Whether you're job shopping, entering the workforce or making a lateral move into the red-hot field of social-media marketing, 2016 should be a very good year. The demand for social-media staff has climbed rapidly over the past 10 years, according to Indeed.com.
As the discipline - and brand spending on social media - has grown, most companies have begun to articulate different functions. Formerly, the company might have one social media specialist. Today, roles include strategist, manager, community manager, editor, writer, analytics manager, social media marketer and data scientist. But each company may define the responsibilities for those job titles differently.
The new year will bring even more changes to social media marketing:
Continued device proliferation: While mobile usage has overtaken desktop, mobile devices are taking on increasingly diverse form factors. Social media pros will need to tailor campaigns to the context of users, for example, someone using a tablet at home versus someone checking a phone in a store.
Greater emphasis on data to inform targeting: Social platforms are continually refining the data and insights they can provide to marketers, but most brands are only beginning to make use of the data. Expect them to get more serious in 2016.
Higher expectations for tracking ROI: That same data can be married to other data sources to track the effectiveness of social media campaigns. Companies now know that likes or retweets don't necessarily add to the bottom line.
Rise of messaging platforms: Just when we thought we were getting up to speed on web and mobile services, consumers began moving to messaging apps. A Pew Internet survey found that 36 percent of smartphone owners had used messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Kik or iMessage, while 17 percent used apps that automatically delete sent messages, including Snapchat and Wickr. Marketers will need to follow consumers into messaging.
Increasing video consumption via social media: Video consumption overall increased by 23.3 percent in 2015, according to ZenithOptimedia's Online Video Forecast, and it's expect to grow again by 19.8 percent in 2016. Close to 75 percent of companies are now producing video for content marketing. It's no longer enough to write good copy. Most social media platforms now support media, so familiarity with video production could be an important differentiator for job applicants.
Prepare for your social-media job interview by showing how your experience and skill set can help the company succeed in this new environment. Beyond that, here are the steps you should take to shine:
One of the most difficult tasks for agencies and internal marketing departments is keeping up with the constantly proliferating next-new-things in social. Demonstrate that you have a personal presence on as many platforms as possible, with very active participation on several. Be prepared to discuss the merits of each platform during the interview. You'll get bonus points if you're on whatever is the latest at the time of the interview.
Buff your profiles
Before you begin interviewing, freshen up your own social presence, with special attention to LinkedIn. Make sure your photos are up-to-date and that your top posts on any platform reflect your expertise and passion. If you've been lazy about contributing, gently ramp up your posting. More than half of hiring managers check out candidates' social profiles - and some even send friend requests.
Show you're not lost in translation
Because social media activities are now expected to drive business results, the social media staff must be able to communicate not only with the traditional/digital marketing staff but also to non-technical executives, according to digital marketing specialist Stan Prish. You should be able to provide a rationale for campaigns and ongoing engagement on social media, as well as project returns on the investment, with an eye to both financial results and awareness.
Sharpen your tools
There's a proliferation of social-media management and analytics tools that support every step of the process, from keyword research to posting to tracking and calculating the ROI of a social media campaign. With so many choices, employers usually won't require experience with all the products they use. But you should be able to demonstrate familiarity with several tools. This shows that you understand the underlying concepts of campaign management and have the ability to learn new ones. Get up to speed on platform-specific tools, including Facebook Conversion Measurement; Twitter Campaign Management; and LinkedIn Campaign Manager. You also should learn one or two tools that allow you to manage a cross-platform social-media presence. Sprout Social, HootSuite, Sprinklr and BuzzBundle are among the services that let you manage communications on different social networks via a single dashboard.
Grab onto metrics
Again, because companies are looking for a return on their social media programs, you'll likely be asked to define the relevant metrics and key performance indicators for each platform and explain how they can impact the overall business.
Become a data wizard
The immense quantity of potentially valuable, unstructured data produced by social media is giving companies that can use it an edge. The job outlook for data scientists is red-hot, according to executive recruiter Burtch Works. While the big tech companies continue to slurp up talented data professionals, traditional companies also are moving quickly into big data. It's possible to move up from analytics to data science, according to Burtch Works. If you have an analytics background, consider going to a boot camp or taking some online training to move up.
Be social in the interview
Don't be afraid to share your personal interests and passions with the interviewer, advises Eva Gordon, vice president of training and development at The Container Store. "Employers want to spend time with candidates who are interesting and have the ability to market themselves," she says.
Get a grip on social-media advertising
Most social platforms provide for some kind of paid advertising, and this is an increasingly important part of social strategy. Learn about the advertising options for each platform and be prepared to discuss how to use paid amplification of social posts.
The best advice from experts on acing the actual social media job interview is to be your best, most positive self and answer questions honestly. Below are the top-three social-media job-interview questions with tips on providing good answers:
1. How would you improve our company's social media presence?
There's no one right answer to this. The best answer will come from doing your homework. Research your potential employer's current activities across all channels. Then, produce a plan, with action items and metrics for success.
2. Explain Facebook EdgeRank and how you would use it for our company
Because EdgeRank is complicated, this question serves as a litmus test in social-media job interviews, according to Artisan Talent.
3. What are some of the best practices on X?
There are some universal answers to this question, including engaging with fans and responding promptly to comments and messages. Beyond these, many of the platforms differ in the ideal cadence and content of posts. Analyze the potential employer's social media activities and prepare to discuss best practices for every network it uses.
The coming year is full of promise for the industry - and for social media experts like you. Here's to a highly social new year!