One of NISM greatest priorities is to actively listen to its audience. To become the best resource for our members and partners, we have to stay attuned to their needs and relevant to the trends of their workplaces. This is especially important in such a constantly-evolving field as social media.
That’s why NISM has recently completed and published a new job study for 2016, downloadable for free on the home page! If you haven’t read it yet or need a quick review, let’s take a look at its most significant findings here.
A More Positive Outlook
Involving people of all ages, salaries and levels of education, the survey and interviews of this year’s job study aimed to find the most common perceptions and concerns of those working directly with social media every day. Participants were broken up into three categories according to their type of involvement: managers, employees and consultants.
The first, most apparent trend that was noted was the increasingly positive perception of social media overall. Social media is no longer just a source of online entertainment and a hub for friends and family, as its uses are rapidly expanding into the non-social sphere. Getting news from social media has become a major reason visitors return regularly, which not only involves public network news but consistent updates from the companies and organizations they follow.
Some of the biggest social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Snapchat, have long realized their unique ability to directly connect businesses to their end users, building easily accessible methods for onsite advertising and boosting customer interaction. As older, more experienced marketers are seeing the impact of these segmenting and targeting tools, social media is being taken as a more serious element in the marketing mix.
Ideals vs. Reality
However, these same marketing professionals recognize that there’s a significant gap between the growing importance they place on social media in today’s marketplace and the time and money they dedicate to it. To be fair, there’s a lot to account for. Across social media topics divided into six content domains (Strategic Planning, Compliance & Governance, Project Management, Marketing & Communications, Community Management, and Research & Analysis), social media professionals rated each as highly important while overall allocating less time to those task categories compared to what was reported in NISM’s 2012 job study.
A common sentiment amongst employees tasked with managing social media is that their work is under-budgeted. This stems from the misconception that since the basic functions of social media platforms are free, managing social media would also be free. The problem arises when managers hire young, inexperienced interns (unfortunately that is still a prevailing trend) and task them with an inordinate workload.
The reality is that social media isn’t an optional side-function used to simply keep up appearances anymore. Yet many times communicating that fact effectively to the decision makers of an organization can be quite difficult. In their own experience, one interviewee explained, “they don’t really think about the fact that there’s a ton of data analysis and strategy that goes into being able to properly run a brand on social” (p.53).
When considered in traditional business terms, it’s easy to see why this message can get lost in translation. Managers are looking for the hard numbers; a direct correlation between user engagement online and sales that build ROI. Most social media professionals, particularly those with no formal training or significant prior experience, have difficulty showing that connection. This could be because they just don’t know how to find and format those metrics, or because essential social media reporting and analytics aren’t given the attention they’re due in the first place.
Bridging the Gap
Unfortunately, so many of the responsibilities of social media positions have an expectation to be done completely independently—over 68% of managers rated the ability to act on social media appropriately without direction as “highly important” in the job study. Even within a greater marketing team, social media managers can feel unsupported, unheard and detached from the rest of the workplace. Supervisors don’t understand the true value of their work, and employees find it difficult to explain; a vicious cycle.
This sort of miscommunication can be reflected in the disparity between pay for social media positions and comparable marketing positions, as the former is usually compensated less at nearly every level. Additionally, (again comparing to other marketing jobs) there is little in the way of specific, meaningful training and accreditation programs available for social media professionals, further shrinking their authority and thus their opportunity for job growth.
Well aware of these difficulties and constantly preparing to face traditionally pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps job positions, social media professionals are now looking for educational career resources that cam set them apart. They’re looking to clearly show their clients the impact of strategic social media and the insights it can provide.
With the information this study provides, NISM is able to address that search for knowledge even more accurately.
Henry Donato is a freelance copywriter, social media marketer and musician from Minneapolis, MN. He works with companies and agencies in such diverse industries as career coaching, food distribution, and eldercare.