Search Google for “social media consultant” or “social media expert” and you’ll find millions of search results. I’ve been in the online marketing game since 1997 and I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an emergence of expertise out of the blue. Web design in the late nineties and SEO in early 2000’s was close, but social media as a career choice is as pervasive as anything.
While it does appear that there may be more social media consultants than there are companies to hire them, the truth is the opposite. The ease of publishing online with blogs and social networking makes it seem like there are more qualified consultants than there really are.
Every company that I know in the online marketing space where social media is a key practice area is hiring. The problem is, there’s a lack of people with real social media marketing experience. Many that do have such experience are accustomed to a “big fish, small pond” situation and often overestimate current capabilities.
For online marketing agencies like ours, a Social Media Marketing Specialist needs to have more experience than setting up social accounts on Facebook, Twitter and a blog. They need to have an understanding of social content planning, personas, social network research and development, light SEO, social content promotion, social monitoring and analytics for insights and reports. Not many people 3-4 years out of college have that experience. But they could.
Experience and training are what help passionate users transition into those individuals that can provide business social media advice and insight with impact. Experience without a job in the field can be acquired in a few different ways:
- Become a super user with social applications
- With that first hand knowledge, start marketing a personal site and/or offer pro bono services to a non-profit or small business
- Document experience on a personal site or blog
- Participate ON and offline with networks important to your areas of focus (specific industries, geographic areas)
- Make it clear that you are available for hire in your social profiles and what you can do with examples
- Until you have your own examples you can share insights into work others have done or you could provide sample audits of companies that you’d like to work with/for.
While I was already working as an online marketing consultant with my own business when I started blogging and offering blogging services to clients in 2004, the path above is essentially what I followed to get into the social media marketing consulting business. Things have turned out pretty well, but I will always be a student, forever testing and learning.
One significant area of focus at TopRank Marketing is finding the right people to work with our team as social media marketing consultants, copywriters and project managers. Cross training existing staff and clients is also important.
Are you just starting out in a career focused on providing social media marketing consulting (either on your own or for a company)? What are some of the challenges you’re facing in growing your expertise and getting experience?
If you are well into your social media marketing career as a practitioner or in a senior position, how did you make the transition from where you were, to your current state of expertise and knowledge? How do you stay current and competitive with your social media expertise?