Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

Podcast: How to make a career in social media

Essential market tool requires a variety of skills and thoughtful strategies

While we once thought of social media as a way to stay connected with friends or chat online or play a game together, it’s now grown into an industry in which people can and do have full-time careers.

beverley theresa, nait marketing grad and social media strategistBut how do you land one of those careers? And, if you’re not an influencer, sharing your expertise or knowledge with your millions of followers, what type of work would you actually be doing?

In this episode of Career Essentials, we talk to Beverley Theresa (Marketing ’06) about her career path and how her education led to her work as a social media strategist.

When Theresa started at NAIT, social media wasn’t a course you could take in school. But by combining her studies in marketing with work that followed in analytics at a market research company, she gained the knowledge and the experience she needed to integrate social media with other digital marketing practices, and built her own successful company in the process.

Techlifetoday: What is something to consider for people who want to work in social media?

Beverley Theresa: I would probably ask if they’ve ever run social media professionally for a business. Or, do they have basic graphic design skills? Are they good with taking photos and videos for social media? Do they have skills in copywriting, digital media, and analytics, and stats – social media encapsulates a lot.

I think people just forget that it's not just posting off the cuff and writing posts. There’s more strategy actually behind it.

So how would you explain that social media isn't just about being able to post a nice photo?

I basically tell the client we can't start posting unless we have a strategy. We need to go over their main business goals and their marketing goals and ask them what else they're doing for marketing, whether it's traditional or digital. And figuring out who their audiences are, what platforms they are on and what kind of content resonates with them.

I tell the client we can't start posting unless we have a strategy.

From there, that’s when we do the posting.

There’s now a lot of mini certificate courses and programs directly related to social media. Is that enough to start a career in social media?

It's what you do with that training that really matters. If you're looking to get a job in social media, whether it's in house or at an agency, what's really important is hands-on experience.  You can learn all these things through the computer or in class, but until you actually apply them, you don’t really know how the world works.

Hands-on experience is really important, whether that's volunteering for a nonprofit to do their social media, or helping them with their marketing, or working for a small business.

What would you say is the most difficult part of working in social media that people don’t realize?

Burnout. That’s something that I deal with all the time. It’ll be 11 o'clock at night, and you get a direct message from one of your client accounts. You think, “Do I answer this now? Do I wait ’til tomorrow?” And then you're stressing out about it because you want to respond right away but you don't want to get into this whole conversation because you're about to go to bed.

Burnout. That’s something that I deal with all the time.

I went through a really bad burnout two years into owning my own business. It was like having writer’s block and it keeps you from actually doing your work. It's brutal.

What would your number one advice be for new grads who want to work in social media in terms of how to get started?

I would say for new grads, either volunteering for an event to run their social media or volunteering for a relative's business or a nonprofit. And then having a portfolio that you can share with businesses or agencies to show them that you've actually done this before. I think that proof is stronger than anything because it shows that, “Hey, I know what I'm doing.”

Are there any other misconceptions about working in social media that you want to debunk?

That anyone young can do it. One thing I've heard a lot is, “My son is 20, or my son is 17. He's really good on Instagram. We could probably have him manage the account.” But has he ever managed Instagram for Business? Probably not. And are you going to trust your 17-yearold son as the mouthpiece of your business online and represent it? Probably not. You want someone who's experienced and specializes in this space.


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