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How to Get a Job in Social Media Right Now
Marketing recruiter Kelly Gordon on the current social media hiring landscape.
I’m going to keep this intro short because there’s so much good stuff in today’s interview that I just want to get into it. I spoke with Kelly Gordon, an extremely talented recruiter in the marketing space and an old friend, about the hiring landscape right now. We cover industry-wide trends she’s seeing, how to build a social media portfolio, switching out of a social-specific role, how to sniff out bad company culture, and so much more.
This is a hiring resource I’ll be referencing for years to come and I’m so grateful to Kelly for all of the intel.
First! A quick (very exciting) ad from our friends at Sprout Social.
Tomorrow (March 30th) I am leading a webinar with Sprout Social all about preparing your brand for a new era of social media! It should be required viewing for any brand trying to figure out how to stand out on social right now.
You’ll leave the webinar uncovering:
Why your old social strategy will no longer work in the new era
How your brand can optimize social content for engagement and shares
Campaign examples and tactics you can implement now
Rachel Karten: Hi! First off, mind telling me what your role is?
Kelly Gordon: I am a Principal Marketing Agent (aka a Principal Recruiter) at Creative People. We are a human-centered and relationship-driven recruitment agency that works with high-growth start-ups and some of the most disruptive brands in the country to help them build out their teams. I specifically focus on hiring within the social, content, and brand space.
I also want to quickly note before we jump in: I am by NO MEANS a social candidate myself and I cannot do a lot of what your readers do. I speak to candidates and clients all day hiring in this space so my perspective is a little unique as I see both sides!
RK: Makes sense! To start I'd love to hear a little state of the union on social media hiring right now. What are you seeing? Is it a good time to be looking? Are companies finally paying social managers what they deserve? Give it to me straight.
KG: Right to it! Social is the fastest moving sub-industry within marketing and brands are constantly trying to figure out what is most important to them.
Here’s a list of what I’m seeing:
More Senior Manager and Director Level roles
In these roles, it’s extremely important that individuals have management experience as well as strategy and analytics. Typically managing an intern and not being able to chat through data-driven successes won’t fly.
TikTok/Content Creator roles
Whereas brands used to outsource creators, they now want someone dedicated to making content in house. I know you went into this conundrum of being in-house as a creator but I am seeing it a lot more!
More all-encompassing roles
This kind of stinks but with the state of the economy and brands having tighter budgets, I am seeing a bit more of a return to a social person who can do it all. Last year, I was seeing a bigger uptick in extremely specialized roles, for example, just strategy or just channel management. I think this will level out but when I work with brands I do tell them that day-to-day this type of all-in-one role isn’t manageable.
Market isn’t where it was a year ago
If a brand actually understands the importance of social to their growth, they tend to pay salaries commensurate with that. I will say, the market is not what it was a year ago so salaries have evened out a bit more. I am pleasantly surprised with the salary vs years of experience expectations that brands have these days and if they are far off, we always level-set with what market-rates are.
RK: What are some characteristics that you think make a strong social candidate?
KG: Horsepower is my number one! This doesn’t mean you need to do the most, it means you need to work hard and work smart. I equate this with making sh*t happen. Being a driver is so important to an industry that changes constantly!
Curiosity is incredibly important too because the landscape is always changing. You should be geeking out on everything social! What brands are doing it well? What trends are going viral—and should you even attempt to jump on them? Who are the people that are making great work? What the heck is happening with IG updates vs Tiktok vs Twitter? Read this newsletter! If you know your stuff and you’re excited about it, it’s apparent in conversation.
Creativity is my last one. This doesn’t mean you need to be a creator or need to be filming. It means you need to take risks, jump on trends, fail fast, and iterate. You can move with the speed of culture. A little intangible but the idea is you understand what is happening in the world and want to bring that into your channels in a way that makes sense for your brand.
RK: What's a common mistake you see on social media professionals' resumes? Any tips?
KG: Vague responsibilities, buzz words, and no stats. You have about 10 seconds max to impress a hiring manager so you need to tell your story as quickly and efficiently as possible. Here are some quick tips:
Every single team defines social differently. Write down exactly what you were responsible for and what resources you had. If you ran Twitter and Instagram but not TikTok, please state that! If you were the only person on the social team and literally did everything from coming up with the social strategy to contracting to content creators to managing the channels and then reporting…please state that! Be detailed.
Links on resumes! Seems small but link out to the channels you are responsible for. It makes this super easy for the hiring manager to find! If you have a portfolio, link it to your resume.
Data, data, data. Please add stats to your work. What did the brand’s social look like when you got hired and what does it look like now? Follower growth, engagement, etc? Please add these numbers! Marketing teams tend to need to prove worth and these numbers are valuable to the C-Suite.
RK: Building a portfolio as a social professional can be really tough—a lot of our work is dynamic, sometimes disappears, and there's just SO MUCH of it. What tips do you have for social managers wanting to showcase their work?
KG: I hate to admit this but I have passed over candidates because their resume was just okay…but then I click into their portfolio and my mind changes immediately. Social is incredibly visual so I highly recommend all social professionals have some type of visual representation of their work.
I’m a huge fan of Canva because it’s so efficient and easy to use. A social candidate told me about Gondola, which looks sick. No one has sent me work through this yet but I’m hoping candidates jump on it! It’s very visual and straightforward.
When you start a role, take screenshots of all of the channels inclusive of followers and grid shots. Write down the backend stats. When you want to talk about what you contributed to the business, you now have a way to account for that!
I also would start a Google Doc and organize it by channels you were responsible for. If you wrote a tweet that gained traction, screenshot that along with the responses and drop it in. Now you have a content bank that you can pull from when crafting your portfolio.
RK: I talk to a lot of social professionals who want to use their skills to jump into a new area of marketing (Brand Manager, Creative Strategist, Paid Social, etc)—do you have any tips for how social managers can leverage their experience into a move to a different area of marketing?
KG: I’m a huge advocate for social professionals branching outside of social. There are three big ways to do this:
Move to a new company
Move within your current company
Take on a freelance project
As mentioned before, social is a huge piece of the brand puzzle but not all hiring managers think this so you need to really be able to show how you can translate your skills to what they are looking for.
I’m going to be harsh here but only because I was on the other side many times and it’s laughable how much I assumed a hiring manager would connect the dots for me. You need to do that work. Don’t say to the hiring manager, “I’ve done that”—show them you have done it and get ahead of them. Here’s an example:
“I know from looking at my profile that I have only been in social and this new brand role encompasses a lot more but currently my role actually covers brand partnerships and influencer. I manage sourcing, outreach, and negotiation for all digital partnerships inclusive of xyz brands. I don’t do PR but I have managed outside agencies before and would feel really comfortable diving in immediately here.”
If you are trying to move within your current company, you may want to start chatting with individuals who are on the teams you want to be a part of. Let them know you’d like to help on a project or two. More than likely, they will want the help. Showing initiative actually goes a very long way. It goes back to the horsepower point.
Taking on side projects is another way to get experience without too much risk. If you want to get more paid social experience under your belt but your current company isn’t willing to help or invest in that, try looking outside. Smaller brands and first time founders need help and it’s a great way for you to get projects to add to your portfolio.
In all of these situations, you do need to be flexible. A lot of these companies will be taking a chance on you when they could just hire someone who has done this exact job before. The title may be more “junior” than what you were hoping for or pay may not be exactly aligned with your dream salary but if you are passionate about moving outside of just social, you will likely prove your worth pretty quickly!
RK: Do you have any tips for candidates on sniffing out if a company has a good culture, especially around social (approval process, trusting their hires, empowerment to create content, etc)?
KG: Candidates should use interviews as a two way street. Ask smart questions that you need to know before making a decision to take an offer: Who is responsible for the channels now and how does content get made? Is there a sign-off process in place? How involved is the CEO or Founder in social now? Is risk-taking encouraged? What happens when someone tries something and it fails?
Also use your network! I would try to speak with people not in the interview process. See who you are connected to on LinkedIn and see if any of your friends or friends-of-friends work for the company. Try to get a backchannel on general culture and the team you will be joining.
RK: Social media has changed a lot in the past few years and continues to change. If you had to predict, what do you think future social media candidates will look like? On-screen personalities? AI? Curious if you have any thoughts.
I think the qualities we spoke about before will always be important in social…and honestly any job. So, that aside, looking at the landscape and the world we are in here are my thoughts:
Video will always be important. Being comfortable behind a camera *and* on camera will likely become more and more popular.
I see a bigger role with community and social. A data-backed, proven track record of building loyal brand fans.
I love that you mentioned AI—I think one of the biggest reasons why a brand is successful on social is because they can speak to their community. I don’t want an AI bot speaking to me. It’s not authentic. But I can see social managers figuring out a way to use ChatGPT and other resources as a way to cut down their workload when it comes to copy or captions. Still, I don’t see social managers being replaced by robots ever.
As a reminder, the Link in Bio Talent Collective is a way for companies to find talented social pros—and for you to find your next role. If you’re open for work (or are even very casually looking for new opportunities), you can apply here. Once accepted, your profile will get put in front of companies who are looking to hire social media positions.
And if you work at a company looking to hire talented social media professionals, you can head here to get access to the Link in Bio Talent Collective.