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3 tips for launching a career as a social media manager

If you’re interested in developing a social-impact career, there are very few straightforward paths to follow. This week, we’re sharing the advice and stories of a few people in various fields to help shine a light on the opportunities that exist in the social sector. Today, Amy Sample Ward—author, speaker, and Membership Director of NTEN—shares her tips for launching a career as a social media manager. Check out the other posts in this series.

Photo credit: Gavin Llewellyn, Creative Commons/Flickr

Photo credit: Gavin Llewellyn, Creative Commons/Flickr

In 2011, we noticed something interesting at Idealist: social media jobs comprised 7.7% of all jobs listed, up from .01% just four years earlier. Of course, this growth is not unique to Idealist; more organizations across sectors are realizing the importance and power of social media to attract and engage audiences while increasing revenue and support. But what are nonprofits doing that is encouraging such growth in this particular field?

Amy Sample Ward has been watching this growth for nearly 10 years, teaching and sharing on her blog how nonprofits harness social media and technology to achieve their missions. She recently co-authored a book on this very topic with Allyson Kapin entitled, Social Change Anytime Everywhere: How to Implement Online Multichannel Strategies to Spark Advocacy, Raise Money, and Engage your Community. And, as Membership Director at the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN)—a nonprofit that helps other nonprofits better understand and use technology—she listens, connects, and supports organizations as they enter the tech realm.

Amy started her career in social media as a student in one of the first new-media programs in the country, where she was working with nonprofits on things like e-newsletters and Facebook. Once she graduated, she realized this was a new set of skills and set out to marry her passions: working with tech for impactful organizations.

 Do you want to develop a career as a social media manager?

Here are Amy’s tips:

  • Do some pro-bono work: “If you’ve never had a consulting client or managed digital media, find a client you can do a project with for free, so you can hear the questions. You can know all about technology, but people will ask questions you’ve never heard before. For example, you may be hired to train people on how to segment their email list, but hear how they think about their email list and engagement. They don’t think, ‘Oh great, lots of data!’ They think, ‘How many people opened this email?’ So, volunteer a few hours before you apply for jobs, so you can have that experience of when people don’t think like you.”
  • Work with others to move up and stay current: “There is a lot of work that happens when people who are fairly knowledgeable partner with someone who works in a different organization, and they do something together. People usually try to change jobs, but our sector is inconsistent with titles. For example, a communications manager may oversee all of the communications work of an organization while a communications director has a very narrow scope of work they handle. So if you need extra support, try to create something new with someone else so you can point to your accomplishments. This helps you get more outside of your day to day.”
  • Stay positive: “After college, when I moved back to Oregon, I helped start a nonprofit focused on public education reform in the state. We had to get people’s ideas outside of sitting with teachers in a classroom. We had a website, and we put up provocative questions or facts to get people’s responses. Many times people fear that if they put up something like this, they’re going to get trolls, and haters, and bad content. Instead, you get people who care. They are going tell you their personal story and be a champion for you. You can use online platforms to connect with people. You can be that platform. And if you have a tool kit for taking action and contributing to your mission ready, you can get them to take action.“

Next steps

  • For more information on nonprofit technology, be sure to check out NTEN.

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Amy Sample Ward is an author, speaker, and consultant dedicated to supporting and educating organizations and changemakers in the use of evolving technologies that cultivate and engage communities. Through strategy building, training, and facilitating, she has helped groups in the US, UK, and around the world use social and mobile technologies to start creating a better world. Learn more about Amy.