I still remember the feeling; passion and drive mixed with dread and anxiety. Entering into the working world can be daunting, especially if – like me – you know what you want to do but you’re not quite sure how to get there.
After some trial and error (in the form of unpaid internships), I discovered my love for copywriting and social media marketing. So when I graduated from university, I decided to pursue a career in social media – a decision that resulted in months of job hunting, a lot of rejections, and a rather random career path.
As I reflect on my career so far, I realise there are a few things I wish I’d known when I first started out. There are also many things I learned along the way, so to spare you from having to figure this out yourself, here are 11 things I wish someone had told me before I began working in social media marketing.
You don’t have to pick your career path right away
I still remember the anxiety around choosing what I wanted to do, thinking I’d have to end up doing for the rest of my life. But the world has changed and it has become a lot simpler to specialise later on and even change course completely. I’ve known social media managers who have become nurses and children’s book authors. So don’t worry so much about your very first job. If there’s an opportunity that interests you, take it and see where it leads you.
It doesn’t matter where you start as long as you remember where you want to go
The great thing about working in social media marketing is the ability to move industries. Your skills are transferable. Personally, I started working in the music industry, moved into education, then worked in recruitment marketing for almost three years before working in the film industry – which is where I always dreamt of ending up one day.
Think brand not industry
Working for a juice brand in the fast moving consumer goods industry might not sound too appealing but take a look at Innocent Drinks and their social media marketing, and I bet you’ll feel quite different! So think about brands whose marketing you love or brands you would happily endorse, rather than focusing too much on which industry you want to be a part of.
Passion is everything
You have to spend a lot of time talking about one particular topic, brand, or industry so if you’re not passionate about what you are promoting, you’ll soon dread heading to work every day. It doesn’t have to be your dream topic or brand, but if you hate fizzy drinks and spend your whole day convincing others to drink them, how happy will you really feel on your way home from the office?
Being a great writer will help you massively
There’s a lot of writing in Social Media Marketing and it’s hard enough to say what you need to say in general – having to effectively fit it into 140-270 characters is even harder!
Unrelated work experience could help you get the job you want
Working in social media is wearing a lot of different hats. It’s all about making it relevant and showing how you learned valuable, transferable skills. On any average day, I need to write like a copywriter, act like a journalist, think like a customer service agent, talk like a PR manager, see like an art director, film like a camera operator and take pictures like a photographer. The more you know and the more you can do, the better your chances to stand out from the crowd.
Don’t want to do it all? Then specialise!
There are so many different avenues now in social media – from copywriting to community management to paid social media to social analytics. There’s nothing wrong in finding your passion and focusing on it.
Creativity is key
Working in social media is a lot like working in entertainment as a huge part of the job is entertaining your followers. Whether that’s through educating them on a topic, creating a funny video to make them laugh or writing a powerful message that will make them think – coming up with great ideas is a big part of the job.
Be nice to people
The world is smaller than you think and you never know where life takes you. That other intern you’re working with might just end up helping you to get a foot in the door at another company 5 years from now. There’s nothing to be gained by treating anyone like an enemy but you can never have too many friends.
There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors
To the outside world, social media marketing often looks like a super fun and exciting job but it’s usually not as glamorous as it seems. In my current job, I get to cover the red carpet of movie premieres. All I show you is the excitement, the glitzy carpet, the smiling celebrities. What you don’t see is the 2 hours of waiting for anything to happen, the frozen hands in the winter, the sunburn in the summer, the disappointment when celebrities get dragged inside the venue before they speak to you. The role of social media is to sell you an idea, a story. It’s meant to look fun and flawless.
Don’t get me wrong – a lot of the job is fun and exciting. I love what I do and I wouldn’t change it for the world. But be aware that it’s a lot of hard work. My job is to make it look easy.
Words by Carla Boyd