Many readers of Personal Branding Blog have demonstrated a keen interest in working in social media and some have already joined the ranks of this forward-looking profession. I would like my first message to the newcomers to be a warm welcome: we need the best professionals to make our world go digital and anybody motivated by a desire not only to build a worthy career for themselves but also to add value with their work is most definitely in the right place. This is one of those lucky cases (at least for now) of ‘the more the merrier’!
Motivated by a sincere and deep-rooted desire to meet you at the top, I’d like to share a number of recommendations that have been instrumental in my success and that I have done my best to apply with almost invariably excellent results. Please remember: success leaves clues, and even when we are called to be ourselves and build a distinct personal brand by opening new paths and becoming trailblazers, it would be shortsighted and plain wrong to ignore the lessons from those to trod before us and unnecessarily repeat their mistakes. I am convinced that very soon it will be your turn to add to this pool of time-tested advice and pass it on to others! So here we go:
1. Undergo the best possible training. Perhaps the most noteworthy shortage that many detect in the new pros is lack of adequate training before they embark onto their digital adventure. When I started out I already had two University degrees and several professional diplomas: the agency that gave me my first chance, however, was adamant that I gained a qualification in social media and become fully conversant with areas such as SEO, SEM, Digital PR, web analytics and others before I took on any projects (my specific field was online reputation at the time, and believe me when I state that in hindsight all of those came incredibly helpful even if they initially seemed only tangentially relevant to my niche). Newcomers are fortunate in that there are some quality courses and materials out there (some of them free, as Inbound Marketing University) they can benefit from (apart, needless to say, from self-education, which in this field is a must). There are no excuses! And if that wasn’t enough, you are also called to…
2. Learn from the best. Nothing has been more helpful in my personal and professional development and has saved me from so many cul-de-sacs and senseless waste of time and effort as using to the full the incredible power of role-modeling. The right role models are beacons that show us the way (I insist once more that this does emphatically not mean that we should become mere imitators, ignore our intuition or forsake our right to be different), but how do we choose the right ones as our referents. It’s actually not as difficult as it sounds: identify those who are already achieving the goals that you have set for yourself; study in-depth their methods, tactics, techniques and the skills and abilities that allow them to implement them so successfully. Once you have considered that, look at yourself dispassionately in the mirror until your limitations and mistakes are revealed and work patiently with determination and faith until they are overcome. Sooner rather than later, you will be becoming the role-model for others to focus on.
3. Defend your (new) job. Even when social media acceptance is fast becoming widespread, there are still layers of the population (and especially some in high-ranking positions I have dubbed ‘1.0 dinosaurs’) who do not understand – let alone value – the work we do. It will be your job to act as a 2.0 champion and inform, explain, defuse criticism, at times rebuke and often accompany many in the digitalization process in a way that dignifies our community by following laudable practices and values. Our responsibilities extend not only to those who have hired us but to our clients and the overall community in which we operate as well, a community not always up-to-date with the day-to-day realities of what we do or how we do it. Let us break any barriers and kill all mental ‘monsters’ that prevent people from making full use of burgeoning online opportunities for their businesses and brands!
4. Resist the temptation to become a self-proclaimed ‘guru’. Newcomers are especially at risk here, since it is incredibly tempting when you work in a job that offers visibility and that not many thoroughly understand to quickly present yourself as an expert, ‘guru’ and the like. While I don’t doubt for a minute that there are experts in SEO, web analytics and related areas, social media are by their nature in a constant flux of change and this makes any claim to social media expertise to have to be taken with a pinch of salt (as some facetiously say, we are Facebook ‘experts’ until their next upgrade). Let others (most notably the media, as it happened in my case) tag you as an expert if they so wish, but as far as you are concerned remain objective in the description of your record and expertise and resists the siren songs of ‘guruism’ and do not envy those who fall into that trap. Sooner or later, just as the myth of Prometheus proves, they will pay the price for their vanity. The harder they fall…
5. Become a resource. One of my College students once asked me: ‘Which is the surest way to make it in the Web 2.0?’ My almost instant and electric, gruff reply was: ‘Work harder than the rest in adding value to others’. I would like to invite you to ponder on this: many of the pros we look up to as referents are those who add more to the community by sharing their talent and knowledge with creativity and inspiration in the form of apps, posts, videos, infographics, presentations, books, conferences and many more. Perhaps you do not have such aspirations, but if you have far-reaching goals for your career, become a resource and it will be others who will propel you to success animated by a personal brand based on adding value. Give first if you want to receive later.
We are seeking the best talent so that our companies, organizations and personal brands achieve their goals and the online becomes an essential ingredient of every marketing and communication strategy worthy of that name. If you have just joined us, be welcome! Do not let unfounded criticism derail you and I truly hope that these recommendations are instrumental in motivating you to give the best of yourself in this exciting endeavor. For nothing short of that will do.
Oscar Del Santo is a lecturer, consultant, key speaker, blogger and populariser of online reputation and inbound marketing in Spain. He has been extensively featured in the Spanish and Latin American media and is included in the ‘Top Social Media Influencers’ and ‘Best Marketing Tweeters in Spanish’ lists @OscarDS. He is the author of ‘Reputacion Online para Tod@s’ and the co-author of ‘Marketing de Atraccion 2.0’.