Social media for antisocial Luddites
December 3, 2013 9:03 AM   Subscribe

All of the communications and marketing jobs I've been applying for lately have required experience posting to social media. In my personal life, I've avoided having anything to do with Facebook, Twitter and so forth, and I'm wondering how I can quickly get up to speed on these things. All I need is to be able to convince a potential employer that I can effectively promote them on social media, without ever having done this as part of my job responsibilities. How to accomplish this?

This is a career change for me, and no opportunities exist at my current job to contribute to the social media accounts. I do write blog entries for a couple of local nonprofits, but they do not need any help with their social media accounts. I've tried looking on Volunteer Match, etc., to see if any other nonprofits in the area need help--to no avail. There are countless unpaid internships available throughout the area, but they all indicate that they are for students actively enrolled in college, which I am not.

I have no doubt that I can do this, and I know that a wealth of information exists out there on how to leverage social media in marketing efforts, but I feel I need real experience at it before anyone will take me seriously. Is there an online course I can take? Any other options?

Finally, I've made it this long without opening a Facebook account of my own, but do I have no choice if I'm to be taken seriously by potential employers?
posted by silly me to Work & Money (14 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Find a passion of yours and create a blog, FB, twitter etc; use SEO to get to the top of google Link it to your real name but you don't need to give out any personal details. Keep metrics on what you have done and include it in your resume.
posted by saucysault at 9:21 AM on December 3, 2013

Best answer: MOOCs are good for this. A quick search returned these results. Basically, if you can't demonstrate successes in this area, at least you can show that you've learned the basic principles behind social media and SEO.

I think you're on the right track by searching for volunteer opportunities. It's a great way to build a skill set. Keep looking! is a great resource, too.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 9:21 AM on December 3, 2013

Yeah, do a course and get some kind of certification. I've taught this as a post-grad diploma course for a bunch of different outfits, so there are definitely real-world courses in this, or there are a wealth of online courses.

And, honestly, as someone who staffs roles for clients, I would never ever suggest hiring someone for a social media role who did not have an active social media presence across Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:39 AM on December 3, 2013 [9 favorites]

Best answer: For a basic overview of how Twitter even works, I saw this site recommended in a recent AskMe question - it is a super simple overview that I found really helpful.
posted by barnoley at 9:39 AM on December 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have to echo DarlingBri. If you've been avoiding social media up to this point, you may be setting yourself up for failure by going after a position that requires someone who is social-media-savvy.
posted by DWRoelands at 9:47 AM on December 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

Ditto DarlingBri, think of yourself as the site you're promoting.

LinkedIn is your first place.

Then Facebook.

Then Instagram.

Then Twitter.

You can link your Twitter to all of the above, post there, and then it will automatically update everything.

Start a blog, about anything really, but have it be well-written and professional.

Perhaps try for a job where you can LEARN about using social media in business, without having it be the main part of your job.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:56 AM on December 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm not sure you need a Facebook account to be taken seriously by an employer, but maintaining at least a presence there is going to be helpful for any communications/marketing job you're looking for, and it probably would be a top Google search result for your full name. Anytime you can control those top Google results you should try to take advantage of it - my top results are often my personal blog (, my Facebook, and my Twitter (though this is not always consistent).

I also recommend starting a Twitter account for a passion of yours in order to get used to how it works and how to use it consistently. A quick way to burn out of social media is to try to do everything at once. Just start slow - follow some people who are interested in the same thing and reply or retweet something a couple of times a day for a week or two. Don't approach it with the idea that it's a marketing tool; it's just a way to chat with people who have similar interests.

I do social media for my employer, and I keep a relatively low profile - a few tweets per day and only then if it's germane to a discussion or is a link to something genuinely interesting. But it did take me a long time to become savvy at this - I didn't understand the value in it until I used it regularly. So just dive in and expect to make some etiquette-related mistakes along the way and remember that those mistakes are learning opportunities.

I should also note that I generally agree with DarlingBri - I also wouldn't hire someone to do this who didn't use social media in their daily life (though I didn't either until I started doing it for my employer).
posted by antonymous at 9:57 AM on December 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I do social media for a living. I would never hire someone who didn't have established, actively used social accounts. Not only does it demonstrate a lack of interest in social, but over time, social media users develop an understanding of how social conversations work and the conventions that go along with them. While you can read a book about Twitter or take a class in social media, it's simply not the same as using these tools day in and day out. That's not to say that using social platforms for fun is the same as doing it for work, but it's a good start--and, IMO, an essential one.

Why do you have "no doubt" you can effectively use social media if you've never even used social media at all? Sure, it's not brain surgery, but there are many elements to a professional social media job--content development, customer service, graphic design, photography, tracking metrics, integration with existing communications channels, approval from higher ups, live event coverage, etc. Are you interested in social media? Do you have skills in related areas? Are you willing and able to adjust your strategy and content every time a new platform comes out, or every time a new report indicates a certain site is most effective, or every time Facebook adjusts its algorithms?

If I were hiring, I'd rather hire someone who's done social media than who's taken a class. Keep looking for a volunteer opportunity, and in the meantime, establish your own accounts and start using them.
posted by serialcomma at 10:00 AM on December 3, 2013 [14 favorites]

Best answer: @antonymous has it.

Everyone thinks everyone is on social media. You can use that assumption to your advantage-- I doubt the question "Are you on Facebook?" is going to come up because of course you're on FB - isn't everyone? Figuring out social media is not rocket science - it's not something you need to major in to be able to handle well - everyone knows even children are doing it (no offense, but that's true). Sure, take an online course but don't spend a fortune on it.

If you are the kind of person who generally presents well in job interviews, having "no real experience" will not matter. You already blog, and know a ton about marketing and communications. You just have to make the interviewer like you and think you are not a flake.

In general, successful career people are really good at just going for it - saying "yes, of course, I can do that! I'm the best at doing that!" - when they have no skills or experience; whereas too often women are socialized to downplay their capabilities, and insist on having all of their ducks in a row, and every possible degree and certification, before they even throw their hat in the ring.

Just throw your hat in the ring. Now.

You can do it. No, you don't need your own Facebook account. Employers aren't lining up en masse to complain that not enough of their employees are on Facebook (unless the employer IS Facebook, perhaps). If you're going to try on something new for fun/learning personally, then Twitter and Instagram make more sense. Blogging about your personal brand makes sense.
posted by hush at 10:00 AM on December 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone, for your answers so far.

I wanted to add that the jobs I'm applying for are not purely social media jobs, but rather that this is one component of the job description (along with writing newsletters, press releases, fundraising materials and other old-school things--all of which I've done before). I don't know if this makes any difference.
posted by silly me at 10:08 AM on December 3, 2013

Best answer: Step 1. Get a hobby. (If you already have a hobby, great!)

Step 2. Figure out an angle on said hobby that you'd be interested in talking about in a social networking sense. This can be as straightforward or creative as you want.

Step 3. Open a Twitter account. In my opinion Twitter is great for this because it has a high level of value for Mass Comm type folks, and doesn't depend on connecting with your personal friends. It also has a large userbase which means it's fairly easy to get followers. And it's simple to learn how to use effectively. Pinterest would be a good alternative if your hobby from step 1 is a visual/design oriented thing. Tumblr could also be OK, though it has some potential downsides.

Step 4. Tweet A LOT. On Twitter, in my experience quantity is much more important than quality. Quality is good, will attract more followers, and will look better to potential employers. But start by just doing a lot of tweeting. You may want to use a twitter client like HootSuite that allows you to schedule your tweets so you can spend 10 minutes on the site per day and then just let it do its thing, rather than hovering.

Step 5. Engage with people. This is another way to build an audience, and in my opinion is really the name of the game for a good social networking strategy. It's called SOCIAL NETWORKING, not 140 Character Press Release or Prolific Joke Machine. If someone follows you, follow them back. If someone responds to your tweet, reply to them. Etc. You should also be proactive in seeking out people you think would like your tweets, and engage with the community surrounding your hobby.

This will, at the very least, get you familiar with how social networking works and what the metrics are, as well as giving you an online presence. If you are successful at it, it will also be something you can add to your resume.
posted by Sara C. at 10:58 AM on December 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think it's important to separate two (sometimes overlapping) uses of social networking sites.

Some people use social networking sites exactly as it says on the tin. They sign up for Facebook, connect with a bunch of specific individuals they actually know in real life, and use the site to share aspects of their personal life. There are pros and cons to doing this, and I don't think whether to participate in this way is really germane to the question.


The use that is important for you, silly me, is the use of social networking sites as a marketing tool. If you want to work in PR, marketing, communications, etc. in 2013, you have to be able to demonstrate that you're at least comfortable with social media as a communications tool. In my opinion, the easy way to accomplish this is to do it with particular social networks that are less personal, so you can choose how much you want to make your participation about you vs. about recipes or collectible dolls or speed skating or whatever topic you choose to talk about.

My understanding is that demonstrating your ability to engage with communities online in a way that is not about sharing your personal information probably looks better to employers, anyway, because they're not hiring you to take selfies but to build brand awareness.
posted by Sara C. at 11:57 AM on December 3, 2013

I'm not sure you need a Facebook account to be taken seriously by an employer, but maintaining at least a presence there is going to be helpful for any communications/marketing job you're looking for

The problem is that there are no brand accounts. Brand Pages are administered by individuals, and those individuals' personal accounts are enabled to administer the brand's Page. In other words, it is not possible to administer a brand page on Facebook without having a personal Facebook account.

I wanted to add that the jobs I'm applying for are not purely social media jobs, but rather that this is one component of the job description (along with writing newsletters, press releases, fundraising materials and other old-school things--all of which I've done before). I don't know if this makes any difference.

No. You absolutely must be able to demonstrate competency in this arena. It's a core skill, not a "would be nice to have." If you don't know what you're doing, you can fuck up a brand's reputation really, really severely.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:41 PM on December 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Really wondering why people are giving you so much pushback.
Social media is merely a tool to convey all the things you already have experience with.

Yes, you will have to learn the specific site norms but that is not difficult. And your content will likely be better than some "Share, Like & Retweet if you like our $Brand!" from some alleged social media specialist.

I also think that if you never ever used any social media it would be good to create accounts. Not necessarily in your real name, though. I have a Twitter account that I use exclusively for one topic related to my profession. It does not have my real name associated with it. I tweet my own opinions and links to news/articles. I could go and add my name to that account any time, if I wanted it to be part of my online portfolio. So, pick a topic, create an account and start posting. You can share the account with prospective employers or add your name to it at any (later) time.

THIS a thousand times:
hush: "[...] too often women are socialized to downplay their capabilities, and insist on having all of their ducks in a row, and every possible degree and certification, before they even throw their hat in the ring."

Sadly, the snippet is true. Do not be a contributor to that statistic. There are tons of self-taught professionals. Please do not let people here discourage you.

The job description lists many things (per your update) so posting to social media is not the core skill. Creating content and presenting it in an interesting and engaging way seems more like it.
Good luck!
posted by travelwithcats at 1:27 PM on December 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

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