Rise in Social Media Jobs Means Opportunity

If you're savvy with online tools, consider turning those skills into a paycheck.

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For job seekers who tweet, tag, and text, there's something to "like" about this mostly dreary job market: a rise in social media jobs.

Three times as many jobs with "social media" in the title were indexed in November by Indeed.com, a search engine for jobs, compared with a year ago. That's nearly 1,220 job openings last month compared with nearly 400 in November 2009.

"It's becoming a vital part of what companies do, and that's good news for job seekers in a market that—admit it—you know is brutal," says Bernhard Warner, editor of Social Media Influence, a London-based industry newsletter.

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Jobs with "social media" in the description have also tripled over the last year, reaching more than 14,000 in November compared with about 4,300 during the same month in 2009, Indeed reports. That increase in unique jobs—openings posted on several job boards count only once—shows the demand for these skills isn't isolated to jobs that focus on social media.

"It's not tied necessarily to one particular industry," says Michael Werch, a spokesman for Indeed. "The keyword growth for 'social media' is really occurring across sectors."

The most common job titles that include "social media" on Indeed.com are Social Media Strategist, Social Media Manager, and Social Media Specialist. But titles and responsibilities for social media jobs run the gamut. "[They range] from community managers to digital strategists who help with the company's overall social media campaign to developers, the people who build the campaigns, Facebook applications, [and] mobile apps," says Adam Ostrow, editor-in-chief of Mashable, a digital media and technology news website that includes a job board specifically for social media and Web jobs.

The number of job listings on Mashable has increased to about 250 per month, up from about 20 each month at this time last year, Ostrow says. While some of that increase is due to the increase in popularity of Mashable itself, the growth of the job board, which the company launched in late 2008, has outpaced the site. That's impressive, considering the nation's unemployment rate is nearly 10 percent.

Even job seekers who aren't looking for social media positions sometimes end up in those jobs because there are more openings than in other industries, says Ryan Paugh, co-founder and director of community at Brazen Careerist, a career networking site used primarily by 20-somethings. "[Job seekers] may not even have social media in mind as a job, but what they find is that, wow, [they're] pretty good at this, and this is something companies are looking for," Paugh says.

The pay for social media positions varies widely. Recent college graduates tend to make between $30,000 and $40,000 annually, while those with a few years of experience can earn between $50,000 and $75,000, depending on their location and employer, Ostrow says.

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Since social media is a young industry, there aren't many professionals with years of experience. "This is a terrific opportunity for new grads because they're coming into the workforce for the first time in decades understanding more about something than the people that are hiring them," says Emily Bennington, who helps college graduates transition into careers through her company, Professional Studio 365.

But just because you use Facebook on a daily basis doesn't mean you're qualified for a strategist position. "Not every kid with 1,000 Facebook fans is going to be marketable and in demand with Fortune 500 companies," Warner says. "It goes much further than that." In addition to technical skills, companies want a smart communicator—a professional they can trust to be the voice of their brand, he says. Marketing experience is also a plus, and in some cases, a must.

Some people who follow developments in social media expect salaries to increase as demand continues to rise. Others predict the opposite, that eventually most employees will be expected to use social media, so the position will fold into more traditional jobs. Already social media has changed the face of public relations, with communications and marketing specialists increasingly using online tools to spread the word about their clients' services.