A growing number of businesses and organizations of all sizes are searching for ways to tap the power of social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, which millions of people now use to stay connected online.
Experts say companies' need for social-media expertise has increased dramatically this year and will continue to grow as more people come to understand and recognize its value. And that means an explosion of job opportunities throughout the country.
"This has been the year where every organization has
come to realize the importance of social media, rather than just a
handful of organizations," said
It's unclear exactly how many social-media-related jobs exist, but companies want their messages to get to where the people are.
Facebook, created in 2004 and now the Internet's most popular social network, has more than 500 million users throughout the world. And it's not just young people who are drawn to it: The number of Internet users ages 55 to 64 on Facebook has grown 88 percent in the past year, according to a study by the Pew Center's Internet and American Life Project.
Some major brands, such as Dell Computers, have
helped set the stage for other companies by showing early success with
social-media marketing. Last year, for example,
"It wasn't until 2009 came around, and initiatives
on Facebook, Twitter and other social channels were producing soft and
hard ROI (returns on investment) by major brands, that the hiring
really started," said
But the social-media field is still in its early stages. Ray warned that some companies are far more advanced than others about their social media plans.
"Social media is a little all over the map right now," he said. "It reminds me a great deal of the late 1990s with where we were in respect to the Web. At that time, companies realized they needed a new set of skills that they historically had not valued or needed. ... They went out seeking those skills, but at the time, many didn't know what they didn't know."
"For the most part, a lot of companies still don't know really what they are doing with a digital-media plan. ... They are not quite sure who they are looking for most of the time," he said.
Many job descriptions appear too broad or unclear, or the identified skills being sought don't fit what the company actually needs. Job titles, which range from "digital community manager" to "social media strategist," don't help.
"Right now, some companies are not necessarily mature in (the) way they view or use social media — but they recognize they need it," Ray said.
Using social media is different than other types of marketing. In a conventional campaign, the staff may spend months planning the project, Ray said. They would then launch it and move on.
With social media, the real work begins after the launch, he said, because someone has to keep track of how people react to the campaign, then respond to their comments and switch gears if needed.
That could require hiring someone capable of creating an overall digital strategy and employing a variety of online tools, experts say, or simply adding someone who could monitor and respond to public comments on Facebook, Twitter and other social-media websites.
"I'll get the phone call, 'So-and-so told me you were the person to call about social media, and I guess I need to get this up and running,' " she said.
"They rarely have a plan."
Jantzer said she can offer such a business various options, from training existing staff in the use of social media to helping the owner identify the business' needs to creating a social-media strategy and setting it in motion.
Like many others working in social media, Jantzer
stumbled into the field. She had studied computer science in college
but was working as an insurance agent for
In late 2008, she and a business partner started the social-media consulting firm Weedot to offer training and seminars for business owners and entrepreneurs. She soon noticed that, within a few months, the same local business owners were returning and asking for her help implementing the strategies she had taught them. That's when the firm got into consulting, she said, and Weedot has seen a steady stream of business since then.
Some social-media experts predict that, eventually,
nearly everyone in the workplace will need to be social-media savvy to
do their job properly. But Ray, the
Krupinski, of MindComet, said that, just as some consultants and agencies specialize in certain niches, such as data storage, others will focus on social media as more businesses seek out trusted advisers.
"But remember ... anyone can say they're a 'social media guru,' but do they really talk the talk and walk the walk?" he said. "Make sure you choose wisely, and ask for specific examples of successes before your start a relationship."
(c) 2011, The Orlando Sentinel (Fla.).
Visit the Sentinel on the World Wide Web at http://www.orlandosentinel.com. On America Online, use keyword: OSO.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.