Dear College Student,
Social media has grown over the past few years and is now an important aspect of many careers. However, most colleges do not have classes or majors that focus solely on social media. This can make getting a job that requires you to use social media once you graduate difficult.
That’s not to say that you don’t hear about social media in school. For example, when I was working on my Communications degree, many of my professors stressed the importance of maintaining numerous social media accounts in a professional manner. But while I was told this in my classes, I never got the option to choose a class specifically about social media and its nuances, tools, etc. If I wanted to learn the ins and outs of social media, I had to do it on my own.
So I did.
The most important thing I can tell you about social media is this: use it often. I cannot stress this enough. You won’t learn how something works just by looking at it or even reading about it. There are dozens of social media sites out there — Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+ and so many more. Create an account and start using them right away – even if you’re the only person you know that’s using it. Familiarize yourself with these sites and figure out how they work and how people can use them. You have to know about the newest social sites and apps before the rest of the world. That way, once everyone else catches on, you’re already an “expert” on the subject.
A great way to get some practice with social media is by doing it for free for non-profit organizations, on-campus clubs or even small businesses in the local area. The group that you volunteer for will appreciate the work and you’ll be getting valuable experience in the process. If that’s not enough, you can also include the work experience on your resume and LinkedIn profile.
Social media is growing in popularity for larger businesses as well, and most have at least a Facebook page and a Twitter account. Find internships focused around social media with these businesses. If you can’t find internships that revolve specifically around social media, look for related opportunities, like assisting in the SEO or web design department where you’ll get to edit website copy or photos. Since most colleges don’t offer online marketing classes, any online experience will look good on your resume.
Another important aspect of social media is doing your research. Don’t be scared to send out surveys to friends, coworkers, family and fellow students asking them their opinion of the site and to get some solid data about the new social site’s users.
For example, back in 2011, I was browsing the Internet when I discovered Pinterest. It was still a fairly new site, but it caught my interest right away. I used the site heavily for a few months then sent out a survey in 2012 when it started to get more popular. The data I collected and analyzed from that survey was soon turned into a thesis that was published by the Association for Business Communication.
Not only did my research help me better understand and use Pinterest to effectively engage with potential consumers, but it also looked great on my resume to employers.
Social media is a great way to get news quickly and efficiently. Use this to your advantage. Keep up-to-date on changes in the social media scene, as well as tips and case studies. Many forms of social media are incredibly fast-paced, and you’ll need to learn how to keep up with it if you want to successfully use it.
Follow the leaders in social media, analyze what they do and figure out why they are successful. Read social media campaign awards, like The Webby Awards, to get a firm understanding of what works, how to track your campaigns, and creative ideas.
Use social media to brand yourself. No one is going to hire you if your own social media accounts aren’t up to par. Anyone who looks at your profiles should be able to see what kind of person you are. So word to the wise, don’t put up anything that you don’t want your potential employer to know. Learn from the mistakes of communication experts who didn’t think before they posted like Justine Sacco.
Because social media allows for fast communication, you have the potential to connect with anyone who has access to the Internet. Follow blogs that you find enlightening and share links to them. Reach out to your favorite author, who might actually respond to you. Learn the best methods for communication now, while you’re still in school, so you’ll be better prepared once you have that degree in your hands.
I’m not saying that you should disregard your coursework and focus solely on social media. You might be able to find some classes, whether they’re offered at your school or even though an online program, which allow you to go more in depth with your knowledge of social media. If not, look for any classes that focus on marketing, new media, or public relations. An education is an invaluable resource to have, but just remember that your degree does not automatically guarantee a job after you graduate. A strong background in a specific field, however, will work in your favor when interviewing.
Social media is a fascinating aspect of the Internet and it’s only growing in strength and popularity. It’s a great idea to learn as much as you can about it. Keep an eye out for changes — because if there’s anything else I can tell you, it’s that social media is constantly changing.
If you have even the slightest interest in social media, go for it. Feed your curiosity. Learn as much as you can. Fuel your passion. Just because social media isn’t on your class syllabus does not mean you can’t learn about it.
Often the best lessons in life are the ones you learn on your own.