As social media’s influence grows, job opportunities multiply


— Type “social media” in the keyword box on most job-search websites
and dozens of help-wanted postings appear. That wasn’t the case just a
few years ago.

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 Augie Ray, a Forrester Research analyst who specializes in social computing.

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, Dell said it generated $3 million in sales with links from its various Twitter accounts.

“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 Mark Krupinski, social-media director for MindComet, an Altamonte Springs, Fla.-based interactive-marketing agency.

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.”

Shawn Vincent, digital-marketing director for Brand Advance, an Orlando, Fla., interactive-marketing agency, said the influx of jobs in social media is a double-edged sword.

“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

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

Amy Jantzer, an Orlando-based social-media consultant, said she often gets calls from businesses unsure about what they need or want.

“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 Aflac Inc.
when she started searching for new clients using social networks on the
Internet rather making “cold calls” by telephone. Her supervisors at
the insurance company eventually asked her to teach other agents how to
drum up business using social media. Soon other agents were seeking her
help as well.

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 Forrester Research
analyst, said businesses will continue to need people with specialized
skills who can keep up with the fast-paced changes in social media and
be among the first to identify the next big trend.

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.”


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