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

Twitter by the Numbers: measuring influence within my own social network

Graph showing the number of tweets per month for @matthurst on Twitter

Since Twitter was a start-up it has fostered a strange fascination with numbers: 140 characters, following-to-follower ratios, and a whole ecosystem to measure RTs and @’s from influential people.  Since I’m a communications professional working with social media, I’ve made it my business to try using many of these measurement tools, both for clients and my own (perhaps narcissistic) profiles.  Of course numbers only tell part of the story of interpersonal influence; gross popularity means less than the net of mutual friends who can trust each others’ judgment.

I share this fascination with measurement, especially in understanding interpersonal influence. As a result, my use of Twitter has been synonymous with my professional growth at the beginning of my career, charting my own progress all the while.  On this blog alone I’ve written about Twitter nearly a dozen times; to date search results for “Twitter Internship” bring the most organic visitors to this blog. My use of Twitter is frequently the first thing people learn about me, often before we’ve ever met.

So to celebrate tweet #8888 (88 is sort of a lucky number of mine), I wanted to thank 8 followers on Twitter who have been following me since the beginning (or at least the longest):

Happy Birthday to me: Matthew Hurst and dot-com domains turn 25 years old

Recent graduate Matthew Hurst sleeps on a campus bench of American University, in full cap-and-gown regalia

Today I celebrate my 25th birthday and the first anniversary of this website, which neatly coincides with the 25th anniversary of dot-com domains. In the year since I started writing this blog, so much in my life has changed:

If I haven’t been keeping up with the blog as much lately, it’s because I’m finally applying the insights I’ve written about here through my new work.  I’m proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish working as a social media and online marketing pro, so expect to hear more about those experiences soon. Until then, thank you for sharing this journey from student to professional along with me.

Location, Location, (social media) Location

Map of friend's check-ins on Brightkite in DC

Everyone is checking themselves in, but this is hardly rehab; it’s Social Media Week in New York City.  On Foursquare, Gowalla, and now even on Yelp, people are sharing where they are and vying to become the “Mayor” of venues they frequent. They say that all news is local, but instead this is Where word-of-mouth, real-time, and overshare intersect.

Location-based social media have become the next-big-thing as opinion leaders look for new ways share their influence.  Over the last year Twitter has cemented our collective desire to share what we’re doing, who we’re with, and increasingly where we’re doing it. When individuals share their ideas using hashtags for events (or HotPotato), they’re telling us more than which venues are hip by adding an online dimension to reputation management.  Just ask any restaurant owner how Yelp has changed their business.

As a rule people tend to trust the opinions their friends and neighbors better than any agenda setting news source.  In the new media landscape we can find out instantly if any of our friends share their impressions of places (and business).  It’s a mental shortcut that’s easy to fall on; almost a year ago I wrote about how becoming a DC transplant was impacted by social media:

I ended up in Glover Park not just for the rent, but probably because Wikipedia gave me the clues that the location was right. Google Maps helped me find an apartment within walking distance to the grocery store. (This move would not have worked so well for me only 10 years ago)
Once I moved in, I could use HopStop to find the right Bus/Rail times. Later I found the WMATA’s site worked a little better. I found out the sort of places other locals would like using Brightkite. I traded in for an iPhone with GPS . Yelp is still pretty invaluable for me.

Of course the importance of location to communication is nothing new: newspapers, the phonebook, and whole publishing businesses are built around guide books. But social media has changed where we get our information from has opened up new kinds of influence, amplifying word-of-mouth discussion into sacrosanct reputation management.

With new technology come new opportunities; as with real estate before it, the value of both location and networking become readily intertwined.  Every real estate agent already understands that our social networks reveal which place might be the right fit for us, whether in real life or online communities.  These new location-based social media in turn mirror the patterns of individuals to settle in like-minded communities where they feel most comfortable.

Where only a decade ago the internet opened up opportunities to connect with others over common interests, no matter how strange or remote they might seem, today social media has introduced us to common interests of our own neighbors.  Local bloggers understand the value of neighborhood news, and so does Google while they roll out local search as a key feature for their service: what you’re looking for online may already be in your own backyard.

January’s 7

Because every other meme or trend ends up getting shared on Twitter, each month I offer at least 7 new ideas worth remembering. In celebration of the new year here are 10 important ideas I want to share.

Application: Red Laser. I think of Sales as framing devices that convince me into buying things I don’t really need. Red Laser turns my smart phone camera into an barcode reader, from which it can search online for the best prices on each item. By adding much need price context to my shopping, I needn’t miss out on saving money on a good deal any longer.

ColleagueKristin Arena.  I met Kristin through mutual friends who (like her) studied broadcast journalism at Mizzou’s J-school (which is widely reputed to be the top school in the country).  I’ve come to know Kristin even better through Twitter and Social Media.  She is in the enviable position to take advantage of this convergence, having transitioned towards a career in PR. She would make a great addition to any organization interested in its future.

Game: The Simpsons Arcade.  This is the arcade game you remember playing in your movie theater’s arcade, bumping elbows and all, lovingly recreated as a new solo adventure on your iPhone or iPod touch.  Easily the best licensed Simpson’s game I can remember and worth the few bucks it costs.

Nostalgia: the Gawker decade.  Because journalists love retrospectives, we’ve experience a deluge of nostalgia leading up to 2010.  I think Robot Chicken got it right; today’s rampant materialism and memes are just tomorrow’s sitcom fodder.  Sorry BoingBoing.

Social Network: Tumblr.  OK so maybe Tumblr is more like a blog than a social network, but the same might be said of Twitter.  Although it’s nothing new, I’ve only started to use Tumblr to it’s full potential recently.  Besides The Brew Noob, you can follow my status blog Retweet This or my photoblog Speaking in Megapixels.

User-generated thingie: Waze. This GPS enabled app for smartphones combines the usual map/routing capabilities with crowd-sourced traffic data.  There’s also a gaming element to Waze that has me hooked. Waze encourages me to use my iPhone while driving about as much as the TomTom app would, except I get to keep the $100.  Now if only I had a car…

Video: Simon the IT Dummy. Full Disclosure: I helped promote this video series as an intern with 2ChicksInc. I’m sharing it of my own volition now, because I LOL’d. And because Simon is a Geek Stud.

This Blog’s for You: How Beer indicates a Changing Marketplace.

When Anheuser-Busch’s sale to InBev was announced, years of branding began to unravel for the King of Beers. The maker of the Great American Lager (their slogan) was a family-owned business based in the American Midwest which had spent decades creating their brand based around nationalism and tradition; they were being purchased by a foreign corporate conglomerate. Almost immediately columnists were writing about how the sale was indicative not of globalization but of the American economic recession.

In spite of how the stories were framed, A-B products Budweiser and Bud Light continue to be the best selling beers in the United States (if not the world). The sale is only the latest consolidation between the world’s largest brewers; in the years prior rivals like Miller and Coors had combined into SABMiller, not to mention A-B’s own acquisitions before their own sale.  The beer business is as complex as any other industry, but major brewers like Anheuser-Busch have relied on a wide national market empowered by mass market advertising to drive up demand for their product.

The rising popularity of Craft Beer parallels the changing media landscape of the past decade; as audiences become fragmented, their consumption choices are changing.  Once mass market advertising for brewers would create print and broadcast ads designed to appeal to the widest audiences where they converged in a limited media market.  Brand loyalty was thought to begin when young adults learned about their products, and like their beers these branding techniques were meant to reach the largest audiences.  However this same target audience no longer converges in the same mass media sources, often turning online to learn about new products across a ever wider range of new media; about the only place this market would still see their ads might be watching the Superbowl, during which only the largest brewers can afford to advertise.

Consumers today have more choices in where they get their media from, especially online, which have opened up opportunities to build niche audiences like those in the craft beer market.  Along with a growing audience of beer lovers, craft breweries have taken to blogs and social media to promote their products.  This audience is passionate about their interest in craft beer, inspiring brand loyalty among those who are reached out to directly by brewers who share their values, not unlike the nationalism appealed to in Budweiser’s branding.  Most importantly this passionate audience of craft beer advocates likes to tell others about the beers they love, usually acting as opinion leaders within their network of friends and thusly growing the market for tasty craft beer every year.

Of course mass marketing still works in many markets; many consumers of Blue Moon (a SAB Miller/Coors product) believe it is a craft beer, and niche beers like A-B’s Michelob brand enjoy limited popularity. But the mass media advertising techinques do not work as well online, as demonstrated by the expensive failure of Bud.tv and other websites.  It has been suggested that beer in America’s national beverage, and as America changes so will it’s tastes.

You can learn more about Beer marketing and the craft beer movement by reading my blog The Brew Noob (on Twitter @BrewNoob).

December’s 7

xmascard-finalEvery month I share a short list of ideas that I think deserve your attention, or at least commandeer my own.  This month I’ve included a few extra as an early holiday gift to readers.  I want to wish everyone a Happy Holidays, and hope to see you in the new year.

Blog: Framing Science. Matthew Nisbet will change how you understand science.  We take for granted that the facts should speak for themselves, but our understanding of these complex subjects are largely a matter of communication.  His blog covers so much of what I learned in his classroom, and it is recommended reading if you care about climate change, public policy, or evolution.

Colleague: Nina Keim.  I met Nina as a Graduate student at American University (maybe Classmate is a better title), and have always been impressed by her initiative.  Unlike some of my peers, Nina displays an endless curiosity; she seeks out new ideas in communication and isn’t afraid to try them out for herself, often before their value is readily apparent.  Rather than merely acting as an informer, Nina embodies the role of an opinion leader in her own right.

Meme: PR does not equal “Press Release”. Sure Press Releases still work, but the question is “should you send one?”  At #PRCamp we first realized that the words Press Release should never be used near anything Social Media.  PR practitioners build relationships and tell stories, and in today’s media landscape that cannot be limited to broadcast and print news releases.

Music: Bob Dylan’s “Christmas in the Heart”.  I’ve made many jokes over the past month about the music video, which I’m convinced will soon become another Rick Roll.  What convinced this unassailable icon to record his first Holiday album may have been a favorite charity, but I’m convinced it must’ve been Santa.

PR Agency: 2ChicksInc. Full Disclosure – I’ve been working (as an intern) with this start-up PR group over the last month.  Working with the women who are its namesake, I’ve learned how a boutique PR firm can use their expertise to innovate online campaigns.  And their generous part-time position has helped me continue my own career search (thanks again for the opportunity).

Shameless Plug: The Brew Noob. My side project has evolved from 140 charecter beer reviews on Twitter into a Tumblr blog of own right.  As usual, I’ll test the brews so that you can enjoy tasty beers.

Social Network: Hot Potato. Why use hashtags or checkins if you only want to talk about an event while it’s happening?  It’s not meant to replace Twitter or Foursquare, but its a new take on an old idea. Another revelation we made at #PRCamp was that not everyone will use Twitter (the brand), but that SMS/mobile messaging (the idea) were here to stay.  Try it.

Continue reading December’s 7

Public Communications, Online Marketing, and Social Media Strategy