Social media is here to stay and with it is the need for the social media strategist. While you may encounter varied opinions about the title, role, responsibilities, competencies, and personality traits of individuals choosing this career path, the reality is that social campaigns will always need someone to develop, implement, lead, and measure them.
If you’re an aspiring social media strategist, follow along as we look at this career path, as well as the key things you need to know about it.
What It Takes To Become a Social Media Strategist
With so many social media related job titles swirling around the web, you may be wondering about the particular function of the strategist.
In a nutshell, the social media strategist cultivates and manages consumer-business relationships online. While it may sound simple, the role is far more complicated than that. Before we get into the details though, let’s explore the characteristics of a typical candidate.
This career path is ideal for someone who is:
A risk taker: If you’re scared to be a first adopter of new technologies or can’t advocate the use of unusual (but ethical) techniques, then the chances are this job isn’t for you. As communication methods mature, your role as a strategist will need to mature too.
Proactive: If you want to be successful, you can’t be passive. The role demands a social media decision maker—an individual who is always thinking two steps ahead of the game, and is continuously looking to improve relationships with consumers in innovative ways.
Social: It seems like an obvious one, right? The sad story is far too many social media managers don’t know how to engage and communicate with their audience. They don’t know how to stimulate conversation or drive it to a successful end.
Able to manage programs effectively: Social media programs are not only spanning across several departments, but they’re also becoming more complex in nature. Where the skill set once called for someone who is an evangelist, it now calls for someone who can integrate social into all parts of the business and buying cycle.
An achiever when it comes to stakeholder buy-in: Identifying the true decision makers and influencers within an organization and understanding what makes them tick is a huge part of obtaining the support you’ll need to run your social strategy.
Capable of driving a customer-centric vision: A huge part of driving and nurturing the relationships you form with your buying community lies in your ability to apply social media in a way that supports and improves customer experience.
Adept at wearing several hats: In this role, you’re not just the strategist. You’re the analytics expert, the writer, the team manager, the educator to business units, the networking genius, the budget manager, and the go-to person for everything social media related. You know how to organize your department for success, and you do it well.
Duties of a social media strategist may include (but are not limited to):
- Leading, developing, and executing a company’s social program
Setting up scalable community and advocacy programs
Ensuring social tools and technologies are in place
- Managing and participating in social channels
- Managing the social marketing budget
- Monitoring, measuring, and reporting on ROI
Managing a team and working with stakeholders
- Creating and implementing social media policies and processes
Collaborating with various agencies
Monitoring trends, conversations, and competitors
Developing training materials and educational tools
The Road to Becoming a Successful Social Media Strategist
For an entry-level position, most employers will require you to have an undergraduate degree or certification in a relevant field. This may include education and training in the area of marketing, public relations, communications, digital marketing, journalism, or online technologies. You’ll also need to have a good grasp on writing for the web. Preferably, you’ll start gaining hands-on experience as early as possible, whether that’s through an internship or similar initiative.
Step #2: Build Your Online Portfolio
These days, building an online portfolio is just as necessary as anything you may collect on paper. After all, many recruiters use social media as their go-to source for potential employees.
Start compiling a professional and polished virtual version of your resume, references, cover letter, certifications, and samples of work. Don’t forget to add links to your engaging social media profiles so you can demonstrate to HR managers how you’ve already taken steps to establish and develop an online presence, as well as grow your list of valuable connections.
Step #3: Apply for Relevant Positions
Start looking for employment opportunities. That means scouring job sites, contacting the right decision makers on platforms like LinkedIn, and networking through your close connections. It may not be an easy job search journey, but a position at the right company will be worth the effort.
Be aware that job listings for a social media strategist may fall under a different title, so you’ll need to search using a variety of applicable keywords. You may find your potential employer has posted the job opening under digital content strategist or social marketing manager.
Resources to Support Your Journey
Online Social Media Training…
With so many books and blogs on social media available today, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to educational reading materials. Consider starting with The Social Media Strategist by Christopher Barger and Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang (a leading authority in the industry). As you work your way from resource to resource, be sure to add the gems to your marketing arsenal.
A Final Thought…
You have to be versatile as a social media strategist if you want to survive this rapidly changing industry. Social media expenditure is usually a minuscule portion of the overall marketing budget, which means your work may not be a priority if things go downhill. In many cases, you’ll need to jump through hoops not only for that sliver of funding, but also to justify your role.
Realize now that social is only a part of the solution to the ongoing challenge of revenue generation. Therefore, you need to evolve your skill set to meet the demands of changing technology and become part of the broader, integrated marketing program within the business. That way, when the bosses from upstairs come knocking on your door, you can show them how your social program is contributing to goals of the organization – especially ROI. Establish a model that can prove your social media marketing efforts are driving customers to a compelling landing page where actual sales conversions are happening.
The bottom line is this: as social media continues to evolve, so will the role of the social media strategist. You may only be a small cog in a massive marketing machine, but if you question, observe, and experiment, you may just become the innovator who is able to guide your organization successfully through the maze that is social media.
Do you have any questions about becoming a social media strategist? Perhaps you are one and have some additional insight to share. Become part of the conversation by leaving a comment below.