Are You Sure You Want That Social Media Job?

Brass Tack Thinking - Are You Sure You Want That Social Media Job?You want that social media or community job because you think working online would be awesome, right?

Working on Twitter all day. Getting paid to blog. Being a brand advocate, creating cool promotions, engaging with your customers all over the web. Getting a few moments in the weird limelight that is the microburst of internet fame. Speaking at conferences, hobnobbing at events.

But here’s what you don’t always think about before you lust after that gig.

You’re now a representative of that brand, publicly. The lines start to blur between what’s personal and what’s professional, and all the disclaimers in the world won’t always mean that you can or should post whatever’s on your mind. The personal and professional profiles you keep might be and feel physically separate, but Google doesn’t know the difference, and sometimes, neither do your customers.

You need to make conscious choices online about how you interact, what you post, and how you marry your individuality and personality with your professional reputation and obligations. They’re inextricably tied and related to one another, and if that’s your career choice, you’re likely going to have to make some sacrifices on the personal front in order to maintain a professional persona that’s appropriate for your work. It’s just part of the gig.

Your ego and hunger for the spotlight will hit reality speedbumps when they have to give way in the face of projects, professional objectives, company systems (or policies, even) or collaborative, team efforts. If you think it’s about being a social media rockstar, think again. The real work – the stuff that’s driving your business – has very little to do with the fleeting, superficial world that is internet fame or schmoozing at the parties.

You’re going to have to let go of the idea that your Twitter following is what makes you, and get comfortable with the idea that your business acumen and success are what you’ll be measured against. Social media is just the vehicle. What you’re accountable for is the success of the business and your performance on the projects that matter. Not all of it will be sexy. The CEO can’t and won’t cash a check against how many “likes” you have on your latest blog post. And while your Facebook fans might be important to you, they’re not the ones that pay your salary or determine your long-term value to the business.

My job is as a business woman, not a social media guru.  Community is my focus, and customer loyalty and business growth are my goals. Social media is just one way that I get there. I build strategy full of measurable objectives that takes more than a few fluffy words on a piece of paper. I execute projects, work long hours (the internet doesn’t sleep very well), get my hands dirty, find things that aren’t working and fix them. Driving business through awareness, business and relationship development, and loyalty is what I’m held accountable for, and metrics prove whether or not I’ve performed.

Don’t misunderstand: I love my job. I love what I do. But it’s not cake. It’s challenging. It’s real work, not just sitting on the internet all day. It’s every bit of a professional commitment as many of the jobs I’ve held in the past, probably even more so.

So, are you sure that social media job is what you think it is? Are you still hoping it’s just fun on Twitter and Facebook all day? Or are you ready to step up to it as a professional?

image credit: kennymatic

  • Mike Handy

    Great post! I havent seen enough blog posts extolling people to count the cost when it comes to taking “Social Media Dream Jobs”. Sometimes the best solutions actually have nothing to do with Social Media, the tool cant supersede the objectives and that means you better have objectives!!

  • Mike Handy

    I warned a business about this yesterday… Saw a job posting looking for a “Social Media Guru” they clearly had no concept of what success was and what they should be getting. They will get someone with a huge twitter following who doesn't get communications or marketing.

  • David Murray

    That sounds like a great freelance gig. Next time I'm DC, I'll look you up!

  • David Murray

    I would have studied creative writing or lit 101 instead of fine art had I known I'd doing this for a living! :)

  • David Murray

    Thanks! I just may do a blog post on that very topic. I'm sure one day Social Media will become fully integrated into marketing practices. The trick is that people who don't know what this is all about will keep calling it social media. Up to us to educated them on what social media really is.

  • Rick Ladd

    Excellent post, Amber. From my point-of-view, social media is worthless to business unless it helps the enterprise, and the people who work for – or interact with – it be more effective, responsible, etc. It's getting the work of the particular organization you're involved with (whether it's online or a traditional manufacturing firm) done that matters. Everything else is illusory fluff.

  • Rick

    it's really too bad that a few can ruin it for the masses …

  • Rick

    …interesting to see peoples' posts ^, then check their twitter… so many '…it's not about followers…' then you see they use such strategies as '@moretwitterusers' …

  • Lindsay

    You just described my ideal job. Does that make me a glutton for punishment? If I could just find a foot in…I always wanted to do PR/Marketing but somehow got stuck in another corporate job that is no where near as interesting and now I feel like I'm stuck because I can't afford a pay cut to start over. I am willing to do the work, but can't afford it. That's why I do a little here and there on the side of my full-time job so that I can at least get the experience :)

  • Amanda Beauchamp

    Thank you for posting! Great to see this viewpoint of being a brand ambassador v. a tweetaholic. Big difference! There is a lot of responsibility behind being the voice of a brand and it shouldn't be taken lightly because you are not literally face to face. Another important aspect of this job is networking outside of the web realm and actually communicating with real live people! This requires the same business savvy and professionalism as any other media job.

  • Ana Lucia Novak

    Excellent article about the “reality of the responsibility” tied to social media activities. Nice to see I'm not alone!

  • TJ Dietderich

    Preach It.

  • Gloria buono Daly

    Thanks for sharing your insightful and informative article. Although social media demands a lot of work and time, it is only a fraction of the integrated multi-media marketing process. Even when the mission is accomplished, a passionate marketer will always make sure to follow through and understand the value and note take aways to go to the next level. You have to really be a true marketer to the core, and put passion in your work, before being successful with social media.

  • Julie Pianto

    *claps* and *cheers*

    Thanks Amber.

    Like you, “my job is as a business woman, not a social media guru”.

    I have been working with small businesses since 1988!

    The internet and social media are just a part of what we do to help our clients grow their businesses.

    Another thing I would like to mention is for clients to be very, very careful with who they employ and/or outsource this to.

    Social media is, as I continually say, “word of mouth on steroids”.

    It is vital that the message that goes out is inline with the business.

    I would also be interested to know how many of these so-called “social media gurus” have professional indemnity insurance – so they don't risk losing everything if they say the wrong thing!

  • michmski

    Awesome list. I'd say #4 and #7 have hit me the hardest, but in very different ways. Although (as Leslie pointed out) sometimes what we have to read is not necessarily what we would choose as our #1 reading material, working on the Internet allows you to learn every day. On the other hand, it also means I need to get my eyes away from a screen sometimes and disconnect.

    I think the key for me has been figuring out what exactly our strategy is and making sure that everything relates back to that. There have to be somewhat traceable lines in order for me to show what I've been doing is not just “sitting around on the Internet”. Nice post, Amber.

  • zaneology

    One of the most important and rewarding gigs in the world when you look at it just as you described you DO. I believe the digital personality (whether it's one person or a team) is now “The Voice” of the company in a new realm where the world is converging all of its focus and attention – including their search for client servces and personal attention. In my opinion, this should be viewed as a position (and treated equally in both respect and wage) that is one of the most important and impactful positions in the company.


    We live in a converging world of attention. Big brands believe it is absolutely cost justified to pay actors, models and athletes millions to be {often just scripted facades} Spokespeople because the “essence” of their personality is believed to represent the brand message and their fans demographic would make great customers. The Social Strategy driven by the Community Managers ARE a variation of that same model in the tangible “real” essence. Community Managers are the voice of the brand that reaches out daily, the thought provokers, the lovers, the approachable human aspect, the skillful responders, the salespeople so good at selling they are not selling, the strategic eyes and ears, the idea stimulators, the valuable connectors, the alliance builders, the knoweledge content creators that are even better at discovering, cultivating and sharing. They are the reason people see your company name and/or logo and immediately feel interested, comfortable and valued – and when they represent your company via voice, video or live presention, they are even more naturally magnetic to your audience because day to day they are happily being awesome in the social trenches where they publicly live, breathe and epitomize what makes your company great…Shall I go on?

    Proud to be the new Social Personality/Community Manager for @Bluegreenland

  • Lindsay Manfredi

    Amber, this is a great post!

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  • Melanie

    Newbie here with a question for you all: if I'd like to work with a company in this type of position, but only have my “personal” brand as experience how do I get the job? I wan to start looking for my first social media job but so far the only way I have to sell myself is by what I've done through my site and my resume. Any advice?

  • Karen Malone Wright

    Please send this post to colleges and HR folk round the globe! As a long-time (read: pre-Internet) PR pro, your description of your work reinforces my thought that traditional public and community relations strategies are being applied to new media and with new tools. If I'm right, then I think the answer for self-described newbie Melanie is to brag about her proven expertise in community-building.

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  • Kira E. Young

    I really appreciate this post… Especially in lieu of a potential social media job. Love the food for thought!

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  • Sugar Jones

    It's hard to explain this to people that just want to “play” on the internet all day. Most of the work I do is behind the scenes and draws on my professional background that has nothing to do with my blog or personal social media conversations. I feel fortunate that I can take my experience and get paid to work in Social Media. But you're right… it's not cake.

  • Nicola Swankie

    Amber – As per usual you absolutely nailed a topic I have been toiling around in my mind for a few weeks now. I've worked in Marketing & Advertising in the UK and Australia and admit, I became a bit of a social media groupie when I first got into it all. Mainly because, as many of us are – I am passionately curious about how us humans communicate and connect. The thought that a brand could have an active role in doing that was Marketing uber sexy!

    As I began to learn more, and sell in the concept of it to clients I realised, like many parts of Marketing, the graft to implement the theory was hard. Harder than I think most people get, so the honeymoon period is over and the initial crush is not quite as intense as it once was, but I do still love being a part of it. I know Community and the role of the Social Web in Marketing and Customer Service will continue to fascinate me, because people and their behaviour fascinate me.

    I am glad I've had the opportunity to get in and get my hands dirty and that I have this experience as part of my overall Marketing toolkit. I want to feel like I advise clients correctly and strategically on how best to fit this into their overall plan, on what roles it should and can play. It still makes me excited how Social Media can help inform a Marketing plan – but there is a much bigger puzzle to put together overall to ensure the brand can touch people in offline parts of their life too to achieve those desired business goals.

    I love we have a whole new platform to play with now, and I continue to enjoy learning about what can be done with it and new creative ideas it can make possible. I think we are in exciting times for Marketing, and the people who are sure they want to be a part of this, who work hard to make things happen will have a chance to be a part of some work that they can be truly proud of for many years to come.

    Thanks for writing this.


  • Hannah Law

    Great post. Thanks for showing an accurate representation of the industry – you captured the myths and realities really well.

  • Isis Parenting

    Love this post and all of the well-written commentary that follows. This is the kind of post that I want to print out, laminate and have at my desk for all to read. (Okay, that's old school. Maybe I could just tweet it all over the place.)

    As I wrote on a recent self-eval for my annual review: “It's vitally important to do excellent work when everyone is watching.”

    Cindy Meltzer
    Community Manager, Isis Parenting

  • cindymeltzer

    Haha, I think I just demonstrated one of the key points of the post as I just logged in and commented as my company brand rather than as myself. Can't seem to undo it. How the lines blur….

    Cindy Meltzer

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  • Lauren

    “It’s challenging. It’s real work, not just sitting on the internet all day. It’s every bit of a professional commitment as many of the jobs I’ve held in the past, probably even more so.” NAILS IT. I wish others thought this same way.

    I find, as a community manager myself, that many people regard us as just “young people” playing on the Internet. That what we’re doing doesn’t really matter and it’s not really that hard. Well, it is. And it’s especially hard when you’re trying to figure out what’s appropriate and inappropriate on the social mediums you actively participate in.

    What I find most challenging is that I’m very active in my company’s brand, but I’ve also worked very hard to build my personal brand (and my personal blog). Where’s the line? How do I separate them? Are they slowly becoming one in the same?

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