Social Media is NOT a Career Path

Thats right. I said it. Social media is not a career path. Justifiably, you CAN create or find a job where you can apply your social media knowledge but, in the end, those of us who currently work in social media do so for other reasons: there is an opportunity to do so.

Where is that going? Will it be around forever? Already, I’ve seen the named ‘social media’ positions  morphing into other things. Community Managers. Interactive Marketing Directors. Content Creators. Is the skill itself ‘social media’ or is the skill, the far more profitable and long-term  one, something far simpler and time-tested: Strategy. Marketing. Creative Direction.

I’ve been masquerading as a technical person. I’m not. I’m a communicator. A strategic communicator. I’ve always loved the interplay between people, what they say, what they mean to say, and what they ultimately end up communicating to their audience, for better or for worse. Of course, this has to do with my own personal evaluation and evolution of how I communicate and how I understand what others communicate to me, however flawed in understanding. As we apply ourselves in our social media positions, what we are really doing is understanding the community, their needs and wants required to systematically create a substantial and beneficial presence in social media. The fact that we know how to do so within these tools is arguably secondary to the main skill set of communication.

Beyond this, what is ever more so evolving out of this idea is branding versus campaign based social media, and even analytic reporting. For me, the use, integration and involvement of a brand in social media is primarily for branding purposes, and secondarily for campaign messaging. What I see out in the world is the opposite: branding very rarely is strategically thought of out in social media. The forefront is usually campaigning around a certain deadline, or ‘being there to be there’. Where most of us do implement listening strategies, what do we ultimately do with this information? Are we really using it to change our product or service platform or do we only  push messages on to superiors to ensure we are ahead of any crisis communication needs?

In terms of my own career growth and learning experiments, I’m diving in to creative direction, branding and strategic communication research. David Ogilvy’s publications seem especially thought-provoking for this. Any others beyond the usual ‘Good to Great’ and ‘Made to Stick’ that you’ve found particularly helpful?

What do you think about the idea of social media not being a longterm career path? What solid, professional skills do you see in your favorite social media person?


3 thoughts on “Social Media is NOT a Career Path

  1. Just thinking about this today, Jessica! So like you mentioned, totally agree that “marketing”, “strategy” and “communication” are vital professional skills necessary for anyone with “social media” in their job title, I’m starting to appreciate the skill of “comedy” more and more. Not just possessing a good sense of humor, but being outright “funny”. Being able to turn newsworthy items into little magical smile makers. No matter what the product/service.

    1. The whole ‘improv comedy’ bit about being fluid and saying ‘yes, and’ or even ‘yes, but’ is interesting. I def need to read more about it, via the Tina Fey suggestion at #Heweb12 and others. Its interesting how just learning better interpersonal skills can help with jobs like these. I never really thought about it too much before, even though it seems like a no brainer!

  2. Good post. I’m crafting a job description for a colleague who’ll focus largely on social media, but that’s almost beside the point. I need a strategist/communicator/dynamo who just happens to get social media. Actually, a comedian would be helpful, too.

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