Set Yourself Up for Career Growth

There has been a lot of talk about the highs and lows that come with working in social. The “newness” and growing pains associated with this industry can be exhausting. It often results in countless reorgs and lack of a clear path of growth for people on teams. No doubt, there has to be a shift within organizations to set their digital teams up for success.

I recently wrote about what digital teams need to survive and thrive, but there’s another side to this story. And, it’s about what we can do personally to set ourselves up for success. The key is to be proactive with your own career.

The list of tips on being proactive could go on forever, but below are four big keys to consider for anyone working in social.

 

Advocate for the work.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned about working in this industry is never make an assumption. Do not assume people understand the work. Do not assume they know what you do on a day-to-day basis. Do not assume they know the hours it takes. Do not assume they know your long-term goals.

If we want organizations to take digital roles seriously, we have to find ways to bring the work to life. We need to show the totality of the work that’s going on and not shy away from celebrating success. This can come in many forms.

At one organization I was with we used to do a weekly email called “7.5”. Each week we highlighted “7.5” things the team and senior executives needed to know about our digital channels. This included big wins, lessons learned and industry updates. The extra “.5” was always something more lighthearted and fun. Sure, the email highlighted the success of the team, but it was also informational, educational and fun. And, most importantly, showed how the team was helping to move the needle for the company. It wasn’t boastful, but educational, and made people more invested and interested in the work.

The weekly email is a very small example of how you can help advocate and educate others about the work of the team. Every organization responds to information differently, so find the best medium to bring the work to life. But remember, it’s not about boasting as much as it is educating and showing how the work back to organizational goals.

 

Move on from the tactical role.

The more tactical roles in social media are bright, shiny and fun. There’s a certain thrill that comes with covering games and being in the middle of the action. Anyone that’s work in social knows what a “case of the refresh” means. It’s addicting at times, right?

Eventually though, to move up the ladder, you have to peel yourself away from the actual execution and control of the channels. You have to go from a tactical role and into a strategy role – and one that is bigger than social. You have to start focusing on digital as a whole and larger marketing initiatives. Find ways to take on other projects within your org outside of social to give you more visibility and a wider range of experience.

No one can expect to stay in the exact same role, doing the exact same work and get promoted. It’s critical to push for more work outside of the tactical platform work if you’re looking to grow.

 

Take time to career map.

If you asked me early in my career what I wanted to do long-term, the answer was always “work in social”. It took years and stops along the way to understand there was so much more opportunity beyond the platforms. And yes, that I had a keen interest in those things.

As mentioned earlier, when you work in social, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day work and not think about the long term. And, because of the certain adrenaline rush that comes with the tactical work, people aren’t always eager to get out of their roles.

People that work in social often stay in tactical roles too long. One, because organizations don’t understand what growth looks like in digital departments. And, two, because the work is fun and there isn’t an urgent need to take on another role. Suddenly people blink and they aren’t where they thought they would be with salary, position or a combination of both.

This is why it’s so important to spend time understanding what your long-term career goals are. If you want to lead a team, become a VP or a CMO, that’s going to require you move on from the day-to-day of social and on to a broader role.

Think about what you love in your current role. Take that and apply to the bigger picture years down the road. And, start slowly taking on new work that will get you there even if that means stepping away from some of the tactical things you love.

If you take the time to career map, you will make more sound career decisions.You’ll know when it’s time to move on and what your next step needs to be. You won’t be flying blindly, but instead, will be leaping strategically.

 

Expand and take leaps.

I’m a big believer that getting a variety of experience (this can be internal or with another company), especially early in your career, is a good thing. It broadens your skill set, exposes you to new thinking and helps make you much more adaptable.

If you aren’t getting what you need out of your current role and organization — and you’ve advocated for those things — then it might be time to take that leap. Again, don’t let the thrill of working in social hold you back from what you want to do long term. At times the best thing we can do is take on something new.

This list skims the surface of how to start setting yourself up for success long term. I’m curious, what have you learned? Share your thoughts below.

5 Strong NFL Preseason Social Plays

With the NFL preseason in full swing, we’re getting a look at what we will see from teams on social media this season. It looks like it’s going to be a strong year in NFL social. From slick visual identities to mesmerizing content, we’ve already seen some strong plays. Below are a few highlights from teams early on as the NFL season kicks off:

 

Beautiful photography.

There’s no such thing as a great social presence without great content. A huge key to good content is top-notch photography. The @MiamiDolphins social media presence is proof of this. Their content is eye catching, consistent and a great refection of their brand. All teams can learn from their cohesive look. Work hand in hand with your photography team to define a look and feel and let the photos drive your storytelling.

 

Mesmerizing content.

In the battle for attention, it’s important to diversity your content. Coverage should include everything from stills to videos to captivating GIFS. Many teams have leveraged interesting, dynamic content in the pre-season so far. Below are a few that caught my eye:

Full speed ahead. #VikingsCamp

A post shared by Minnesota Vikings (@vikings) on

Tip: The Vikings, Falcons and Saints used an app called Plotograph. It’s simple to use and definitely worth checking out.

 

Communicating in six seconds.

The latest craze in advertising is six second ads. It doesn’t mean that good long form is dead, but all teams should think about how to create video content for goldfish attention spans.

Telling a story in six seconds is a completely different creative challenge. You need a strong understanding of your point to be able to communicate it in six seconds. A strong storyboard and good execution are key.

Need some inspiration on what a strong six second video looks like? Here’s a great example from the @jaguars:

 

Crisp and clean branding.

It’s important for teams to establish visual identities. A good visual identify helps your content stand out from the crowd and ties everything back to the brand. When fans scroll through their feeds, they should be able to identify a team’s piece of content without even seeing the name. The @Vikings branding for their training camp is a great example of what crisp and clean branding looks like:

Run it right back, @dalvincook. #VikingsCamp

A post shared by Minnesota Vikings (@vikings) on

 

Good, clean fun.

There’s a tendency for teams and brands to resort to snark and sass on social. As marketers though, we shouldn’t resort to that tactic unless the organization/brand has aligned on that voice. It’s easy to grab attention and retweets this way, but the true test of any marketer is to grab attention in a way that’s right for the brand.

The good news is that a team’s voice can come to life in many different ways. Yes, social media is meant to be more human. Yes, teams should have fun on social. You can break through the clutter and have fun without jeopardizing the brand.

Establishing personality is not complicated either. Take a look around you and see how the players interact. There are moments all throughout sport where personality shines. Capture that content. Bring to life those team moments. Below are two examples of personality shining through with content and copy without resorting to snark:

 
What strong plays have you seen from NFL teams in the pre-season? Share your thoughts below!

Social Media, It Takes a Village

You can’t talk about marketing today without talking about digital and social. It’s no longer a nice to have for brands, teams and leagues… it should be one of the key pieces leading your marketing strategy. With this shift, every brand wants to be digital first. They talk the talk, but many don’t walk the walk.

It seems that far too many organizations still don’t invest in an infrastructure that allows their teams to actually thrive. Take a look at this Twitter poll asking on the size of digital/social teams in sports. So many people are doing so much with so little:

The results of this poll are disheartening and shows how far we still have to go in the industry. It doesn’t matter if it’s a team, league or brand, flying solo in social and digital is a fast track to burnout. In an industry that operates 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, it’s not humanly possible for one person to strategize and execute well…. much less innovate or take anything to the next level.

It’s time for organizations to take a serious look at how committed they actually are to this thing called digital. The truth is there’s no such thing as a good social strategy without a good content strategy & the team (key word here) to create it. A great digital and social media presence takes a village.

Alongside the need to invest, teams also need to give serious thought to structure. Too often entry level jobs looking for too senior of people and senior roles not asking for enough experience. The best way to set up the team for success is to step back, talk to current staff and identify the actual needs. At a high level though, digital/social teams need a strategist, community manager and creators (again, super high level).

 

Strategist / lead.

This is the person that helps bring together the full vision to drive business results. They take the brand strategy and goals to figure out how that translates into the online world. This person should have a strong vision, marketing background and the ability to define a POV. They must also be able to work with creative, mentor teammates and help drive the plan forward. This isn’t an entry level job, but they should be able to roll up their sleeves and get it done.

 

Community manager.

Every team needs a great community manager (or two). This role is the heartbeat of the social team. They bring to to life plans, they build your community, they know your consumer. Their time is often spend building out calendars, engaging with the community and staying on top of the latest trends. Hire someone in this role with 1 to 2 years of experience. And, make sure to foster, mentor and push your community manager so they can move up and on to another role.

 

The creators.

A great social media strategy requires a great content strategy and the right creative team to bring it to life. If you are investing in strategist and community managers without investing in creatives, your vision will fall flat. Every organization should have some type of creative pod dedicated to digital and social. This team should photo, video and a stellar graphic designer.
 
This might not seem like rocket science, but the truth is many organizations aren’t investing in full digital teams. In a Twitter poll on resources, 72% of people that answered feel understaffed. That’s no joke!

We all know by now that digital isn’t the future… it’s here. And, it’s one of the best opportunities we have to connect with consumers and fans. Investing in digital means investing in good people. It takes a village to be a truly digital minded company. So start hiring and hiring right.

3 Strong Plays From The Phillies

There was season in sports + social media where everything celebrated was snarky. It didn’t matter if it was the right voice for your team and brand. It was race for retweets. The snark revolution led to some unfortunate incidents, including a few that cost talented people their jobs.

But we’re starting to see a shift in the industry where teams get that their voice can come to life in many different ways. Yes, social media is meant to be more human. It’s meant to be fun. But you can break through the clutter and have fun, without jeopardizing the brand and what it stands for.

This year the Phillies have stepped up their social media game. They’ve found a groove, a brand voice and managed to have lots of fun without overstepping the line. They’re a great example of a team standing out from the clutter in a way that is still right for the brand.

If you need a little inspiration on how to breakthrough without the snark, the Phillies are a good place to start. Below are three strong plays that have helped them breakthrough already this season.

 

Embracing the power of community.

Community management is probably one of the most underrated aspects of social in sports. I understand that resources and manpower can be limited, but even setting aside five minutes a day to interact with fans can go a long way.

Here’s the thing. Social media is not just about pushing content. It’s about building a community and relationships. Simple gestures of appreciation for fans can go a long way in building lasting relationships. The Phillies gave us a great example of this when they surprised a fan and his daughter tickets to their Autism Awareness Night.

The gesture was noticed by fans, teams and the media, earning a ton of coverage for the Phillies.

Not only did they make a fans day, but they also helped to raise coverage of what their organization stands for (by giving back to fans and with their Autism Awareness Night). Win, win, win.

Why We Love Sports Today: Phillies surprise a fan and his daughter with tickets to Autism Awareness Night.

A post shared by SportsCenter (@sportscenter) on

 

Combating tough times with a little humor.

There are certain things when you work in sport that aren’t fun to communicate A lot of times, you have no control over them. Take rain delays. No one wants to hear that a game is canceled, but let’s be honest, no one has control over the weather. A rain delay is what it is.

The Phillies decided to take some liberty during one of their rain delays and take a not-so-fun moment and spin it with a little light hearted humor.

Fans love the tweet. In the hard to please internet, people were even calling for the social media manager to have a raise. The message was relatable, humorous and delivered in the right moment. Not every situation can be spun with humor like this—but for a rain delay, it was a great way to break the ice.

Sometimes truth and humor can go a long way. As long as the subject isn’t something that is sensitive. Use your judgement and common sense wisely here.

 

Keeping it real.

In a similar vein to their weather delay play, the Phillies have also found a way to keep it real without overstepping their bounds on the snark.

Sometimes there’s beauty in the truth when delivered the right way. This bio change is a great example of how you can play with a bit of snark without overstepping what’s right for the brand. Bravo to the Phillies on finding that delicate balance.

 

All in all, the Phillies new take to social media is a great example of how teams can break out from the clutter and have some fun without hurting the brand. Social media should connect and engage fans. But, you have to be willing to test and push the boundaries in a way that doesn’t harm the brand. When you work on defining your voice and understand the moments where your willing to take risks, you can win… like the Phillies have.

Lessons Learned in 2016 From the #SMSports Community

The end of the year is always a great time to reflect. In an industry where the only constant is change, it’s hard to take a step back. So in the spirit of the New Year, I asked the social media and sports community on Twitter what lessons they learned in 2016. The answers were insightful and spot on. Below are the lessons learned.

 

1- Understand the totality.

A successful social media presence is not defined by one post but the totality of the story you tell throughout the year. It’s great to make a huge splash by jumping on a trend, but vanity metrics and one flashy tweet is not a strategy. If the big one offs are your only focus, then you are missing the bigger picture of what social media can do for your brand.

It’s important to understand your reason for being on social media and put together a year-round strategy that ladders back to it. Every tweet is important; don’t add to the clutter. Be patient and stick to your why. Building something great takes time, but the persistence will pay off. It’s the sum of everything you do that adds up to make a difference.

 

2- Education is still key.

It wasn’t that long ago that “gurus” were proclaiming the social media manager role to be dead. But for anyone that works in this industry, I imagine we would agree there still a lot of education on what social can actually do for the business. There are still a lot of people who still don’t get it.

Because everyone has access to the platforms we work on, people think they “understand it” without digging in to the pulse, trends and true applications for business. Brace for opinions that come your way. Be assertive with your work and let the opinions serve as a platform for education. Don’t take it personal, but give people insight into the why behind what you do. Educate, educate, educate.

 

3- Brand + fans first, always.

One of toughest things about working in social media is nailing a brand voice. When you feel the need to add personality and humor, the natural inclination is to lean into the things that you like. That’s the problem with pop culture GIFS. A Star Wars reference might be hilarious to the social media manager but off putting and off brand to the audience. You have to define a voice that is reflective of the team, brand, organization and your fans… not you. Build content that is on brand and that your fans crave; that’s the ultimate goal for anyone working in social.

Additionally, in the world of instant gratification, it can be easy to get caught up in leveraging audiences to drive more eyeballs to your own personal accounts. Under no circumstance should your personal brand come before THE brand.

 

4- Success isn’t black and white.

One of the hardest things about working in this industry is how public the work is. People will have opinions on the work you do. You will see work from others and want to compare. But social media isn’t so black and white. What works for one brand, won’t work for another. The goals of one brand differ from the goals of another. A team’s access to resources might be ten times what you have. Stay your course, know your why, stop comparing and you’ll be all right.

 

5- Content, content, content.

In 2016 the lesson around content is that we have to be more intentional ever with what we push out. 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 to 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.

Shift the content focus to quality versus quantity. 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 from focus on great content (not lots of content_.

 

6- Continue learning.

Change is the only constant in this industry. Every day platforms are making tweaks and updates to their products and integrations. This year it was all about live and vertical video. Next year, it will be something completely different. If you want to excel in this industry, you have to have an appetite to learn. It’s simply not an option.

 

7- Say thanks.

Working in social media requires a total cross functional effort. It’s extremely important to get buy-in across your organization on the vision and plan. Make people feel included and always show your appreciation for the people who help bring the vision to life, in both small and big ways.

 

8- Don’t do things just to do them.

In 2016 the platforms started offering more and more features, from live video to stickers. It seems like every platform you go to there is a sea of sameness. As content tools expand across platforms, it’s important to define your why behind each platform and tool. If something doesn’t have a place in your strategy or you can’t execute in a way that’s engaging to your fans, resist the urge to do it. Just because we have access to things, doesn’t mean we have to or should use it.

Live video is a great example of this. It’s extremely easy to execute, but it takes time and thought to actually execute right. Resist the urge to hit the “live button” every single time you are on the field. Think out of the box instead and find a way to use live as a unique value proposition; not the way everyone else is using it.

 

9- Additional lessons from the #smsports community.

 


 

What lessons did you learn in 2016? Share them below!

Thanks for reading.