Social Media Career Crawl

This past Thursday I had the opportunity to attend a “Social Media Career Crawl,” put on by the wonderful people at the University of Michigan Career Center.  The event, which allowed small groups of students to interact with multiple social media professionals in a “speed networking event,” included Hillary Frazier, Social Media Director for the University of Michigan, Jordan Maleh, the Digital Marketing Director for the University of Michigan Athletic Department, Mike Brownfield, Social Media Director for Governor Rick Snyder, and Graham Davis, New Media Director, Truscott Rossman (and formerly Social Media Director for Jennifer Granholm).

Selfishly, I was very happy to see and receive the advice from so many social media and communications experts working directly in politics. Given the fact that not only am I a political junky, but also hoping to follow a similar career path, the ability to talk to guys like Graham Davis and Mike Brownfield was an invaluable experience.

To summarize, here a few points I took away from my conversations:

Education: A lot of students, when asking about the background required for a career in social media, were very curious about the possibility or necessity of pursuing a graduate degree or program. The resounding response from the experts? No. Every single one stated that direct work experiences,or a portfolio of previous digital communications, trumped a graduate degree every time. However, while this is certainly true, it actually came up that the University of Michigan is falling behind in teaching courses (save for this one) and providing an undergraduate concentration in digital media. Michigan State University already has a degree in new and social media, and most professionals praised that as a good move.

Email isn’t dead: Jordan Maleh spoke a lot about how Facebook and Twitter are only a small portion of his job. Given that his focus is to use digital media to sell tickets, he said he focuses his time on email. I asked him if he thought email was dead, or losing its efficacy. Given my absolutely nerdy obsession with email marketing, I was ecstatic to hear that he thought email was alive and well. He talked about how you can ignore a facebook status or a tweet, or even worse not even be aware of them at all, but with email you are at least forced to check and skim the message. He also talked about how once you are on an email list most subscribers will not bother unsubscribing, making it a great medium to direct your organizations message.

Future of social media professionals: The other point most echoed by all the professionals was that above all else, those trying to make their way in social media career need to be able to write and write well. They need to be language and communications experts. A lot of students, including myself, asked whether we were falling behind not knowing how to code or use computer design programs. While they all agreed those are incredibly marketable skills, they reaffirmed that the biggest job of a social media director is to craft language that is both engaging and effective.

I was also glad to see that many of their points were the exact same we are learning in class. Overall, it was a fantastic experience that I am so happy I was able to attend.

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2 thoughts on “Social Media Career Crawl

  1. Thanks for your reflections on this career fair. It sounds like an incredible experience! I am, of course, always happy to hear someone say that writing skills are really important, maybe even more important than the technology (my contention all along!). This is a really nice blog entry because it clearly demonstrates your awareness of structure and content that works well on a blog entry.

  2. Great post. I enjoyed the three points you discussed.

    I agree that email is not dead since it is still the primary way that people communicate online and it will continue to be part of the communication mix for nonprofits. While social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are rapidly growing, and online communication is changing, email will continue to be an asset to various organizations. Just because we are changing the way we access email, it does not mean that we are ignoring them, in fact, it might mean that we are checking them more since we do have that increased access of availability. What is important for nonprofits to prepare for is how they measure these email shifts, which include knowing what kinds of devices your audience is accessing your email, if taking action and making donations is easy when accessing via different devices, and if the website is mobile friendly. Overall, it is important to meet donors where they are and reach them through the technology they are using.

    In terms of education and the future of social media professionals, I think this career will have it challenges. Since social media is constantly changing, the behaviors of the people using it will change, which means that best practices will change as well. Social media is a 24/7 job, and being connected at all hours of the day, seven days a week is unreasonable, but possible. Overall, creativity and flexibility, as well as communications skills are key for a leading career in social media.

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