Last week I had the pleasure to do an informal interview with an up and coming communication star in her first year of college. She asked me a lot of questions about my career path and how to get started in social. About a year ago I wrote an article on this subject but even in the last year, my thoughts and recommendations have changed. Here is my advice on how to get started in social for 2013: Don’t do it.
The Term “Social” Is Evolving
I have social in my title, but I honestly don’t think it applies. The term evolved more from our business world seeking to slap a label on something that was not commonly understood. You can call it whatever you want. However, at the end of the day you are still engaging customer, vendors partners etc. and it’s just through a different communication forum. It’s not like it’s the first time you or your business have engaged a customer. It’s not new, it’s just a new model that requires different approaches.
Basic Business Skills Are Critical
Knowing how social networks function and how to create a post is not enough. You have to know statistics. You have to know what drives the business. Excel spreadsheets should be your friend. It seems that many new or younger social community managers are great at thinking creatively and engaging on multiple networks – but need improvement in basic business skills. Some of this can be learned in school and class and some is just experience. If you don’t understand your business, you won’t be able to drive it and make an impact. Being able to articulate a business case and explain how what you do provides value to an organization is foundational.
Social Careers Will Go Away
The careers of community managers can be measured in days, not years. Their role will eventually be migrated back to where it belongs in an organization. You will start to see a collaborative ownership of the content and the customer relationship by many stakeholders in the enterprise. This is why having a business or communications degree will be far more helpful than a social certificate.
Blend Arts & Science
It takes more than being “on message” and “good creative” to make an impact. Data is key. Knowing your audience. Knowing your model audience behaviors. Knowing your audiences past behaviors. Knowing how the weather, the holiday seasons, life events, etc. may impact your community. Measurement, predictive modeling, etc. – SCIENCE is just as important as the creative. Don’t consider a career as a community manager or “social.” Consider a career from the perspective of what you will be able to do within the company of tomorrow. Content and communication are always needed. But recognize that there are many other tools that can enhance your ability to provide that necessary value like psychology, group behaviors, communications, digital creative design, editorial writing, coding, web development, etc. Consider expanding your toolbox outside just social networks – you’ll be glad you did.