stayed in the youth development field until March 2016. During that month, I decided to quit my job with the intention of pursuing a career in marketing and communications.
As I quit my jobーwith no back-up plan, but a good amount in savings and a whole lot of faithーI decided to brush up on my marketing skills. If there was a webinar, I would watch it. If there was an in-person workshop at the local library, I was there. During that time, I also had a mentor who allowed me to work with her company so I could build up my portfolio during the transition.
Within three months, I landed a job as a marketing and communications coordinator for a small nonprofit in Saint Louis. While I was eager to get this new chapter of my career started, I couldn’t help but have this sinking feeling that I didn’t deserve to be there. Even though I had the degrees, even though deep inside I knew what I was talking about, imposter syndrome reigned supreme. And because I let imposter syndrome trump my instinct and intellect, I made glaring mistakes with digital marketingーespecially in social media.
Whether you’re just graduating from college or looking to jump into a new career, I hope you’ll learn from the three biggest mistakes I made as a new social media manager.
Not asking how social media fits into the “grand plan.”
Very quickly, I learned that sometimes businesses and nonprofits will hire for a position and not have a deep understanding of the role. From a tactical standpoint, they know what your responsibilities are, but other than that, they may not have a clue about how social media impacts each department. That’s a catch-22. On the one hand, you expect an employer to know why they hired you. On the other hand, I believe it is the responsibility of any new member to a team to observe, ask questions, and make suggestions.
Looking back, I would have asked during my interview, “How do you think this role impacts the organization?” and “How do you see this role solving the problem of x,y,z?”
Asking questions is paramount because if you don’t have a clear picture of what’s expected of you, others will define your role for you, and you’ll fall under the weight of assumptions.
If you’re joining a team as the new social media staff member, it’s imperative that you ask the following questions:
Who executed the social media efforts of the company prior to my position?
What are the business objectives for the next one to three years?
What does successful social media look like to you?
What is your understanding of the social media landscape?
Other than deciding you need someone to manage social media, how do you think social media helps move the needle of the company?
I’ll be the first to admit that my reporting was initially terrible: I would make mistakes such as not measuring the correct number of days when doing week-by-week comparisons and alternating between native analytics (ex: Facebook insights) and Hootsuite metrics. Why is this a problem? I couldn’t effectively prove where we were with social media, if any growth happened, or provide recommendations based on the data provided because it was inconsistent. I found myself duplicating reports, quadruple-checking my work, and eventually starting my reporting process from scratch after three or four months.
When creating a social media reporting system, incorporate the following practices:
Stick with one reporting system for a specific metrics. That’s not to say that you can’t use Hootsuite and native Facebook analytics in an overall social media report, but you shouldn’t jump back and forth to calculate one metric.
Develop a reporting template. A reporting template saves time and energy when pulling metrics month over month. To develop a reporting template, you need to have a clear understanding of the metrics you’ll be tracking.
Decide how often you’ll pull metrics. Some social media managers pull metrics week-over-week, others may do pull numbers month-over-month. Whatever you decide, stick with a consistent time frame.
Feeling ashamed of what I didn’t know.
There is an immense amount of internal pressure to be the “guru” of your position. You should come to the table with a certain level of expertise, but at the same time, don’t be ashamed of what you don’t know. My strengths as a first-time social media manager was that I was skilled at developing a plan and skilled at working the plan. I wasn’t as versed in Facebook ads, nor did I have a clear understanding of specific social media platforms like LinkedIn and Pinterest.
Since I wasn’t as well-versed in those areas, I had an overwhelming feeling of guilt that followed me everyday. I would ask myself questions like, “What if someone asks me about starting a Pinterest account? What would I say to them?” As I have grown, I now know that if I am asked something I don’t know, it’s perfectly acceptable to say, “Thank you for the suggestion/feedback. Let me do a little more research and get back to you.”
If you feel insecure about your knowledge base, I suggest the following:
Make a list of strengths and where you want to grow. There is power in creating a visual indicator that reminds you of where you currently are and where you want to be.
Make a professional development plan. Some companies want you to discuss your professional goals with them, and others may not have as much of an interest. Whatever the case may be, you need to create your own plan for your growth. Refer back to the list you created and decide what webinars, classes, or books you’ll read to address the growth column.
Check in with yourself. Sometimes, we all need a gentle reminder of how amazing we are. At the end of each day, reflect on where you excelled, where you grew, and what you’ve learned. At the end of the month, meditate on your progress.
While the mistakes I made at the time didn’t feel goodーand caused me to question my worth, value, and skillsetーI wouldn’t be the social media manager that I am today if I didn’t make them. Everything is ultimately a teachable moment.
And whenever you start a new endeavor, remember these words by Curlbox Founder, Myleik Teele, “You don’t have to have it all figured out. You can start with no experience. Give yourself room to be a beginner. Every single person doing ANYTHING significant did what it is that makes them great for the FIRST time.”