So, You Want to Work in Social Media?

This is a blog post for everyone who wants to work in social and for those of us who currently do. Part truth, part comic relief, this is a rant about some of the daily struggles of those of us who spend our days obsessing over the internet. Because while we’re lucky enough to tweet and poke on Facebook all day, let’s be real, it’s not always as glamorous as it seems.

I often get questions about what it means to work in this industry. Sometimes it’s young college students trying to figure out their next step; sometimes it’s people who are looking to make a career switch; and often, it’s people who are just plain curious. When I get the question, I always preface my answer with the fact that I love this industry, but it’s not for everyone (and that’s with everything, right?).

So if you want to work in social media, I’m going to tackle the very surface level things of what you need to know about this industry. After 7+ years of spending my days working on the internet, these are the top five truths I’ve learned:

 

1- People won’t get it.

People have asked me if my job is full time… on more than one occasion.

At some point you learn that people simply won’t get exactly what you do and that’s okay. You’ll fight misconceptions from friends and acquaintances that you literally just sit on Facebook and Twitter all day. Sometimes, you’ll even fight those misconceptions internally at your job.

If you want a job where people oh, ah and appreciate all the hours and work it takes to be great, this might not be the job for you. Because while your work is important (it’s the front door to a brand), not everyone will understand the backend work and strategic/creative thinking that goes into it.

People won’t get it, but it doesn’t make the work unrewarding. Everyday we get the opportunity to tell our brand, team, or league’s story and interact directly with consumers. That’s pretty dang cool and rewarding.

 

2- But, everyone will have an opinion.

While no one will understand exactly what you do, everyone will have an opinion on how to do your job. Why? Because they also know how to (and have the power) to hit send on a Facebook Post or a Tweet.

Brace yourself. If you want to work in social media, you’re going to come across a whole slew of other “experts”. Be patient, be kind and educate. There will be days when you want to throw in the towel or hand over the keys to let someone else drive, but fight the good fight. Your point of view (rooted in experience) will one day be appreciated and valued over a random opinion.

 

3- You’ll write your own rules.

The one thing I love about working in the industry is that no day is ever the same. Every day there is a new app, platform or trending topic that comes up. One month the flavor could be Snapchat and the next it could be Peach. That’s both the beauty and the beast of it.

When you work in an industry where things change daily, there’s no rules on how to get it done. Oh, all of a sudden Peach is the app of the century? Quick, put together a strategy on that! You won’t always have the answers on process, on best practices and on what the approach should be. You’re the pioneer, the renegade! Be the first to put together a thoughtful Peach strategy and own it.

If you want to work in social, get comfortable with a lot gray area. The one big failure in this industry is never trying, so you will need to take a deep breath, write the rules and own it.

 

4- There’s a chance you’ll suffer from FOMO.

As mentioned before, this industry moves quickly. Whether it’s the latest meme, trending topic or a new algorithm change, there is literally something to learn and keep up with every… single… day.

There are days when I’m bogged down with meetings and have no time to keep up with anything, only to login to my RSS reader (oh hey, old school) to find hundreds—maybe thousands – of unread articles. THOUSANDS OF UNREAD ARTICLES? Oh gosh, what did I miss? Have I failed as a social media manager if I didn’t keep up with every waking second of the internet?

Yes, if you decide that social media is the work for you then you will find a bit of FOMO-like symptoms. Take a deep breath and understand as one human being you can’t read, keep up with it and do it all. Your community and work will not go to waste just because you missed the latest and greatest Digiday article or you weren’t the first brand to activate on Ello.

 

5- It will be exhausting.

When you work in social media, it’s about much more than the big four (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat). It’s really about understanding how people consume online. Knowing that, you’ll need to keep up with the industry very intimately.

This works in tandem with FOMO, but this industry can be exhausting. In a world where it’s already hard to disconnect and turn off work, we work in a world that’s literally 24 -7. If you want to work in social, you’ll need to practice balance… very intentionally. Whether you schedule downtime to turn off your phone or go to exotic places purposefully for vacation where you have no cell service, make sure you take the time for yourself to reset and recharge. It’s all too easy to get burned out in this industry.

 

Bonus- It’s more than posting stuff.

Thanks to @JoeCulotta for bringing this good one up. If you want to work in social media because you think it will be fun to hit send all day (like all the misconceptions out there), then go ahead and walk away. Working in social media is A LOT more than posting things all day.
 
I always say first and foremost I’m a marketer, who happens to study the way people consume online and through mobile. The work you do is rooted in marketing, communications and creative. You’ll be challenged in your thinking nearly every single day. Embrace the strategic thinking that comes with working in social and resist the urge to just push and post. It’s not our job to add clutter to the already crowded internet. It’s our job to add value to our consumer, our fans and brands/teams we work for.

 
No, this article isn’t meant to scare anyone away from working in social media. I love my job, love this industry, love this space. But the truth is it’s a lot more than poking and tweeting all day. You’ll need to take the good with the bad and develop some tough skin, because out there on the internet it’s like the Wild, Wild West.

 


 

What cold, hard truths would you share with someone looking to work in social? Share below!

 

Thanks for reading. 

 

The Problem With The Word Content

It’s time to make a confession: I’m tired of the word content. After years of working in the industry, it seems like there is this notion content will save us from everything. Every meeting, every project, every marketing plan is full of the word content. Content, content, content.

Look, I’m guilty of using the word content all the time too. Content IS a critical component to marketing, but that really isn’t anything new. Good ads have always been good content. Social media and digital have simply enhanced the opportunity for more distribution — and also more competition.

The problem with content now is that it’s become a catchall and an action. The always-on digital landscape, along with the fact that it’s easier and cheaper to create and distribute content, has created pressure for us to produce, produce produce.  We’ve gotten so caught up in producing now that we don’t take the time to define our value, our story and our why.

This constant need to produce has created a content problem in the industry. We’ve created so much content that we’ve cluttered the space. We scream for consumers’ attention without putting ourselves in their shoes. And, rightly so, they’re starting to tune us out.

As marketers, the best thing we can do is resist the urge to simply produce. Content for the sake of content isn’t a win for anyone: Not for you, not for your brand and certainly not for the consumer.

Here’s the thing: Your consumer isn’t waiting for you to push out a piece of content. They aren’t the ones putting pressure on brands (and us as marketers) to produce. We put the pressure on ourselves. We are responsible for this content problem. And, we can fix it.

Instead of starting with the word content, start with your why: What’s your story? What do we want the consumer to take away? What’s our value, the unique value? If you can’t land on a strong story, value proposition and why, then there isn’t a need to produce.

The word content isn’t really the problem. It’s the pressure we feel to produce when we hear the word. To combat this, we must think value and story first before we think about producing.  It’s okay to not be in your consumer’s face everyday; it’s not okay to continue to clutter the space.

Let’s get back to the heart of what matters. It’s about the story, our value and our why. Define that first before you even think about the content and producing.

Why Defining A POV On Social Media Matters

There’s a good chance you find your head spinning throughout the week— actually throughout the day– if you work in social media. The platforms are always changing. There’s constant pressure to turn out content. Everyone has an opinion on how to do your job. And, there’s a lot of noise and competition.

Our jobs are anything but an easy juggling act.

It’s not hard to get caught up in opinions and the work of others in this industry. We fall victim to the pressure of jumping on every emerging platform and  the battle between quantity over quality. It’s way too easy to slap things against a wall on social and hope it sticks.

To do our best work though, we have to admit that we can’t do it ALL. We can’t be everything to everybody and on every platform. We can’t tell every story and cover every single play.

It’s time to reset, refocus. Understand that while you can’t do it ALL, you have the opportunity to decide what want to do and do it well. The key to a strong social media presence is defining a purpose, point-of-view and sticking to it.

Your point of view is your North Star for everything you do. It means taking a step back to understand your goals, your audience, your voice, your brand and defining your reason for being online. It’s your purpose. It helps you push back when people ask you to be on x platform and share x piece of content.

But we have endless access to content in sports. Why is a point-of-view important? With the endless access to content, it’s even more important. Let’s face it… a lot of the social media content in sports is predictable. Everyone from the media to teams and leagues are covering scores and highlights. There isn’t a lot that makes any of the content different.

The @NBAonTNT is a good example of a brand in sports that has defined a point-of-view. They lean in on humor and their talent, and while it might not be for everyone, it sets them a part in the crowded social media and sports space.

 

 

 

The @NBAOnTNT’s approach works because unique value trumps the “everything”. And when you’ve defined your lane it pushes good, tough creative thinking. Take a step back and understand your why. Be a little bold. Maybe one season it’s not so much about the scores, but covering the team from the players’ voice. Maybe it’s about the fans. Maybe it’s about the other hours away from the games that fans don’t get to see. Whatever your point-of-view is, own it and stick to it. Focus on the main story you want to tell and do it well.

If you’re able to define a POV it won’t only be freeing, but you’ll produce some really stellar, strategic and engaging work.

* It’s worth noting that your point-of-view should be re-visited. It’s not to say that it will never change; but you should stick to something long enough to see your vision come to life. As with any good strategy, you’ll need to tweak. The point is to own your “thing” and do it right.

Career Lessons So Far

Careers are long and winding. They are filled with ups and downs, failures and wins and lots of opportunity. The good news is you’re never stuck if you aren’t happy—with persistence and hard work, there’s always a way to open a new door.

I’m a big believer that opening doors in your career requires self reflection. It’s important to take a step back and think about what you’ve learned, what you would do different and what you did right. It’s important to apply the learnings:

It does not matter where you are in your career—we have all had moments of great growth and learning.  This blog celebrates those learnings, both from my career and from my Twitter friends.

 

One job does not define your career.

When I graduated, I knew I wanted to work in sports, but my first job out of school was not the traditional route into sports business. I worked at the Atlanta Track Club, but the road racing industry is a lot like working for a team: Small and mighty staff, long hours, nights and weekends. Nothing was very traditional. Looking back, the ATC was one of the best first gigs for me. It allowed me to take on meaningful work, expanded my skill set and taught me the important skill of self-learning. The skill sets I learned from my first job eventually landed me a great opportunity at the NCAA.

It’s up to you to make the most of where you are. Develop the skills that will help you in the future. Remember that careers are long and one job doesn’t define your entire future. Work hard, be persistent and don’t be afraid to go an unexpected route.

 

Learning never stops.

The day you feel you are done learning is the day you should stop working. It does not matter what industry you are in, everything evolves and changes—and at every stage. If you want to continue to push the envelope in your career, then you have to push your own personal growth. Reflect, learn, read and absorb as much as you can.

 

Throw away the notion of a “dream job”.

When we think about careers, it’s easy to romanticize about places to work. I’ve been guilty of listing off companies I want to work for versus focusing on what I need out of a job to feel fulfilled.

It’s important to throw away the traditional notion of a dream job… it can be limiting and also disappointing (by romanticizing something too much). Sometimes we don’t even know what we need to be happy with work.  And often, work is what you make of it. As you move along throughout your career, take mental notes of what you like and did not like about culture, roles, managers. Don’t limit yourself with romantic notions of what your dream job is.

 

Be open.

I never thought I would live in Baltimore, but the move here is one of the best decisions I’ve made. I love the city and I love where I work. The thing is, you have to be open.

I’ve moved a lot and the one thing that has made moving easy is the notion that nothing in this life is permanent. The fear of change isn’t so scary when you realize if the change doesn’t work out, it doesn’t have to stay that way. If there’s something you want to do, go for it. It’s better to take the chance than to always wonder “what if”?

If you’ve ever had that itch to leave your current city, do it now. If you’ve been pursuing a job relentlessly and the day finally comes, take it. If an unexpected opportunity comes up, don’t just close the door on it. As they say, fortune favors the bold. Be open and go for it.

 

Execution matters.

One of my favorite things about my job is having the opportunity to strategize and ideate. And while I would love nothing more than to just spend my day scribbling ideas on a white board, execution is what makes your ideas valuable.

We can spend all day building beautiful decks and brainstorming, but all of that is fruitless if we don’t act on it. Ideation and brainstorms are important, but don’t just let everything be smoke and mirrors. Those that produce the work surface to the top. Brainstorm, strategize then make sure you execute.

 

There are no “real” rules.

You can read all kind of books on careers, leadership, etc., but at the end of the day there are no real rules. Don’t be afraid to do things your way. Don’t be afraid to go after what you want. Step up and stand out.

 

Speak up.

I often take time to internalize my thoughts. And early on in my career, I got feedback from my managers to speak up more. They constantly coached me to step up to the table.  I eventually developed the confidence needed to speak up. When I did, I noticed people started viewing me differently. I was brought into more brainstorms, more projects and put in front of leadership.

The problem with internalizing your thoughts and never speaking up is that people won’t know your thought process and leadership. You have to find the courage to bring your voice to the table and be heard. It’s not about speaking just to speak, but adding perspective. Studies show that successful people speak up… and I don’t think that’s by coincidence.

 

Get use to “no”.

I’ve been fortunate to have a fantastic career so far, but the road hasn’t always been easy. I’ve heard more than 1000 no’s, but have never let them hold me back from pursuing what I love. If I listened to every no I heard all the way, I wouldn’t have landed a fantastic job at a company I love. Rejection is a part of life. No’s aren’t easy, but they are necessary to get where you want to be. And in the pursuit of being great, you’re going to hear no. Don’t let the no’s hold back your forward progress. Keep pressing on.

Don’t fear rejection. Instead, celebrate the fact that you’re out their boldly pursuing what you love and want, rejection or not.

 

Advocate for yourself.

One time I left a job at a company I loved and cried during every exit interview. I left because I felt like I wasn’t being challenged and there wasn’t room to grow, but clearly my emotional response to leaving was perhaps an indication that it wasn’t time to go.

During one of my exit interviews, the person asked why I was leaving. They had no idea how I was feeling. That person had a tough and heartfelt conversation with me about speaking up more. And it was then that I had this “ah-ha” moment: You can’t expect people to read your mind and know what you want. If you love a company you are at, but need a bit of change, don’t be afraid to speak up. Speaking up requires work. It shows that you care. It’s better to advocate and fight the fight then to not speak up at all. Things might not always work out, but at the very least you should try and advocate for yourself.  From now on I’ll go down swinging at a place I love before I have to exit.

 

Great advice from my Twitter friends.

 


Thanks to everyone on Twitter who participated in this awesome conversation. Be sure to share you biggest career lessons by commenting below.

Thanks for reading! 

Good Content Is Good Content, Period

I was having a conversation the other day with a good friend in the industry. And like all good conversations with those who work in social and digital, we couldn’t help but to talk about work, the struggles, the wins. Part of the conversation drifted towards what drew us in to social in the first place — and through that I had a powerful realization.

I’ve never been a “platform” first person. If you follow my blog, my tweets, etc., you know I’ve always felt very strongly that a great social strategy starts with a strong content strategy. The platforms will come and go, but the need to reach consumers online through compelling content is here to stay.

While I’ve always loved the fast-paced nature of social and digital, it’s really the ability to tell a story that drew me in and kept me here. When you work in social and digital, you get the opportunity to tell a brand story every single day. And for as long as I can remember, I’ve loved nothing more than a good spot that made me cry, laugh or reminisce… no matter where I consumed it.

Here’s the thing. Good content is good content period. And good ads have always been good content, period. Social, digital and mobile has simply enhanced the opportunity for more distribution — and also more competition. It hasn’t changed the need for good ads; but it’s not enough to just “sell” well. Now as marketers we have to entertain, inform, educate, evoke emotion.

Whether you work in digital marketing, content marketing or retail marketing, your job is to capture your consumer’s attention. Their heart and minds, really. You can distribute content all day long across any platform and to any target, but if it doesn’t add value to your consumer, then you’ll lose the attention battle.

As marketers we have to focus on what matters. It’s not about noise, but about adding value.