Career Survival Tips for In-House Social Pros

Ryan Olah
August 9, 2018

I recently left a job in social media in the corporate world to return to agency life as a Blaster. It was a decision that I made after some soul searching, talks with mentors, and lots of deliberation and number crunching with my spouse.

Since making the move, I’ve realized some differences between social in a corporate vs. agency setting, as well as some hindsight gut checks that could be helpful for other social-savvy professionals operating in the corporate world.

Master of None

The days of being a one-person social operation are over. There are just too many elements to manage when it comes to building a successful program. And the sooner you can adjust to this expectation, the more successful you will be.

When I left a creative agency to work in a corporate social role, I thought I could cover all the bases. I had been exposed to everything it took to do great work, and I believed I could handle it all without agency support: making my own creative, community management and engagement, planning content, developing strategies, analytics and reporting, running ads, measuring ROI, maintaining outreach to internal clients, and teaching best practices to my stakeholders. I was a jack-of-all trades, but I was also a stubborn jackass.

Editor’s note: How I visualize Ryan at his old job.

That’s a lot for one person to handle on their own without letting something fall off their radar. And, over time, as you rack up some successes, you’ll continue to have more responsibilities and tasks added to your plate, which will make it difficult to concentrate on the core social practice that brought you to the role in the first place. In my case, I eventually got some support, but it only came after I swallowed some pride and asked for help.

If you’re in a similar spot as a maxed-out, lone social operator, agency support could come in handy, especially if your organization does not have the budget to add a new member to your team. When you do the math, hired guns are often cheaper than covering all the bases with an internal team.

Now, I know that bringing in an agency for help could be threatening to your sense of pride, but an outfit with deep social expertise will help ease your load and free you up to do some of the larger planning and strategy work that you’ve been putting off because you’re backlogged on customer service inquiries via Facebook messenger.

Taking the Jon Snow Approach

I’ve seen more than my share of social operators who don’t have a fundamental understanding of how some platforms operate. They may understand what a network can do, but they don’t have time for the mechanics. The best people I’ve encountered in the world of social media understand theory and practice.

The best way to stay open to new approaches when it comes tackling work and learning new tech or platforms is to stay curious, admit you know nothing, and become comfortable with not always being right. I saw this most often with colleagues that had no use for “newer” platforms like Snapchat. The best operators stay curious and ask for help.

Whenever a new challenge comes along, or when I realize that I’m stuck in my ways and resisting change, Ygritte’s voice pops into my head to remind me that I, like Jon Snow, know nothing.

It’s empowering to admit you know nothing. It frees you up to innovate and build bridges, especially when you’re in the position of learning a new skill or approach from a colleague or subject matter expert.

Stay True to Your North Star

Social media marketing has changed a lot since I delved into it in 2008, and the skill sets that enabled me to thrive in an agency atmosphere adapted over time to facilitate running social in the corporate setting.

Throughout that process, I realized that I was getting further and further from the things that drew me to social media in the first place:

Once I realized that I no longer enjoyed what I was doing, I started the process of making a course correction. To do that, I had to realize my North Star. When I shared my struggle about feeling adrift and unhappy with a mentor, she challenged me to concentrate on the aspects of the job that I loved as a way to steer me back toward that ideal and stay passionate about the work.

Through that process, I realized that what I really missed was the high wire act of creative and transparent storytelling, which is something that’s hard to pull off in a corporate setting. I also realized my need to gravitate toward higher-pressure situations that involved action with a dash of adrenaline for added kicks. After taking stock, I noticed that in recent years, I had been operating in an account-focused capacity by building campaigns for internal stakeholders, and I wanted to lean into that.

With my newfound clarity, I set out on a mission to return to agency life. A few days later, Matthew Ray, cofounder of ChatterBlast Media, texted me to ask if I knew any good account people. You could say it was in the stars. If you find yourself in a similar boat, don’t hesitate to take an inventory and make moves back toward doing the work that excites you.

If you’re in the world of corporate social media or doing in-house social for your company, I’m always up for making new connections, sharing war stories, or acting as a sounding board to help you make positive changes for your career. Reach out to me on LinkedIn or leave a comment below.