How to become a social media marketing professional (or at least how I got a job)

Matthew Hurst at a Future of Local Media event in October 2009

What can you do with a BA in Film Studies (or a minor in Philosophy for the matter)? Graduating into an otherwise uncertain job market can be scary; many of my classmates still weren’t sure how they could use their well-developed new media skills, much less where they might be employed.  For me the answer seemed obvious: I went right back into school to study strategic communication.

Yet this time last year I graduated once again, with an internship lined up but without a clear direction for my own career.  I could only dream of working as a social media pro, but my inexperience and overeducation seemed like insurmountable hurdles to post-graduate employment. Only recently was I finally able to find employment with a like-minded group of professionals who shared my passion for creating innovative websites and reinvigorating established brands through strategic online marketing.

Recently I heard from an old friend who wanted to break into online marketing and new media as well. Although I knew first hand of their knowledgeable understanding of online communication and social networks, their challenge was to demonstrate that knowledge to an potential employer. It’s the same reason why I went back into school to study communication, but in this business environment experience is valued more than education.

While I can’t speak for everyone, here’s what I think might help from my own experience:

  1. Create a resume website: ideally using your own name (like me), or else build your personal brand around a site you can make.
  2. Connect it with your social media profiles. Secure your name across platforms (even if your not sure how to use them yet).
  3. Rock that SEO magic (keyword blog posts, inbound links), and connect to colleagues’ and friends’ sites. This can be accomplished through a professional blog that shows off your knowledge of using social media.
  4. Make sure you get to Page 1 when someone Google’s your name.

Hopefully these steps will help you demonstrate your talent using online media, but personal branding alone is not enough to get a job.  Without being able to go into specifics for every position or employer, here’s some general tips that could help you get a job in online marketing:

  • Learn the Language:  Bone up on your communications and marketing knowledge with some supplemental reading from your favorite thought leaders.  Avoid self-proclaimed Experts, Ninjas, and Gurus.
  • Join the Conversation:  Establish yourself as an authority about the subjects you care about online, using social networks like Twitter and LinkedIn.
  • Read about offline Pros: Learn about measurement, and reinforce your own understanding of communication theory. Sadly, this blog doesn’t count as required reading.
  • Network IRL:  Introduce yourself to other professionals and find jobs which aren’t advertised (this worked for me).  You can join me at an event if you like.
  • Write: Read the AP Stylebook like a bible, and hone your writing craft.

There’s no magic formula that works for everyone, in fact perhaps it’s most important to be yourself!  If you’re a strong writer, use your resume website to highlight your copywriting or news stories.  Or if you’re a great at video editing, use your site to highlight the best clips you upload to YouTube.  Making your own website offers an ideal opportunity to introduce the best work in your portfolio, and will build a body of work which will cement your professional reputation.  With some work and a little luck I know you can break into this field too!

  • Great article! These are some of the techniques I use to brand my clients. It is ironic how simple these processes are, yet very few people know how to leverage these platforms/practices.

  • Well said Matt! Great article.

  • Well said Matt! Great Article!

  • Thanks @ChrisCampbellG, it’s good to know my experience matches up with what other professionals might suggest as well.

  • Resume Websites and infographics are in. It makes it easier to grab that attention.. Great Tips!

  • John Albert

    Great article Matthew I really appreciate the valuable information you offer in your article. These tips for becoming online marketing professional are really useful for newbies. Thanks for sharing. Totally worth visiting here.