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.
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.
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.
How can you get ahead of fellow job seekers when it comes to landing these positions? Here are a few tips:
Build a quality following on popular social networking sites. Not only does it demonstrate your ability to use the tools, a company may also see your following as a base for their own network, says Mashable's Ostrow. "You're providing the employer an asset beyond yourself. You're providing an audience you're bringing with you."
Include social media skills on your resume. Don't make the mistake of thinking everyone knows how to use Twitter strategically or create a video that goes viral on YouTube. Even if you're not looking for a position specifically in social media, those skills will make you more marketable. As Brad Karsh, president and founder of JobBound , a career consulting company, says, "If you have the word 'digital' in your job title, people are fighting over you."
Showcase your skills beyond building an online following. Creativity plays a big role in social media, so look for outside-the-box ways to prove your value. Create a video resume and upload it to YouTube. Start a Twitter chat around one of your professional interests. Or use Facebook ads to reach hiring managers at companies where you want to work. Using online tools in smart, fresh ways will help you catch the eye of a potential employer.
Take on social media responsibilities at your current job or volunteer to gain experience. Brooks Thomas, a former television news producer who lives in Dallas, helped grow his station's social media presence even though it wasn't part of his job description. "I kind of realized I enjoyed doing that more than my actual job," he says. He later used that experience to land a gig with Southwest Airlines as an emerging media coordinator, a position he first heard about through Twitter.