Life as a Social Content Strategist

To shed some light on ‘what a career in social media looks like’, we are catching up with a range of Social Media Professionals to showcase some career journeys and paths into the industry.

This series is inspired by Social Media Week Bristol; which is designed to upskill, inform, explore ideas and opportunities and further the conversation on key issues in media, marketing and technology.

Here our chat with Ben Jackson, Content, Social Media and Campaigns Strategist to find out about his career in social media so far.

ADLIB: How did you get into social media? What has been the career path that led you to it?

Ben Jackson: 10 years ago I decided to switch careers. Before working in social media and digital I worked in sponsorship and brand licensing. When I knew I wanted to change direction, I spent some time auditing my skills and thinking of how I could use them to do something new. I knew I had a decent track record in account management so this was an obvious way to transition.

At the age of thirty, I reached out to a digital agency I’d worked with previously and asked if they would be up for giving me go. After a short trial period, I went on to work with them as a senior account manager and account director. The role was very hands-on, so over eighteen months, I picked up lots of important skills. From there I went on to my first role as a practitioner which was at Cancer Research UK working on the social media campaign for Stand Up To Cancer.

ADLIB: What does a typical working day look like for you (if there is such thing) and what do you like most about your job?

Ben Jackson: As a freelancer, my work is really diverse which I love. While I still work on social media strategy, I also work on a lot of broader content projects. During a typical week, I might run some training for one client, while helping another create more agile content workflows. I work for agencies and with clients directly, so I get an interesting mix of work environments. Being freelance, I also make sure I give myself time to go mountain biking and to climb regularly.

ADLIB: What avenues would you recommend to people within social media to keep their skills and industry knowledge up to date?

Ben Jackson: I think it’s really important to keep your hand in by working on the channels. As a strategist, it can be easy to become removed from the day to day reality of creating content and community management. If you’re not working on channels regularly, you can miss the opportunity to test out updates or new functionality. For this reason, I try to take on a couple of jobs each year that involve active channel management. Some might see this as a step back, however, for me, it’s simply a necessary (and enjoyable) part of the job.

ADLIB: What are the top 3 skills you believe it takes to succeed as a Social Content Strategist?

Ben Jackson:

1) A firm belief in and understanding of user-centred content design. To create effective content you must meet user needs. A lot of the work I do helps my clients to do this. It can be quite a technical job that goes far beyond copywriting or rich content creation. I often design process and working practices that have a significant impact on organisations.
2) The ability to influence and persuade. Introducing user-centred ways of working can be challenging. Soft-skills are very important, especially when working with senior people. This is where my account management experience is useful.
3) Resilience. I think this is important at whatever level you’re working. As a content creator, you need to be constantly testing and learning with your audiences. Some of those tests will work, others will not. You need to be able to take that on the chin. As a strategist, your ideas might not be adopted the first time. Again, it’s important that you don’t see this as a reason to give up. It’s more about understanding what the objections are and working with them.

ADLIB: And finally, what piece of advice would you give your younger self, just entering social media as a professional? Is there any advice that could have helped you along the way?

Ben Jackson: I spend quite a bit of time talking to people about my career change and how I got to where I am now. If I was to speak to my thirty-year-old self, I’d say you’re absolutely making the right decision. While it’s stressful now, you will be much happier for it. I’d say if you’re interested in working in the field, take the time to think about your existing skills and how they can transfer.

Look for routes in that make the most of these skills. While it might not get you to your dream job straight away, each step you take will get you closer.

Thanks so much for sharing, Ben!

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