You've been on Instagram for as long as you can remember and enjoy crafting clever captions and curating just-right posts on your feeds. Now that you're graduating and considering full-time employment, what could be better than making a career out of your love of all-things-digital?
Social media management is a fast-paced job that allows you to leverage your skills in creative thinking, writing, multitasking and analysis. Social media roles, like other PR roles, are expected to grow at almost 10% per year, and have a media salary of $60,000 per year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So you're getting into a growth field with lots of opportunity.
Of course, there's a big difference between using social for fun and delving into the industry as a profession. As you explore, consider these five pieces of advice before applying for an entry-level social media job.
1. Develop your voice
Social media manager education requirements may vary by company, but many people in these positions earned degrees that emphasize connecting with others, such as:
- Creative writing
- Public relations
You'll find social media experts with all sorts of different educational and professional backgrounds, but they've all spent time mastering the ins and outs of multiple social media platforms. They also know the power behind short, compelling copy that reflects their brand or company.
Jaclyn Evens, a social media strategist and content developer at Michael Bennett Kress Photography in Washington, DC, says your voice is one of the most important elements when trying to break into social media as a profession.
"[The person hiring wants] to know that your voice is going to fit their style," she explains. Evens majored in English and psychology in college and decided to go into social media when she realized it would allow her to tap into her creative side, use her sense of humor and write in her own voice.
Studying the brands you love is a great way to learn about different types of social voices. Then, begin to embrace and refine your own voice: one that feels unique, unforced and true to you.
Some social media jobs may require an edit test, where you'll create sample content for the company you're applying to. This is another way to show off your voice, style and point of view. Also: Your error-free, thoughtful cover letter offers the best opportunity to show off your voice, communication skills and brand knowledge to a potential employer.
If a job is a good fit, you'll feel comfortable adopting the organization's voice and style.
"I've been able to make [my boss's] voice my voice and it's been really interesting," says Evens.
2. Build experience with a brand
The posts you see on a brand's Instagram and Twitter pages are just a sliver of a social media manager's job responsibilities. That manager often creates the entire social media strategy, working with colleagues across the marketing department on projects and launches. They also keep up with changes in platforms and track analytics.
Finding an internship is one crucial way to get experience at the helm of a social media feed and learn more about the types of tasks you'll manage once you've secured a full-time job in the field. You can also take on an internship after you graduate, if you can swing it, to get that important experience.
A social media internship helps you build many marketable skills. Your responsibilities might include:
- Creating content (like blog posts, newsletters, tweets and Instagram stories) that is consistent with the brand's style
- Managing a social media content calendar
- Capturing and editing video and photos for social media feeds
- Engaging with followers
- Covering live events and posting frequent updates
If you can't spend a full semester interning with a company, you may want to consider volunteering as a social media intern for a specific event to gain hands-on experience. Evens built her skillset by volunteering for the Women in the World Summit. She made connections and got a feel for managing social media in a fast-paced environment.
Another option is to develop a social media strategy and put it into action for an on-campus organization or local nonprofit. You'll both gain from your efforts, and that on-the-job experience is invaluable as you start looking for your first social media job.
3. Go behind the scenes on social strategy
To land a position in the field, you'll need to be well-versed with the most popular social platforms, as well as the tools that help brands understand their engagement. A social media manager job requires familiarity with SEO (search engine optimization) and tools like Hootsuite, Google Analytics, and the analytics metrics used by Facebook, Twitter and other platforms.
Research whether the journalism or marketing departments at your school offer classes or workshops in social media strategy. Check in with career services to see if they can put you in touch with local alumni who are already working as social media strategists or managers.
4. Connect with people in the field
Finding a mentor or getting to know other people who work in social media is key. When Evens was doing social media for the Women in the World event, she met a woman who was more established in her career and the two kept in touch.
"She would shoot it straight, but also share connections," Evens recalls.
Talk to your professors or former internship supervisors to see if they know of any digital marketing networking events in your area. If you hope to work in social media with a specific niche, like politics or nonprofits, ask around about events related to those fields as well.
While face-to-face mentors and connections are great, you can also expand your network digitally by engaging with brands and companies. If you're following brands you'd like to work for on social media, attend local events where you know they will be present. Of course, be mindful of keeping these interactions professional and avoid overstepping boundaries (like cold-messaging a stranger to ask for a job).
5. Put your best post forward
Before you apply to a position as a social media manager, be sure to take the following steps:
- Clean up your own feeds, deleting or hiding any inappropriate content.
- Create a professional website or portfolio.
- Update your LinkedIn profile with your current information and experience.
When Evens was applying for jobs, she decided to upgrade her LinkedIn account to Premium.
"I was able to see who the hiring manager was or if there was a connection from [my college], and could directly message them," she says. "It's also a way to feel comfortable in an interview because you have a connection right off the bat."
Your perfect job-hunting plan will need to include creating a well-written resume that you carefully tailor to suit each job (our Resume Builder can easily help you with this.) Use our Cover Letter Builder to tell the hiring manager how your background and skills make you a unique fit for their brand's social media. While you're waiting to hear back on jobs, keep updating those feeds and making connections. You never know who might see your next post.