Whitney Parker is vice president for user experience at Brazen Careerist, where she co-hosts a bootcamp on how to create and implement a social media strategy.
It’s no secret that jobs in social media are becoming more prevalent in nearly every industry nationwide and even globally. A quick search on Indeed returns nearly 30,000 openings in the United States alone.
But what might not be obvious is what, exactly, young professionals should do to position themselves for these emerging roles. And no, it’s not enough just to have a Facebook Page.
During the last several weeks, I’ve talked with dozens of hiring managers who have recently filled these types of positions. Here are their top four tips:
1. Quantify Your Prior Results
If you really want to land an emerging role as a social media strategist at an established company, you need to demonstrate an active interest in the tools of the trade — as a business, not as a socialite.
“While it’s true that a best social media practice is to be focused on community and engagement, that alone won’t pay the bills for a brand unless activities are focused on a measurable outcome,” says Tracy Brisson, who has hired several social media consultants as founder of One2Many Consulting and the Opportunities Project. That’s why having an internship where you gain these tangible skills is essential.
Brisson says that when reviewing a resume, she starts by asking, “How did the social media community grow during their tenure at their previous jobs or organizations they worked with?”
“Any participation in an organization’s social media goals demonstrates that the person has the potential to do this work professionally,” Brisson explains. “In an interview, I’ll follow up on strategies and approaches used, but without numbers on a resume or LinkedIn profile, it would be hard for me to take an applicant seriously.”
So how can you put your best foot forward? Make sure you quantify the impact you had during your prior internships. Your resume or cover letter could read, for example, “Increased engagement from an average of 24 comments per week to an average of 75 in a three-month period on our Facebook Page,” or “Helped establish a two-fold increase in Twitter traffic to our product page, resulting in a quarterly revenue increase of 50%.”
Your actual impact may vary, but get used to presenting it in the form of quantifiable data.
2. Walk the Talk
You should have a well-optimized Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or YouTube account, says Amy Porterfield, co-author of Facebook Marketing All-in-One for Dummies: “When hiring for social media positions, businesses will want to see if you know your stuff and will first search for you online.” She recommends pointing potential employers in the right direction by listing all of your social networks on your resume and in your cover letter. She adds that social media that works hand-in-hand with a distinct set of personal interests is a way to highlight both your skills and personality.
“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,” Porterfield suggests. “Another idea is to set up a YouTube channel that is optimized with keywords to attract other avid runners and post your videos and others’ videos spotlighting topics related to running.”
In short, you don’t necessarily need to have a prior job managing social media channels professionally, as long as you can prove you’ve mastered the skills on your own.
3. Take an Online Course
Few applicants applying for entry-level social media positions have any direct experience at the business level in social media management, and there’s not much that hiring managers can do about that in the short term. University marketing classes generally spend more time on the concepts and less on the newest online tools.
“I don’t believe this is something that can be taught in school, so I don’t look for any specific educational backgrounds,” says 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 or San Francisco, chances are in-person training is hard to come by, so check out online opportunities like 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.
4. Don’t Be Boring
When you apply for an open position, do more than just the minimum. Especially in the online world, it’s all about your first impression, says 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,” she adds.
This is a common theme among hiring managers looking to grow their social media team. Dave Brown, director of digital strategy for MKG, says that when he hired a new social media coordinator for his advertising agency, his first concern was personality: The right candidate would have a sense of humor, be supremely creative, passionate and a great communicator.
“Yes, we know you’re a ninja on Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare, and Mashable is your homepage — but tell us something we don’t know,” he says. “Impress us.”
The opportunity for job seekers is clear: Social media is trending as a career path for the next several years, and employers are ready to hire. Will your application make it to the top of the pile?