By Kristy Hesom

In most cases, if you want to pursue a career in a certain field, you go to a university or college and get your degree. In the social media sphere, however, it isn’t as black and white. 

What kind of education do you need?

Jacqui Mackway-Wilson, digital marketing consultant and online safety activist at Go Social SA, says she has employed many people from diverse educational backgrounds. These include: communications qualifications, a background in either journalism or creative writing, advertising diplomas or traditional PR and/or marketing degrees.

Julia Rhodes, head of social media at Stretch Experiential Marketing, agrees that various educational backgrounds can help with entering social media. 
“There are many aspects that can come in handy. One of them is perfect English. An Honours degree in English would be something that serves them well,” she says. She also says that having the skills to create visuals like infographics, skills in photography and Photoshop, and producing good quality videos are aspects that can benefit you. 

In an article for The Guardian, Anna Marsden quotes Adam Round, recruitment consultant at The Digital Recruitment Company: “[A] strong degree in journalism is a good starting point for the junior social media roles.”

Mackway-Wilson also points out that you can “bring yourself up to speed” by doing a course based on the skill sets you require. Check out 10 free online courses here.  

What kind of experience do you need?

“I think the skillset a person brings to the table is more important than the piece of paper they hold,” says Mackway-Wilson. Therefore, experience is important.

“You need to be an excellent written communicator; you need to have a flair for dealing with people from across cultures and different walks of life; you need to be somewhat technically-adept and a you need to know how to work well in a team,” says Mackway-Wilson.

Rhodes says that working with the local news or running a blog or an online community will give you the knowledge of people and what they like, and experience in writing storylines, which gives you an upper hand in social media. 

Marsden also quotes Victoria McKevitt, director of digital marketing agency, iProspect, about what skills are needed, including a “lot of rounded skills and abilities such as an understanding of brand, marketing or communications planning, writing and good design/aesthetic judgment".

What jobs are available?

Now that you know what you need, what are you going to do? Rhodes says that there are three general roles in social media: Junior social media assistant, social media manager and the head of the social media department.

In the junior position, she says you are more behind the scenes in an assistant capacity where you will assist with copy-checking, concept creation and research. As a social media manager, specifically at an agency, you will be in charge of a specific social media account, or multiple accounts. 

In a higher position, you will be head of the social department who will run the team of managers and assistants to “oversee the over-arching strategies and make sure that all of the objectives are being reached for each and every client”. 

Mackway-Wilson, however, points out more specific titles that she has seen and advertised for, including copywriters, community managers, SEO specialists, digital designers, creative strategists, digital data analysts, digital content managers and social media managers. 

Some advice

For those wanting to join the social media industry, Rhodes offers some advice: “It’s an exciting, awesome and growing space. You’re going to be challenged every day to stay on top of your game because it’s always changing.”

Mackway-Wilson agrees, but also offers a warning: “Be committed to lifelong learning. Stay teachable. Stay curious and proactive – there is no room for complacency or arrogance in a field that is constantly changing at a rapid pace.”

Do you work in the social media sphere? What does your job entail? Tell us in the comments below.