What It Really Means to Work in Social Media

If you haven’t already met her, Jack in the Box has a social media intern on board in their commercials. She’s upbeat and bouncy, glued to her smartphone at all times, and loves to describe everything as being “craze amaze!” She also seems to have trouble understanding what a clock bracelet is (it’s a watch) and how to use a copy machine.

Some of my friends have been quick to point out there are some similarities between me and this fictional intern and I’m always pretty flattered to hear it because Annie (the name of her character) is fun and her sock bun game is on point. But I have also heard some criticism that she comes across as being an unfair stereotype for millennials who work in social media. If you take the commercial literally, it’s easy to make the unfair assumption that anyone who works in social media gets hashtags and spirit animals, but has no clue how to do anything beyond what’s on their Tumblr dashboard.

From my experience, this is a major exaggeration all around. As someone who has worked in social media for close to three years, today I’m gonna break down the stereotypes and reveal what it’s really like to work in this profession.

Nobody knows everything there is to know about social.

Not an intern, manager, director, and especially not the thousands of self-proclaimed “social media gurus” flooding the Twittersphere knows absolutely everything there is to know about every conceivable social platform. Social media is an ever-evolving form of networking media that is updated every day. And, despite the fact that with every new update we always seem to get another “1 million strong to change back to the old Facebook!” group created, this kind of daily change shouldn’t be balked at. Growth is good for the brand you help to manage as well as your own personal brand, whether online or off.

You shouldn’t expect to become Tumblr famous overnight.

Or (insert platform name here) famous because you made an account there for the first time and added in a bunch of hashtags to help get you noticed. Unless Conan O’Brien decides to make you the second person he follows on Twitter, that’s not gonna happen. If your only end game in being a part of social media is to gain followers, you’re definitely doing it wrong. A social presence tends to be built from the ground up and thrives on interacting with others, starting up conversations, and providing answers to questions that people need help with.

Also, can we agree to make 2014 the year people stop saying “hello lovely followers!” or just referring to people who happen to follow their accounts as a follower? I get so creeped out every time I see this happening. I also don’t like referring to these people as “tweeps” either. Too close to twerp for me. There’s gotta be a better way to reword this.

If you’re gonna work in social media, you need to commit to it.

This is what separates those who are serious about social versus those who see it as a semi-easy job to coast along on. Social media requires thinking on your toes, lots of creativity, the ability to write often and well, good grammar and spelling skills, and the ability to understand that what you do does require a positive ROI (return on investment) to come with it, especially if you are on social duty for a company. You can’t half-ass it. You have to eat, sleep, and breathe social.

It’s also not a 9 to 5 role. The internet doesn’t start and stop at specified hours of the day for you and breaking news doesn’t conveniently wrap itself up before your bedtime. If you’re new to this scene, my three big tips are to sign up for newsletters and alerts to ensure you’re constantly in the know, stay on top of your emails, and learn to embrace multitasking round the clock. This won’t necessarily break through all of the clutter but it’ll help make a sizable dent.

Think before you tweet and research those trending hashtags!

It can be rough to wrangle 140 Twitter characters into something sound biteable, but with a little playing around and some bit.ly link shortening, it can be done! Always think before you tweet though particularly if it’s on behalf of a brand. Don’t obsess over the tweet or anything, but do a double check. See if you’re into how it sounds, how the spelling looks (I always see Downton Abbey misspelled as “Downtown Abbey” – eyeroll.gif), and whether or not it embodies the brand’s voice properly.

Another important note for tweeting? Never add in a trending hashtag if you don’t know what it means. Trending hashtags will certainly help a wider audience of people see your tweet a whole lot faster, but if you add one in without researching it beforehand at the wrong time you might wind up with a Celeb Boutique-esque Twitter scandal on your hands.

Finally, stop saying that social media is easy work.

My favorite myth of the field is that social media only takes a few hours to work on at most. Think about the conversations you begin every day with the people in your life. You don’t have the exact same discussion with that person seven days a week. That’s what life working in social is like – every day is different and so are the conversations that come out of the day. It’s why when I post the same picture across multiple outlets I like to tailor the caption to go with it accordingly. Different sites have different audiences and if people follow you across several of them, they deserve a little variety along the way to better spark engagement with.

Ultimately, social media is in equal parts filled with focus and fun. Play around, test out new areas and sites, keep in mind the YOLO factor, and remember the true universal truth of the internets: you have the same amount of hours in the day as Beyonce does. Now go get tweeting!

Image courtesy of adrants.com.

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