10 Ideas: Standing out in the social media jungle

The other day in my Twitter stream @joe_sharkey asked:  “As a new graduate, how do I stand out in the social media jungle?”

I promised I would write him a blog post in response, so here it is!

I believe today’s most successful social media marketing candidates will have three key qualifications:

1) Demonstrated understanding of marketing fundamentals.

2) An ability to rapidly identify, assess and deploy appropriate new technologies.

3) Possess superb writing and communication skills.

Here are some ideas to help you stand out in those areas, even if you’ve already graduated:

Resist the temptation to be a social media guru. When I graduated from college, I thought I knew it all. Turns out, I didn’t know shit. Then, when I was 30, I thought I knew it all. Turns out, I still didn’t know shit. I know … You’re different. And you probably are. It wouldn’t be all that difficult to be smarter than me. But consider getting some actual marketing and client experience with a company or an agency before hanging out your shingle. Better yet, work at a couple of different places first.

Become a beefy marketer.  An ability to navigate Facebook or YouTube might be enough to get you an entry level job at some places but to really build a career you should become proficient at the fundamentals of marketing.  Star performers will be able to apply their love of the social web to marketing research, consumer behavior, product development, personal selling, and brand-building.   Get a degree if you can. If that’s not possible, join the American Marketing Association and immerse yourself in their journals and webinars. Read all you can, attend free webinars every day of your job search, create an effective RSS feed for yourself.

Don’t goof off.  OK, classes are over and you want to head for the beach or Europe for a few weeks. Whatever you decide to do, don’t be out of touch for a few weeks and then head straight into an interview. You need to stay on top of the latest developments and be able to discuss them intelligently when you get an audience with a prospective employer.

Immerse yourself.  You can’t learn social media marketing in college. In fact, you can’t learn it anywhere. You have to do it. Nobody can help you can find your blogging voice. Nobody can help you sense the rhythm of Twitter. You have to jump in and show people you have the chops.

Get experience, even if you do it for free.  Building on the last point, if you really want to do social media marketing, you better be ready to show some examples of what you can do. In this competitive job market, there are just no excuses not to. Lots of people need help. Charities. Churches.  Schools.  The needs are great and budgets are tight so if you can’t find an internship, go make one.

Build your power base.  If you’re looking for a job, this is a good time to start building some online marketing muscle.  Surround yourself with targeted followers, especially on Twitter and LinkedIn.  Engage with them in a helpful way.  Identify yourself in your bio as a job-seeker.  Identify local business people and marketers you can learn from and try to have lunch or coffee with different people a couple of times each week. Check out how Antonia Harler did this.

Blog strategically.  It makes a lot of sense for new graduates to blog like a house on fire. It’s good skill development, but it will also extend your job interviews.  Here’s what I mean.  You go for an interview. Maybe they give you 45 minutes or an hour. Here’s the last thing you say to them: “You don’t have to take my word that I know how to do this stuff.  Go see for yourself on my blog.”  Which, they will do. You have just extended your job interview by at least another 30 minutes.

Hone your writing skills.  Blogging isn’t enough. You need constant feedback, so connect with bloggers who are great writers and see if you can do some guest posts. Be humble. Ask for ruthless editing.  Repeat.

Emphasize secondary skills … even if it’s just a hobby … to provide an extra bonus to employers. If it’s a tight call between two applicants, you might have an edge if you can offer an employer a “combo deal” based on your passion for photography, editing a newsletter for a charity, doing the books for your spouse’s business. This is especially key if you applying for a job at a start-up where everybody has to wear a lot of hats. Find every possible way to differentiate yourself!

Ask for help. See what happened when you sent a tweet asking for help?  You got a whole new blog post out of it.  In general, people on the social web are really cool. If they’re not, find some new ones.  We rarely say no to somebody who is authentically trying to connect with us.

What are the community’s ideas on this one?  What advice would you give to people trying to stand out and break into a social media marketing position?

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