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Q: What's the best way to get started with a career in social media/digital advertising?
A: Just like any industry, there are a lot of ways to get into "the business." In my opinion, the best way to break into a new industry is to dive right in. Do so by reading books and blogs, look at job postings and network by attending meetings and informational interviews. Here's how:
You're going to want to read. A lot. These are the books I recommend without hesitation. (I'm keeping the list short to avoid scaring anyone)
- Ogilvy on Advertising: Do not skip this book! Famous advertising executive David Ogilvy wrote it in 1983, but the insights are timeless.
- All Marketers Are Liars and We Are All Weird: Seth Godin is considered the modern marketing thought leader, and his books are clear and sophisticated. Start with these two titles and work your way through his library.
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion: Learn the mental and behavioral switches to throw for compelling marketing.
- Trust Agents: I believe this book offers the best high-level view of how social media works.
- Web Analytics 2.0: Analytics and data are required skills for any internet marketer and this book can take you from beginner to expert.
- Anything by Edward Tufte: Data visualization will eventually make or break your ability to explain things to bosses and clients. It'll also make or break your career. Statistician Tufte presents anything and everything on the topic of data presentation.
Read them in the order, as the books build off each other. Then, look at the authors they each cite and work through those. After 18 years in this business, I still try to read one new marketing book every two to three weeks.
Blogs to follow
Books give you the high-level view, but blogs are a great place to learn tactics. There are a lot of marketing blogs out there, but only a few offering real value. Here are the ones I read every day:
- Scott Stratten's Unmarketing: Scott doesn't publish often, but when he does, it's well worth a read.
- The Moz blog: The company behind search engine optimization software and analytics tools has its pulse on these marketing tactics, along with pay-per-click.
- Occam's Razor: is Avinash Kaushik's blog, the author of Web Analytics 2.0. He offers examples, lessons and downloadable reports.
- Annielytics: will teach you everything you need to know about Excel and then some.
- A List Apart: gets tactical about everything from typography to project management.
- The Harvard Business Review: has given me some of my best lessons.
Getting a job
You did your readings, have a solid foundation of marketing trends and now you are ready to find a job. This is always the hard part, isn't it? Everyone wants marketing experience, which you can't get without a marketing job, right? Wrong. We're fortunate to be in an industry where you can build experience any time you like.
The best way to build an online presence is sharing your insights on a blog, Google+, Facebook, Twitter or a Tumblr page. If you feel so inclined, you can also create YouTube videos, Vine loops or upload an entire slide deck on SlideShare. Just get out there, as it will help you define yourself as an expert, while also building your network.
To do so, you should set aside an hour a day and choose a topic you love (I started writing about video games and bicycles). Brainstorm a few good articles to write, pick your favorite and begin producing content. I suggest writing for 30 minutes.
Not every post is going to be brilliant but you should aim for publishing at least one out of three times you sit down and write. If you never publish, you're not a marketer: You're just keeping a diary.
Once you hit publish, become active on social media. Peruse your favorite relevant thinkers on sites like Twitter and see who is following them. Follow those people.
Also, make sure you socialize your own content. Take time to announce your latest and greatest on all pertinent social channels. Remember to engage with your audience on these networks.
Get out there
You can make connections in the industry at networking events. Honestly, it's a tough way to gain entry into an agency that might hire you, so I suggest scheduling informational interviews with team members at agencies. Most of us are more than happy to meet, tell you about what we do, what skills you need, and yes, size you up to see if we'd like to hire you. Very few agencies will turn down a smart person who can write. And worst case, you learn a great deal from someone who's got a job in marketing.
Stick with it
Persistence may be more important than anything else. If you keep reading, you will learn. If you keep writing, you will improve. Keep at it. Marketing's a great profession, because you never stop learning.