Expert. Guru. Rock star. These are just some of the words used by social media practitioners to describe themselves. And while there’s certainly nothing wrong with promoting your skills or tooting your own horn - we are, after all, in the marketing field - many clients and employers view grandiose self-descriptions with skepticism.
When everyone describes themselves in the same way, how do clients know who’s legitimate and who’s just pretending? Yes, the experience you listed on your resume is certainly important. But what if you’re going after an opportunity that ten other equally-experienced candidates are vying for?
To create a competitive edge in the social media field, you have to take extra steps to prove you’re better than your competitors. Here are five such steps.
1. Create Online Video Courses
If you have deep knowledge about a particular social channel or strategy, it’s important to pass this knowledge on to others in your industry. And if you can teach an entire skill set, that’s an ideal tactic for gaining competitiveness.
Yes, many social media practitioners maintain blogs and get published in outlets like Huffington Post. But such blog posts and articles rarely springboard their readers into whole new levels of success. This leaves a major gap that you can fill.
To really cut through the claims of “expertise,” do something that most social media pros don’t do: develop an online course. This undertaking will help you gain a competitive edge, while also providing another income stream along the way.
And creating an online video course isn’t as difficult as you might think, especially with a good content-delivery platform. As social-media trends change, keep creating more courses (or course updates). Your courses can be extensive, or they can be short mini-courses about the latest Facebook/Twitter/whatever features your learners should know about.
When you’re going after a desirable client or trying to land a dream job, who are they going to go with - the candidate who merely “claims” to be a guru-level social media manager? Or you – the one who’s teaching others about social media through online courses?
2. Dig into Analytics
Analytics isn’t the most “sexy” or glamorous skill to dive into. Nonetheless, because it’s increasingly growing in demand, building a reputation as an analytics guy/girl will skyrocket your competitiveness very quickly.
At a minimum, analytics to be proficient at include:
Acquisition – Examples include traffic, number of new leads, click-through rates, blog subscribers, email subscriptions, web sessions and session duration, links, and other related metrics.
Conversions – Examples include revenue per customer, conversion rates (including conversions from new visitors and return visitors,) ROI, etc.
Engagement – Including number of retweets, shares and repins, average number of comments, conversations generated by your post, virality (the rate your content spreads), etc.
Reach – Number of followers, the viewership of your videos, your brand awareness, keyword frequency, etc.
Retention – Customer support cost-per-ticket, positive reviews, turnover rate or churn, K-factor, customer testimonials, customer ratings and reviews, etc.
Advanced: “Big data” for a real competitive edge – Going further than these essentials, however, is the field of big data and deep analytics. This is where the competitive rubber meets the road. According to research by MGI and McKinsey's Business Technology Office, the US is headed for a shortage of up to 190,000 analytically-skilled workers in 2018. This means as you get more proficient with complex analytics, companies will start stumbling over themselves to get at your skills.
3. Get Under the Spotlight of Public Speaking
Public speaking is important for social-media practitioners for two reasons. First, live video is exploding in usage, and it’s taking a stronger place in content strategy. Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Periscope, etc... all these platforms are growing in viewership and usage.
To gain a competitive edge, make sure you’re able to conduct live videos and confidently present yourself on camera. It’s true that not all social media managers are seen on live video. But if you can do it, that can certainly give you an advantage.
There’s a second reason why public speaking will give you a competitive edge. Being behind a podium gives you a reputation as a social-media authority.
There are many marketing conferences you could shoot for as a speaker. But if you’re new to public speaking, start local. Begin by scoping out events at local Rotary Clubs and other public venues. Anytime there’s a need for a business speaker - and your social-media knowledge would fit that need - jump on the opportunity.
While top-rated speakers charge for their time, it’s okay if your first few speaking gigs wind up being unpaid. For now, your goal is to get your foot in the door and build your authority. Depending on the quality of your presentations, you’ll eventually be able to charge for your speaking engagements.
4. Learn How to Create Chatbots
The steep increase of social media usage and messaging apps is giving rise to this recent innovation. Everyone’s talking about chatbots, but not everyone fully understands what they are and how they’re useful. Your knowledge of this emergent field can be a big competitive advantage.
Chatbots are computer programs, typically woven into messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, Apple iMessage, Slack, Wechat and others. Chatbots often incorporate artificial intelligence, which enables them to mimic human conversation and respond to customers by engaging in text interactions.
Why do we need such technology? Because messaging is becoming one of the most prominent ways people communicate with individuals and businesses - in fact, 2 billion messages between people and businesses happen each month on Facebook Messenger alone.
With the growing customer usage of messaging apps, companies are swamped. Chatbots are the answer, and Facebook Messenger is currently home to more than 100,000 active chatbots per month.
The bottom line is that right now is the time to learn about chatbots. The more you understand about building them, and the more you’re able to envision their value and importance, the more competitive you’ll be.
5. Gain an Impressive Social Media Following
The social-media practitioner with thousands (or even hundreds of thousands) of followers will have a big advantage over the one who has a mediocre following - but numbers aren’t all that matters.
The quality of your followers is important too, so make sure you’re going after followers who are relevant to your personal brand and your industry. Interaction also counts. It’s not terribly impressive to see an account with a million followers if the person who owns the account never engages with their audience. In fact, a high-quality, high-engagement account with 1,200 followers is often more impressive than a non-engaging account with 1,000,000 followers.
Building a following with both quantity and quality takes time, of course. But that’s ok. Take a deep breath, make a plan to climb the large mountain, and get to work. If your audience is small, you can still interact with them in some very positive ways. You can do a lot with a few hundred fans. Are you solving problems for them? Are you inspiring them and making them think? If you are, that’s an excellent start.
As you continue to steadily build your audience, keep interacting with your followers. Eventually, you’ll have an impressive following to interact with daily.
You don’t have to try building a massive audience on every social network. Go with the one that’s home to the largest number of people who would most likely join your audience. And if you favor video, don’t discount YouTube as your channel of choice.
Also, keep track of your competitors. What networks are they most active on? What content are they creating and sharing? Are they interacting well with their audiences? If you see gaps, fill them. Look for an area that can be improved, and run with it.
Patience is Key
One common thread throughout all the above tactics and skill sets is that none of them happen overnight. Whether we’re talking about building a social media following, developing online video courses or learning analytics and chatbots, patience will be your ally.
Remember that many of your competitors are also trying to build an edge. If you’re able to out-learn and “out-patience” them, you’re sure to gain a more significant competitive advantage.