid job managing social media channels professionally, as long as you can prove you've been exposed to the trade and know what you need to learn. So dive in and and start practicing.
2. Target your potential employer with a social media ad campaign
One of the most direct ways to get a job in social media is to demonstrate your ability to target your audience with social media ads. Set up a simple website or splash page with your resume and your best video introduction and bullet points about why you are the best person for the job, and then target Facebook ads at the company where you're seeking employment. Sam Solomon is one job seeker who used this strategy successfully.
He cautions however, that just setting up the ads is not enough. "The most important part of this campaign is your landing page. This is where potential employers that click your ad will be directed. Do not simply send employers to your LinkedIn, or Visual CV page. Great advertising for a product with a terrible presentation does not lead to any sales." So spend some time learning about how to create an effective sales page and give this technique a try.
3. Take an online course to show you're savvy about learning new skills
Few applicants applying for entry-level social media positions have any direct experience at the business level in social media management, and unless you've sought out internships to supplement your college education, your university marketing classes probably didn't give you enough exposure to the newest online tools that companies need you to know.
"I don't believe this is something that can be taught in school, so I don't look for any specific educational backgrounds," said Tracy Terry, president and founder of Trust eMedia.
One way to set yourself apart is to enroll in a professional training program that gives you a tangible skill to add to your resume and career portfolio. If you don't live in New York City or San Francisco, chances are in-person training is hard to come by, so check out online opportunities like Brazen Careerist's 4 Hour Social Media Strategy Course, MediaBistro's online classes or Hubspot's Inbound Marketing University. Adding professional training to your resume will truly set you apart and give you a leg up once you get hired.
Since social media is a field that's changing quickly, employers look for applicants with proven ability to continue their education outside the classroom. How will you stay on top of technology trends if you're not committed to ongoing training and learning?
4. Highlight your outgoing personality traits
When you apply for an open position, make sure your resume and cover letter reflect an outgoing and well-connected personality - even if you're an introvert. In the online world, it's all about your first impression, said Sarah Rapp, community manager at Behance Network. "Social Media is all about personality, and if real passion for the field comes across, this is much more valuable in a candidate than relevant experience."
Many of us in the social media field aren't actually extroverts. (That's why we love playing on computers all day.) But you can't let that show in your daily interactions within your community. When Dave Brown, director of digital strategy for MKG in New York City hired a new social media coordinator for the top-ranked advertising agency last year, his first concern was character: the right candidate would have a sense of humor, be supremely creative, passionate and a great communicator, he told me in a recent conversation.
5. Optimize your own social profiles and point employers to them
Finally, you should have an up-to-date and professional-looking personal Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter or Youtube account, according to Amy Porterfield, co-author of Facebook Marketing All-in-One for Dummies. Jennifer Hasche, a senior recruiter for Intuit, agreed in a recent conversation, and recommended pointing potential employers in the right direction by listing all of your social networks on your resume and in your cover letter.
This might sound narcissistic to start creating a brand around yourself, especially if you're on the shy side, but Amy suggests a way around that. "To really highlight your personality and skills, build your social media networks around a passion you have or something that interests you," Amy said. "For example, if you are an avid runner, set up a Facebook page to give advice and create a community around the best runs in your local area. Another idea is to set up a YouTube channel that is optimized with keywords to attract other avid runners and post your videos and other's videos spotlighting topics related running."
Not only will this demonstrate your grasp of social media tools, but it also gives you a platform to explore your passions, which in turn can lead to other career opportunities later on. Afterall, if you set up a YouTube video series related to your love of golf, why not apply for an internship with Adidas' social media team and merge your passions for golf and social media? The best of both worlds!
The opportunity for new job seekers is clear: social media is trending as a career path for the next several years, and employers are ready to hire. The challenge will be to set yourself apart with added skill and moxie, even if your experience seems thin.
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