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I've been working for the past few years as a social media consultant. In some ways it's sort of a fake, made-up job because what we offer and do is always changing. And also, because the whole area of social media is so new, our clients genuinely don't know what the hell I am or what I can do to help them.
I work at a company that actually does this, so it's not just a freelance gig. I found the job on Craigslist, and it's a startup, so I expected the interview process to be really casual, but it was actually incredibly corporate and serious. The CEO interviewed me, though I didn't know who he was at the time. The office is your typical "cool" startup space — an old converted factory turned into a shiny white modern office. The big bosses are white and old. But the people I work for directly are eccentric and smart. They're what you'd call serial entrepreneurs, though, which is a little worrisome for people trying to hold on to a steady job.
Also, I only get paid $10 an hour. Everyone moonlights.
In theory, our company advises clients on how they can use all the social networks to their advantage. Everyone's totally in denial about the fact that what we do is marketing. "Social media consulting" sounds new and trendy, and everyone I work with dresses like a hipster, so no one wants to admit what we do is really just marketing.
But unfortunately, I also do a ton of tech support. You have no idea how much of my life I've spent so far trying to show people what button to press for setting up Facebook. I spent a whole afternoon teaching a woman how to set a Facebook cover photo. She didn't know what it meant to upload a photo. It's a waste of my time.
I absolutely refuse to attend industry events. Partially, it's because I don't want to stay in this industry, but also because I feel like "industry leaders" are pulling things out of their asses. You'll hear someone talk about "what companies can 'afford' to use Pinterest to their advantage." Come on. Everyone can use Pinterest! People are always coming up with hard and fast strategies and proclamations, which is ridiculous for something that's so new. My coworker reads books on Twitter and LinkedIn. Did you even know there were books on Twitter and LinkedIn? There are!
The worst piece of social media advice I've heard is that you absolutely need to follow back everyone who follows you on Twitter. A lot of clients think they should do that. Smaller clients, in general, are more difficult, because all they usually want is to magically improve their Google search rankings. Tons of people come to us and say, "I don't care about social media as long as it gets me higher on Google." So it's pretty hard to work with those people.
I'd be happy if I could actually meet with clients and be a real consultant, but so much of our time is spent just figuring out what we actually do. I don't want to attend meetings all day about "codifying the product," which is basically jargon for "what the hell do we actually offer our clients." I also don't want to be forced to pretend social media's a one-size-fits-all, and most of all, I don't want to string out incompetent clients who can barely turn on a computer for all their worth.
People think that just because you're young and smart and go on Facebook, you can be a social media consultant. Not true. Just because you know how to use Facebook or Twitter for YOU doesn't mean you'll be good at doing it for a brand. I used to spend hours posting content to my own page in college. I was essentially learning the difference between personal social media and branding using social media. It's not intuitive.
As told to Hillary Reinsberg