I've had a few conversations lately with friends and business acquaintances who expressed an interest in a job involving social media. I found myself giving all of them the same basic advice, so here it is. None of it is new or novel, and I'm not entirely sure I haven't written this post already, more or less, but I'd rather write it again than search for it.
We just hired someone who has contributed to multiple blogs, created promotional campaigns on Facebook and has a solid understanding of the social media landscape. The competition was fairly stiff and her practical social media experience got her the position.
Oh, did I mention she's a summer intern? That's what you're up against.
This post is not aimed at someone applying to be a community manager at a social media company or a social media marketer at a major brand. I'm talking to people who are hoping to get a marketing or communications position in nearly any company right now. This is what I think you need to be able to answer yes to the question, "Are you active in social media?"
Get right with Google
Google yourself and see what comes up, because that's what a prospective employer will do. If you're not appearing on the first page of Google, do some Web searches for things you can do to make that happen. There are plenty out there. Here's one to get you started.
It's not essential to have a Gmail account, but 75 percent of the active social media practitioners I know have one. The rest have email at their own domains. That's what it takes to look clued-in, email wise. And I know I've said this before many times, but have a professional-sounding email address and if at all possible, make it your name.
Start a blog
Start a blog on WordPress.com (or a self-hosted WordPress blog if you're so inclined). Write as though you are already active in the field. Show your prospective employer that you know how to contribute something of value. Leave him or her thinking, "Damn, I wish this person was writing this on our blog."
If you're worried that you'll be starting a blog from scratch and your interview is in a week, go back and look at other things you've written that would be worth posting. When I started the blog that turned into this one back in 2003, I unearthed a slew of long emails I'd written to my friends over the previous year that I thought were funny enough to share. That's where my first dozen or so posts came from.
And once you have a blog, it becomes the home of your online presence. Content you create there can be promoted on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and more, and it usually doesn't require anything more than your blog's RSS feed.
Max out your LinkedIn presence
I assume you're on LinkedIn, but is your profile 100 percent complete, according to the little LinkedIn progress counter? Ask people for recommendations. If you're just graduating, ask professors for recommendations now. Take advantage of the things LinkedIn lets you include, like an RSS feed of your blog. Personally, I don't post my tweets to LinkedIn, but that's my preference. As a hiring manager, I wouldn't hold it against you. In fact, I'd see it as evidence that you had spent some time learning the tool.
Also, what does your LinkedIn Summary say about you? It should give a prospective employer a clear idea of who you are, what you're looking for and what you can offer. It may be the first thing your next employer ever reads about you.
Wash your Facebook face
I won't spend too much time here becoming the one billionth person to warn you that prospective employers will look for you on Facebook. But they will. Be sure you know what's there, how the privacy controls work and what people will see. Better yet, turn your Facebook presence into something you hope the hiring manager will see. Remember, I'm talking here about getting a job where social media is part of your duties. Lots of people choose not to mix their personal and professional lives on Facebook, but not so many who do social media for a living.
Tidy up your Twitter
Again, I'm assuming you're on Twitter. Do you have a presentable photo, a bio that says who you are and a link to a site where we can learn more about you? Is your Twitter handle your name?
It would be great if you have an established following on Twitter, but I won't hold a low follower count against anybody if their account shows a sincere effort to use Twitter to engage and learn. But if you're only following ten people and they're all celebrities, that will tell me right away you're not using Twitter professionally and I'll have to teach you.
Those are what I consider the basic requirements, at least right now, in June of 2010. Depending on where you are and what kinds of jobs you're applying for, that might not be enough. If you have an active YouTube channel and have shot and edited some videos, that'll be a big plus. If you're sharing on sites like Delicious, even better. If we can have an intelligent conversation about the potential B2B value of Foursquare, well, then maybe you can have my job.
photo by me