How to Get Started With a Job In Social Media

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Social Media is a relatively new facet of marketing. Actual jobs in the industry are an even newer concept. And so for many people planning their social media career path, it can be hard to figure out where to put your foot in the door. My (admittedly twisty) road is by no means a recipe for guaranteed success or a checklist of must-haves for a social media career. But I thought it might help to share with people how I got here.

The short answer? A little luck. A dash of patience. Employers who were willing to test stuff out. A solid marketing and writing background. And a lot of tasks outside my official job description.

A Strong Marketing Background

I started out an advertising major and graduated from Boston University with a Bachelor’s degree in Communications, where I concentrated on copywriting. At the time, this was largely focused on print. Facebook was just poking and photo posting, and Twitter was still an idea being hatched on a cocktail napkin somewhere. And while writing ad copy for fictitious print campaigns is not quite the same as social posts, I did learn a lot about writing. (The attention grabbing, to-the-point necessities of a headline also apply to Twitter.)

After graduation, I got a job at a small web development shop writing copy for websites and online ads. Nope, not print ads, and not social either. But I learned more skills they hadn’t taught us in school, such as search engine optimization. After some time there, Facebook began introducing new features, and I found a kindred marketing spirit in a coworker named Dan. Together we began pitching and working on social media initiatives for clients. Twitter was just starting out (I still remember my first TweetUp) and Facebook had just introduced pages.

A Passion for Social Media

From there I moved to a large ad agency. My title, again, was copywriter, and I was focusing mostly on digital ads. But the need for social media marketing across the agency was growing and I was often tapped to contribute to brainstorms for clients in multiple kinds of industries. And the more I worked on social media projects and ideas, the more I knew that was what I wanted to do. My next role was again as a copywriter, but with a large social media component, this time working in-house for a single brand. And from there I went on to my current role as a social media manager.

And The Drive to Do What You Love

The moral of this story? Do what you love, and make your job what you want it to be. As a new field, there is no one right way to approach social media. But the most successful social media stars are those who live it and learn from experience. I did not study it in school, and there are very few classes available even now.  But there is a lot of great information out there, and plenty of potential experience. Read up, utilize as many social sites and tools yourself as you can and find friends, family or local businesses that will let you “practice” on them. You don’t need an advanced degree or a specific check-list. But you do need to know how to go after what you want.


  • Thanks for this post! I am trying to do all of these things on a daily basis….now I just need to run into that little bit of luck :)

    Comment by Renee {Eat.Live.Blog} — September 14, 2011 @ 12:37 pm
  • [...] How to Get Started With a Job In Social Media via Alison Zarrella [...]

  • “Read up” – That is how I am learning! – there’s been more added to the pile since then! Blogs too! I wish that social media was part of a graphic design program, even if its just the basics: setting up the accounts, finding out who’s who in the industry, how-tos, and etc. But with hard work and good research skills, you can pick things up (slowly!) Thanks!

    Comment by pubfish, inc. — September 16, 2011 @ 10:27 pm
  • Awesome post!! my hubby is in the military and we pickup and move often…. I love techie stuff and social media outlets so I’m definitely trying to break into the field before we have to ship off again and I easily work from home!! thanks again!!

    Comment by Erica Henry — October 27, 2011 @ 12:52 pm

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