At The Lighthouse Social Summit September 2022, Luan Wise was joined by three guests for a session to discuss all things social media careers.

Have you ever wondered how careers in social media start? What qualifications and skill sets it takes to work in social media? And, how those who have successful social media careers got to the place they are at today?

Well, this session will answer these questions, with some great advice from industry leaders.

Firstly, this session was hosted by Luan Wise, recognised social media marketer, author, trainer and editor of The Lighthouse. Luan was joined by Beth Thomas, Lauren Ahluwalia and Jaymie-Leigh Baker.

Here’s the recording:

Lauren Ahluwalia, Senior Paid Social Account Manager, Found.

In 2015, Lauren started her digital marketing journey. After studying Economics at University, she joined a marketing agency in Nottingham that provided her with marketing training.

Two years after she began at the digital marketing agency, in 2017, she became a #SheMeansBusiness Facebook trainer, a programme that supports women-owned enterprises to enter the digital economy. At Facebook, Lauren received excellent training from industry leaders, and she gained a lot of confidence in the process. Since then, she has continued to help train female entrepreneurs in paid social and organic social. Lauren has worked in three different agencies, two in Nottingham and now one in London, called Found. Here she gets to work with some exciting clients on amazing projects- primarily on paid social media. Lauren explains that social media roles are continuously changing and evolving. Even seven years later, she is still learning and experiencing new things.

Lauren’s tip: Have a community. On Facebook, there are so many marketing groups that people can join to build a network, share ideas, and let out any frustrations. For some recommendations, click here.

Jaymie-Leigh Baker, Social Media Marketing Officer, University of Essex.

Jaymie-Leigh studied Marketing at University and her passions lie in organic social media. She started off completing internships whilst studying for her degree so she would help local businesses with their social media and shadow people in marketing agencies. For five years, Jaymie-Leigh has been volunteering with the British Red Cross to create their social content. She has managed the social media for universities such as Anglia Ruskin and recently for the University of Essex’s. She recently moved to another company but is continuing her passion for higher education social media by starting a community group for social media managers in universities, as well as going back to Anglia Ruskin as an Associate Lecturer in social media marketing.

Jaymie-Leigh’s tip: Social media marketing can be extremely flexible and varied. You can always keep yourself busy and as she says, “It’s a good time to be me”.

Beth Thomas, TikTok Live Content and Campaign Operations Manager, TikTok.

Beth studied Business Leadership & Management at University, which involved some marketing, but no discussion of social media. This may be surprising to some people because of how important social media is to a business’ marketing now, but back in 2013 (when Beth graduated) it was very different. She gained experience by volunteering and throwing herself into new situations.

Beth’s background is in social media management and she is currently working as a content and campaigns manager at TikTok. For eight years, Beth worked for a wide array of brands, from small start-ups to huge brands such as Deliveroo and Birchbox. She found her niche in social and influencer programmes but was still open to trying new avenues of social media marketing, which found her getting a job at TikTok.

Beth’s tip: Just have a go. Try different things. Some may succeed, some may not but just keep going.

Key social media questions and answers

What does a typical day/week look like in a marketing agency?

Lauren replied: First thing in the morning, check your emails. Pretty standard. Then, you usually check the campaigns that are currently running and check for any fluctuations and results that may have happened overnight. Then, the day is filled with a lot of meetings- mainly on Skype and Zoom. These involve checking in on clients in their weekly catchups and informing them about how current campaigns are progressing, as well as discussing upcoming campaigns.

What does a typical day/week look like as a university social media manager?

Jaymie-Leigh said: Starting off with the classic line- no two days or weeks look the same. As we know, social media is so unpredictable so as much as we can hope that our days can be as structured as possible, sometimes this doesn’t go to plan. New social media updates and trends can completely change the day/week of a social media manager.

Whilst working on a university’s social media, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of the standard 9-5 days. For example, in graduation season, this can involve a lot of evening work due to live streaming events or talking to a celebrity honorary graduate. However, not all work is as exciting as that. Sometimes complaints can come in from students who are having issues with flatmates, which requires a different kind of attention. There are so many audiences to cater for, that planning can often be redundant in higher education social media.

With this job, you can meet anyone and do pretty much anything. You have so much creative freedom and there is always something to talk about. Every day is different, with a lot of ups and downs, but there is always something exciting happening.

What skill set is needed to work in social media?

The discussion highlighted some key skills that social media managers should have, including:

  • Digital skill set
  • Knowledge of the different social media platforms
  • Empathy and people skills
  • The ability to encourage others and be an advocate for social media
  • Data driven and the ability to look deeper into the results
  • Collaboration skills
  • Know your audience
  • Creativity
  • Be a social native- even if your brand isn’t using a particular platform, you should be on it to monitor what other brands are doing on there
  • Influencing
  • Not being scared to fail

Can a social media manager do it all?

The short answer, is no. No one has got the time to complete every aspect of a brand’s social media. Not if it is to be done to the highest possible standard. It is important to set expectations and outline roadmaps and timelines. This is not just important for a client that you are possibly working with, but also for yours/your team’s sanity.

However, it can also depend on the size of the account and brand. For a small business, sometimes one person can do it all. Yet big brands that are inundated with messages and have wider planning regarding campaigns, require a larger team. Sometimes brands see competitors who are putting out so much content and want to emulate that but don’t consider the difference in the size of the social media team. If a social media team is made up of just one person, it is not productive to compare it to a team of 50.

What advice would you give to someone looking for a new role in social media?

  1. Know your reg flags. It is important to be able to look at a job description and know that it would be manageable for you. Some may have a wide range of skills that you would be required to do, which may look exciting. But remember, if you are responsible for the same number of things that a full team could be responsible for, is it worth it?
  2. Ask questions about the team you will be working with. Would you be expected to capture the content or is there a photographer and/or videographer?
  3. Interviews are a two-way thing. Not only do you have to show why you are a good candidate, but you also must consider if that would be a good place to work for you.
  4. Social media is 24/7, but I’m not. Ask questions about hours as social media is constant, but that doesn’t mean that you should be working all the time. Ask if you are expected to work weekends if something crops up, or what happens in an emergency out of hours.
  5. Social media is public, even to future interviewers. Your portfolio may contain all your best bits, but if there are any bloopers or posts with little engagement on social media accounts that you have managed, be prepared for future interviewers to see that and maybe even ask you about it.
  6. Always be prepared. Look at the social media of the brand you are applying to work for. Analyse it. Look for what they do well and what you would change. Although be careful, the current social media manager may be on your interview panel, so don’t be too mean, just constructive!
  7. Respect yourself, even if an interviewer doesn’t. Some bigger brands may have an ego and expect that it is your dream to work there. Even if it is, know your own worth. Look at your interviewer just as much as they’re looking at you.
  8. Know what you are good at. Showcase your main skills on your CV and make sure that you have a portfolio of all your favourite work. You could even show a brand a taster of what you could do for them, to stand out.

This session was so informative for people who are wanting to start their careers in social media; those who are hoping for a change; and those who are settled in their job but are interested to hear the opinions of other marketers.

Tinisha Osu is a Marketing Executive with two degrees in Psychology. She is the first-author of a published psychology paper and is beginning her career in marketing through blog-writing, creating social media content and running marketing campaigns.