There was a time in my career when social was the end all be all. If you asked what I wanted to do long term, the answer was always “work in social”. After all, who doesn’t enjoy spending their days connecting with consumers on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook? There’s a lot of personal gratification that comes with it.
When I was at the NCAA though, I had a fantastic colleague and friend who would always push me—“Jess, it’s bigger than that”. At that point, I didn’t understand what he meant. But since he is someone I respect and admire, that advice stayed with me.
Fast forward to now. I’ve had a variety of experience from agency to the brand side. I’ve seen the struggles and values of working in social. I’ve reported into creative teams, marketing teams, PR teams and sales teams. I’ve been in orgs where social is siloed and orgs where it’s collaborative. I’ve seen social be successful, and at times, miss the mark.
After all these years, I now get that advice from my friend.
Social is a tiny piece of a much larger puzzle that can only be successful if it’s part of the big picture. You have to figure out how to turn the tweets and likes into ROl. You have to understand how it maps back to organizational goals. You have to drive results. It’s about marketing as a whole.
If you started your career in social, then you have a strong marketing foundation already. You have a knack for understanding content. You get what it means to be consumer-centric. You know how to tell a story that makes people pay attention. You are adaptable, willing to learn and often eager to push things forward.
But, moving up in social alone and taking on new roles isn’t always easy. There are a lot of entry level jobs, some middle manager jobs and true leadership roles are hard to find. Perhaps it’s because ROI is still hard to prove. Or, because rightly so, marketing as a whole should be driving it all.
So here’s that “ah-ha” moment. If you feel yourself at a fork in your career and you’re not sure where to go, don’t be afraid to take on an expanded marketing role. Your foundation in social is invaluable. And, a more general role should still touch social—after all, it’s a piece of a larger brand and digital strategy. An expanded role will open all kinds of new doors and challenges though. And, it will arm you with an even stronger skill set.
When thinking about a career path now, it’s extends beyond “working in social”. It’s the hope of one day being a CMO. Of helping brands and organizations tell their story holistically, while driving business goals. Companies need more brand marketers and leaders who can drive a 360 plan with digital in mind.
So, take a leap to a different role. Ask for a project outside of your job description. Know that it’s okay to move on from social (if you want)– and that you will thrive. One day you could be leading a team that’s driving the entire brand story, across all channels. That’s exciting.1