Want a career in social media? Start by creating a social media passion project

There are over 900 jobs on Idealist involving social media, and the list keeps growing as many organizations seek to use online tools to engage their communities. However, if you want a social media job and you have limited experience, how can get your foot in the door?

In the article below, Jeremy Brieske, Board Member at the Denver chapter of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network, shares how he created a social media passion project that helped him develop a career in the field.

This post was originally posted on the YNPN – Denver blog.

Photo credit: maigi, Shutterstock
Photo credit: maigi, Shutterstock

by Jeremy Brieske

How many of you have heard this? “We were told we need to be on social media. You’re young. You know how to Twitter and use The Facebook, right?”

This might be true, but while the Instagram pic of your dinner plate at Linger might have earned you a dozen “likes” from friends and family, getting a stranger to comment on your organization’s Facebook wall probably feels more like climbing Longs Peak.

So, how can you become a social media influencer? Like many other activities in life, you’re probably not going to get the answers from a book or blog post (yes, I realize the irony of this statement). You’re only going to get better at connecting on social media by getting online and diving in. It’s time to create something that inspires others!

However, you probably don’t have the flexibility to experiment on your org’s official profile (which is another issue altogether!). To find out what works online, you need the freedom to fail without consequence, and the chance to learn how to connect in a meaningful way with like-minded strangers. It’s time to start your social media passion project.

What is a Social Media Passion Project?

  • A social media passion project is a social media profile (not a personal profile) focused on a subject you have a fervent interest in. You must really love this topic, and be able to talk about it to no end.
  • Your goal is to create or aggregate information for the sole purpose of pleasing others. You must be generous with your time and knowledge.
  • Your objective should not be to make money or push an agenda. As websites try to monetize, in almost every case customer experience goes down (Facebook/MySpace, anyone?).
  • Above all else, this should be fun! Make your passion project something you look forward to each day.

Most likely, your passion project will be totally unrelated to your job. Maybe you work at a social justice nonprofit, but you love delighting friends and family with extraordinarily delicious baked goods. Create a Pinterest board and share an amazing cupcake photo or recipe each day. Or perhaps you manage your organization’s donor database during the day, but you’re obsessed with craft beer and home brewing in your off hours. Launch a Tumblr filled with photos and reviews of each Colorado beer you enjoy.

Or, start a project that’s indirectly linked to your career (hopefully you have some passion for your job!). For example, if you work for a music education nonprofit, start a Facebook page dedicated to local bands. At some point, you might be able to tie the two together. After you gain thousands of rabid followers who immediately check out each band you recommend, organize a concert featuring local musicians to benefit your organization’s cause.

Can This Really Work?

In case you think this is advice from an armchair quarterback, I’ll share my passion project.

I’ve been a musician for most of my life and love talking about musical instruments. A few years ago I created a Facebook page dedicated to musical instrument giveaways. I began scouring the Web for the best guitar, drum, and other instrument giveaways and, in a show of extreme unselfishness, posting at least one link per day.

After a few weeks, more and more people flocked to the page. Then they started winning contests, and posting photos of themselves with their prizes! Three years later, I have over 10,000 Facebook fans, and I’ve expanded the project to include a popular Twitter feed, a daily email with nearly 5,000 subscribers, and a website listing each giveaway.

And what did I learn? I learned how to engage strangers with similar interests on social media. I earned the trust of thousands of my readers. I’ve even made money (well after launching the project!) by helping other companies launch and promote their own online giveaways, by selling advertising on my website, and by developing a line of musical instrument accessories.

Most importantly, it helped me understand what online success feels like and gave me the confidence to help my clients convert their social media profiles from one-way megaphones into settings for meaningful conversations.

Are you ready to start your own social media passion project? Please let me know what your passion is in the comments below!

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  1. I’m a marketing and communications manager for the Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, IN. One of my passions is photography. It very much overlaps in my job and I make conscious decisions regularly to make sure it doesn’t take up too much of my work time. Photos sure are an easy way to get good feedback from social media followers.
    Thank you for the article.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Cheryl! Your approach is a fun, simple way to combine passion and profession on social media.

    2. Cheryl…that’s a perfect example. Thanks for sharing!

    • Michela Galante
    • June 6, 2013

    I am a business and marketing major, but my passion is environmental issues. Thank you for this article because now I’ve realized that I can have a career but also engage online with others who have the same passion as me. Now I think I want to start my own Twitter account, so thank you!

    1. Good luck, Michela!

  2. Great article, Jeremy. I am a professional artist, and I’ve been contemplating ways to give back to under privileged children though art. I’ve seen some great examples nationally. Your article has given me a few new ideas. Thanks!

    1. Thank you, Kathryn! Once you launch something, please let me know.

  3. Pingback: Beyond passion: How to gain experience that will make you irresistible to nonprofits | Idealist Careers

  4. I’m passionate about travel and cultural immersion. My passion project is one month adventures. Thank you for this inspiring article!

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