The best way to learn more about social media is to actually use it. Visit popular social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to learn about the field. You can get an idea of the types of challenges faced by social media professionals by visiting the Web forums at a company’s site or their Twitter or Facebook pages. See how social media workers respond to customer complaints and negative comments, and try to think of what you might do to address such issues. Start your own Web site or blog and learn how to move it higher in Web search results. Talk to social media workers about their careers and ask questions. How did you train for the field? What do you like most and least about your job? What advice would you give to someone who wants to break into the field? and What are some emerging jobs in social media?
Careers in social media have grown rapidly in the past several years. Corporations and businesses realize that using social media is a cost-effective, user-friendly, and time-efficient way to promote their brands, products, and services. Government organizations and nonprofits also utilize social media to collect and disseminate information, connect with people, and spread the word about their programs and services. The following paragraphs provide information about some of the most popular social media careers.
Company blogs and forums are useful tools that educate people and create "buzz" about an organization’s products and services. Community managers oversee the content used in company blogs and activity on forums. They begin new threads of conversation by introducing topics for discussion, perhaps posing questions or asking for reader input. If a discussion gets heated, community managers redirect the focus of the thread. They are on constant watch for defamatory remarks or other negative feedback, which could be damaging to the company’s sales or public perception. Community managers also use Facebook fan pages, tweets, and other social media tools to attract new site visitors and keep them coming back to the site.
Social media directors oversee the development and execution of a company’s social media strategy. They are responsible for driving word-of-mouth marketing through digital means. Using digital tools such as blogs, podcasts, video sharing and streaming, social networking sites, and various widgets, they are able to create user excitement and brand recognition. Social media directors research social media habits of a target demographic (for example, teens ages 16 to 19), find appropriate social media tools and programs, and plan and implement strategy. Social media directors also take a company’s existing marketing materials (surveys, photographs, videos, etc.) and circulate them through various social media channels. At large companies, social media directors often manage staff who handle these duties. At smaller companies, the social media director may be responsible for all these tasks.
Vice presidents of social strategy oversee a company’s overall social media policy. In addition to responsibility for social media, they also play a major role in developing their company’s overall marketing strategy.
Dissatisfied customers often enter a forum or chat room and vent their feelings to the online world. They might be unhappy with the service they received at a restaurant, the quality of a product they purchased, or the manner in which they were treated by a customer service representative. Justified or not, it is the online reputation manager’s responsibility to diffuse the situation. These largely behind-the-scenes workers identify such situations by monitoring social media sites, often perusing tweets, Facebook fan pages, or company Web site forums. Once identified, online reputation managers will redirect comments, or in serious cases, bury the negative responses to push them far down on search engine results (if a search engine is used). Techniques used to achieve this result include creating new social profile pages, redirecting users to positive links, or re-tagging a post. Online reputation managers also monitor the online reputation of their employer’s competitors. By learning what customers are saying about a competitor’s products or services, they can help their own company improve its existing products or services or develop new ones.
Chief conversation officers have many of the same duties as the aforementioned careers, but they are responsible for looking at the "big picture" and telling a company’s story via social media. This is done by providing commentary and creating, curating, and manipulating content from company blogs and Web sites. Depending on the company’s size, this function is filled by a single employee or an entire staff. Chief conversation officers monitor content as well as the context of online conversations. They set the stage for users to comment, and more importantly, set the tone for this stage. They use digital media tools such as an RSS feed or aggregating software to create a community of information and users. For example, when employed by a manufacturer such as Kraft Foods Groups, Inc., chief conversation officers facilitate conversation with users regarding the taste, texture, or shelf life of different products. They manage fan pages, blogs, and news sites to make sure their company’s products are discussed positively. Any negative feedback is immediately segregated or deleted.
A blogger’s kind words can do wonders for a company’s brand, while a single negative remark can do intense damage to a company’s reputation. For this reason, many companies rely on the expertise of blogger outreach managers. Blogger outreach managers identify popular bloggers who might be encouraged to promote their company’s products or services. For example, a blogger outreach manager for a baby product manufacturer would first identify popular bloggers, such as mommy bloggers, and contact them via e-mail, the telephone, or social media sites such as Facebook. When communicating with bloggers, blogging outreach managers must be careful not to sound desperate or pushy. They must convey a friendly, relaxed tone that puts the blogger at ease and makes him or her open to reviewing and promoting the company’s product or service. If the conversation goes well, the outreach manager might send the blogger product samples, provide a password so that the blogger can access a service or product online, or send informational and marketing materials such as press releases, photographs, videos, surveys, company statistics, or positive industry reviews. The blogger outreach manager then follows up with the blogger to see if he or she needs more information or plans to talk about the product or service in the blog.
When consumers want to find a particular brand, service, or company, they often use search engines. Companies rely on search engine optimization specialists, also known as search engine marketers and search marketing analysts, to help ensure that their Web sites rank high in search results. Search engine optimization specialists identify and implement search engine keywords, tags, social media profiles, or site maps to improve the company’s ranking. They work with consultants, content writers, developers, and designers to improve the ranking of their company’s site or sites. Search engine optimization specialists are well-versed in HTML coding as well as analytical tools such as Google Analytics or Omniture, the latter of which is owned by Adobe Systems.
Bloggers are employed by companies to promote their products and services via the written word (a blog).
Podcasting is the exchange of information using audio or video files (sometimes called vodcasting) that can be played on a computer, portable media device (such as an MP3 player), or smartphone. Podcasts are released to the World Wide Web in regular episodes. People who create and distribute podcasts are called podcasters. (Those who create videocasts may be called podcasters or vodcasters.) The information available on podcasts covers a wide range of topics, from government and politics to kids and families.