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.