Reader question from Angie of California.
I have been exposed to social media for several years now and when I was still in the dental field a few years ago, I was at the forefront. I left my dental career to be a more active hands on single parent and started my own business that allows me to be a full time mom and work while my son is in school. However, I am at a place that I would like another stream of income I can make from home or virtually anywhere basically :). The only social media I am familiar with at this point is that I have maintained a Facebook “hobby”. Along with my new my interest in Instagram & Twitter which I began using this past month.
I am wondering if you might be able to guide me as to what direction to start so that I can train and become a Social Media Expert. Is there an actual certification that I would need to have? Do I just have to dive into the top 15 social media platforms and learn how to use them as well as learning how to build web pages on WordPress? Are there courses? What do you recommend my first steps be to get started in the right direction?
It has been nearly three years since I “officially” joined the world of social media marketing, although I had worked with social media for many years prior.
If you are considering a career in social media or online marketing or have a strong desire to effectively use social media marketing in your business, then the information below will be extremely valuable to you. It is a combination of training materials which I have spent the past several years curating in addition to my own notes and tips mixed in along the way. The information below will get you started with setting up your new business venture or adding a new service to your current list. Pretty much all of the resources listed in this post are free or very inexpensive which will help with being cost effective when you are first starting out.
Should you have questions regarding any of the information in this post or would like to schedule a FREE consultation with me please send contact firstname.lastname@example.org or Contact Us here.
The Basic 3:
When you think about social media and online marketing, most people think of Facebook, Twitter, Blogging and other forms of online communication. And most want to jump right in because after all, “I have been on Facebook and Twitter for years now, I know how this social media things works!” Right?!!
Wrong! Maintaining your own personal profiles is quite different than marketing for a business or brand. In order to be an effective online marketing manager, you must first consider the skills needed to be successful in this job. Just like any other job, there is a specific set of skills and personal characteristics that must be developed (or at least acknowledged) before you begin. So what are those traits?
- Computer Proficient: You MUST be proficient in computers and REALLY like working with technology to do well in this job. Right now you are probably thinking, how is this different from any other job? Well, the fact is, a social media manager’s primary tool is their computer. If you are the type of person that feels stress at the thought of being on a computer for more than a few hours or if learning new software makes you cringe, this may not be the career path for you. Technology is rapidly changing in all industries but especially in the online world. You must be able to learn quickly and adapt to new technologies to stay competitive in online marketing.
- People Skills: This is a trait that I never really fully considered myself until recently. While it may be obvious that having good people skills will get you far in business, it may not be obvious exactly how important those skills are when you are in this type of business. In addition to excellent listening skills you must also possess the ability to read people in a way that you understand them on a deeper level. You must learn as much about your customer as possible. Who are they? What are their goals and dreams? What are their likes/dislikes? You will be responsible for creating content on behalf of others and it is important that you do so with them (NOT you) in mind. For example, I have a client who is a lifestyle coach and is an extremely strict vegan (no animal products at all). If I were to post a video message about the benefits of hunting, it would not be in line with his personal message and probably would not go over very well. In fact, I could potentially lose a client because I did not take the time to learn more about their beliefs and goals.
- Self-starter – Unless you plan on working for someone else as a social media manager, you will need to be motivated and driven to succeed on your own without constant praise or feedback from a supervisor. You alone will be responsible for “making it happen”.
2. Your next step in becoming a social media marketing manager is of course training. While I am sure there are many social media managers and online marketers with a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree, I do not believe it is necessary to have a degree to do well in this business. In fact, many of the social media managers I have met over the years got into social media after leaving jobs in other industries. Experience and knowledge will go a long way. However, you do have to have a desire to learn and constantly improve your skills so that you can stay competitive. My favorite learning sites are:
Udemy – Udemy provides online courses that are given by various experts and professionals. Most of the Udemy courses are one-time video courses that range from 1-3 hours. They do have a large course catalog which covers a variety of topics including social media & marketing. They offer free courses and paid courses which range from about $19-$97+.
Coursera – Coursera is an online collaboration between several accredited (and well-respected) colleges and universities across the country. All coursera courses are free and typically range from a 5-10 week class. You may also elect to pay a fee (approximately $75) and receive a certificate for completion of the course which can be used towards continuing education credits. However, you must pass the class with a grade of at least a C to receive certification. Most courses do test and do require homework assignments. Their courses are typically very high quality and the course material is similar or the same as what you would experience in a college setting. I highly recommend the Introduction to Marketing class given by the Wharton Business School of the University of Pennsylvania (which is a highly regarded business school here on the east coast). The course information can be found here https://www.coursera.org/course/whartonmarketing.
Hubspot – Hubspot is one of the oldest and well-known sites for information on social media and online marketing. I originally had Hubspot listed under my favorite blog resources but wanted to mention Hubspot because of the excellent Inbound Marketing certification. They provide a free course (including free resource materials) and free certification for those looking to “up their game” in online marketing. The information in this course is extremely well put together and even if you do not have any intention of taking the certification exam I still recommend that you read through the material. The 11 lessons that are part of this course are included below in addition to the study guide.
Hootsuite Podium Hootsuite, one of the most popular content management systems, has also created their own certification platform to help advance a new generation of social media managers. Podium, released in the Fall of 2015, is a comprehensive social media training tool. Consisting of 6 beginner and intermediate courses including over 40 videos and numerous resources. The only downside to Podium is that it will cost you. Currently the Podium courses are free, but the certification is $199. However, that certification also includes 1 year membership and listing in the certified social media manager directory so the cost may be worth it. At the very least you can get some free training and a few new resources.
In addition, I highly recommend reading blogs from some of the top social media experts. I have learned a tremendous amount by following their tips and using their tools. All of the following sites have great articles and downloadable e-books regarding the ins and outs of social media marketing. My favorite blogs are:
3. Next, you should familiarize yourself with social media sites and learn them as well as you can. I do not recommend that you immediately start learning the top 15 or 20 because social media can be overwhelming (and time consuming) when you are first starting out. I personally feel it’s better to be an expert in 2 or 3 sites rather than know a little about 20 different sites. Currently the top sites are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram. Perhaps start with 1 to 2 sites with which you are familiar and grow from there. Learn how to set up pages, create posts, add/edit cover photos, basically everything you can do. I highly recommend that you set up pages for your business and practice with them. Not to mention that customers want to know that you know what you are doing so being able to direct them to your own social media pages will show them that you do have knowledge. In fact, at some point, you will also want to begin using these pages to acquire new customers for your business as well. Another critical aspect of managing social media is measuring what you are managing. It’s hard to know if your marketing strategy is effective without measuring the effects of your marketing. You will need to regularly review your client’s page performance to be sure that you are meeting goals and some clients may even require regular or semi-regular reporting. Some social media pages have statistical features built in such as Facebook Insights; whereas you may need to use applications such as Twitter Counter and Timing+ to measure other pages. At a bare minimum, you should be measuring your reach and engagement. And as you become more experienced, you can dive deeper into those numbers and begin measuring things like marketing ROI and conversion rates. Don’t be too hung up on “likes” or “followers” at first. It is far better to have a small engaged audience than a very large audience who has no interest in you or the company you are promoting.
4. After you have begun working with social media pages, your next step should be to find a content management system. CMS’s provide you with a way to effectively organize and schedule social media posts over a number of different social media networks and accounts. Most CMS’s do offer a free account option but the free options will have limited functionality and you may need to pay for a subscription once your business begins to grow. The most popular CMS for social media is Hootsuite which I personally use and recommend. It is very easy to use which lessens the learning curve saving you some time and is scalable up to several hundred different social media accounts should you grow your business to the enterprise size.
5. Once you begin learning social media and start to feel comfortable with it, your next step should be to begin learning WordPress. You can succeed in social media without learning WordPress, but if you do learn it, you will provide yourself with additional opportunities for work. Blogging is increasing exponentially in popularity and is becoming an essential part of social media. WordPress is an extremely powerful content management system in itself which can be used to create and manage both blogs and websites with little to no coding experience. For beginners check out www.wordpress.com. However, they also provide a site that is more advanced for developers and coders as well at www.wordpress.org. If you want to learn more about WordPress, some of the best tutorials I have found were on the WordPress site itself. I highly recommend that you join their Blogging University which provides guided lessons each day for a three week period. They have a blogging 101 and a more advanced blogging 201 in addition to writing 101 and writing 201 courses. On a side note, writing skills may be just as important in social media as anything else you will learn. If you can’t communicate effectively through writing than social media management may be a struggle. Even if you don’t plan on managing or writing for blogs, I still recommend these courses since they not only review the details of how to use the system itself but they also discuss elements regarding website development which may be helpful for beginners which may be useful in growing your own business.
6. After a few months or so (depending on how quickly you learn), you will want to begin looking for new customers. Just as any other business, there are a few considerations you will want to make when it comes to customers. First, you will want to have some type of document for collecting information about your customer. I always have an initial consultation with my clients, free of charge, to discuss their needs with them. We talk about likes/dislikes, goals, marketing strategies, etc. All of this information should be recorded and will be essential in your content development strategy. Then, you will want to make sure you have a solid contract in place. In addition to the contract, I typically include a Social Media Strategy Plan as well. The Social Media Strategy Plan basically summarizes all of the items I discussed with the customer in our initial meeting and a provides them with a basic content strategy.
7. Last, there are a few other things you may want to consider
- Images are a big part of social media and the use of images are guaranteed to increase social media engagement and reach. I recommend getting comfortable with some type of photo editing software even if it’s the software included with your PC. At a minimum you should practice changing photo sizes (pixels), adding & editing text, and changing background colors or borders.
- As a social media manager you will be sharing links on a regular basis. All professional social media managers use link shortener to clean up their links. For example, instead of sharing a link that looks like this – https://www.thecowjumpedoverthemoon.com/nurseryrhymes/childrens/famousstories, professional social media managers would use a URL shortener to display the same link as bit.ly/1Q574. However the disadvantage to using a URL shortener is that if you are trying to promote a specific website, the web name would no longer appear as part of the link. The best URL shortener I have found is Bitly. The account is free and includes analytics so that you can track how many clicks your links get.
- Developing interesting and engaging content to post on social media will be a huge part of what you do every day as a social media marketing manager. Most social media marketers use a mixture of original content – content made by you such as personal photos, infographics, your videos, and podcasts, and curated content – which is content that is shared from other sources. For content curation you may want to begin following sites that are relevant to your (or your customer’s) business or field. A few popular content curation sites are Flipboard and StumbleUpon.
AND if I haven’t overloaded you with material yet…here you go 🙂
Should you have questions regarding any of the information in this post or would like a FREE email consultation with me please send a message to email@example.com.