A Guest Post by Sedale McCall, Digital Communications Specialist
The digital landscape is changing by the hour and it’s difficult to keep up with all the new trends, features, and platforms that exist. It’s even more difficult to know what features are most relevant to you and your company. Is Instagram’s new Direct App something you should be concerned with? Is your audience going to view your Instagram Stories more than Snapchat? Is TBH really the place to reach teens?
The following tips will allow you to improve your digital skills more quickly than the average person, get the job you want and move up in your company. With these tips, you will be able to determine the right strategies and platforms for your team and your company.
- Know what you want to do: Because of the constantly changing landscape, it’s unrealistic to be a digital expert in all aspects of the industry. Long gone are the days when a person could be a website master, social media specialist, analytics guru and paid advertising expert all at the same time. Especially if you are just beginning your career, it is very important to consider what you want to be an expert in, then how to get there.
- Talk to people: Once you know what you want to do, find people who are doing that. If possible, try to find someone who is a leader in that field. Anyone can be helpful, but leaders and senior practitioners do the work at a higher level and can explain how YOU can do the work at a high level. It also lines you up for career opportunities because you’re talking to a decision maker. Talking to people is how I made it on this blog! So, it definitely works :-).
- Chart a path: Collect all the things you hear from the people you talk to, then map out how you will get there. Think about what skills you need to get to the next level. No one can predict the future, but you should have an idea of where you’d like to end up.
- Read constantly: I can’t say this enough. Especially, if you are a recent graduate. Keep reading and learn everything you can because it will serve you throughout your career.
- Practice with real-world information: While you’re reading, you will start to notice patterns. Perhaps a company receives negative backlash on Twitter, or maybe there’s a case study about a recent campaign. Take those things and practice with them. How would you have done it if it was your campaign? What would you do the next year to make the campaign even better? Use that practice to sharpen your skills. Pro-tip: Search for the top awards in PR/Advertising and figure out when the winners are released, those are the best times for case studies. The PRWeek Awards recently released its shortlist!
- Fix hypothetical problems in the real-world: Another way to practice is to take negative digital moments and fix them. A big piece of being a digital professional is providing digital solutions to a company’s problem. How should Pepsi have addressed its social media followers? How should Dove repair its reputation among its core audience? Think through all the necessary components: How would you respond? Where would you respond? What if people want to start a conversation back to you? This will prepare you for a real situation.
- Stay on top of the latest trends: It is critical for a digital practitioner to be aware of the latest technologies, features and platforms. If you want to provide your clients or teams with the best digital solutions, you must be aware of all the tools at your disposal. However, be careful to understand them fully and how they apply to your business. Just because a trend is new does not make it the best option. Snapchat may be great for teens, but the total Snapchat audience is less than 10% of Facebook’s total audience. Know your goal upfront, then deploy the right solution for you.
- Test everything: Don’t just know the latest trend, test it for yourself and know how it functions. Create a Facebook ad and see how it performs, download TBH and see why teens like it, develop an Instagram story with a poll and see how your followers engage. As a digital professional, you are often describing ideas to clients that they may not have heard of yet, so it’s up to you to be experienced enough to show them why it will work for them, which starts with knowing how it works yourself.
- Find problems at work and take them home: Often you must make decisions based on what your team decides or what the client ultimately wants to do. Don’t let that be the end of your learning! Take the assignment home with you and think about how you would handle it if you were the boss. This will prepare you to build your own perspective. This skill is invaluable and will show your team you’re ready for the next level.
If you take nothing else from this post, the point is simple: the best way to improve your digital skills is by practicing over and over again. You have to test things, know the trends, read the news and practice, practice, practice. That starts with knowing what you want to be, talking to those people and charting your path forward. With these tips, you will go from digital support to digital lead in no time!
Sedale McCall is a digital communications professional with experience in social media strategy, SEO, social advertising/paid media, digital analytics and web development. Passionate about the connection between digital media and social marketing. Graduate research in the influence of social media on participation in social movements. You can follow Sedale on Twitter (@SedaleM).