You know how it goes. You meet someone new – perhaps they do something sensible for a living like teaching, engineering or law – and you’re chatting about work. They ask what you do.
Try saying the words ‘web’ and ‘content’ and a lot of people will assume you’re an IT geek.
Working in digital media should be an easy-peasey 21st century concept to grasp shouldn’t it? Especially when you’re talking to someone under 40, right? Wrong!
So, in two sentences, here’s the rub:
1. If you work in the web and social media, it’s hard to explain what it is you do for a living – and not just to the older generation.
When I worked as a journalist, family and friends could grasp what I did. OK, they probably thought I was a dab hand with phone hacking and spent my days doorstepping celebrities with a fat chequebook in hand, but at least they had some concept of how I spent my days. For the record, phone hacking hadn’t been invented when I was a reporter and, as for a chequebook… don’t make me laugh! I didn’t work for a Red Top.
Now, in the brave new world of the web, I find myself copywriting for clients ranging from large not-for-profit organisations to the pub in the next village. Sadly, I don’t get paid in real ale for this – because it’s actual work.
And lastly (here’s the really tricky one to explain), I also act as a kind of ‘social media elf’ for clients who employ me to create their social media content because they’re all-hands-to-the-pump running their own business (sorry, beer-related metaphor just slipped in).
I know I’m not alone in doing this because I saw a woman interviewed in the Emily Maitlis BBC programme on Mark Zuckerberg who does this for a living too. Yes, really!
To friends it looks like I’m dabbling on Facebook when I should be working but, honestly, I’m not. I treat posting social media content in the same way as writing for a newspaper – grabby headlines, well-thought-out words tailored to a particular audience, nose for a good story etc.
But try explaining this to someone who hasn’t got a Twitter account and thinks people who spend time on Facebook are slackers? Or say you help clients with a strategy for their digital presence… yep, apparently that sounds like you work in IT.
Luckily, as happened recently, potential new clients whose online presence is in its infancy are more receptive to understanding the benefits of social media. And they know a well-thought-out website with content that’s readable, clear and converts visits into actions will be an important business asset – and realise they need help creating it, yay!
But it’s no good preaching to the converted. It’s the uninitiated hordes us ‘creatives’ need to convince (don’t you just love the way that word can be used pejoratively?).
So, if you work in online content or internet strategy, or even if you’re a bonafide social media manager for an organisation with the job title to match, good luck explaining what you do to family, friends, colleagues and clients.
Or maybe just tell people you’re on MI5’s payroll and you can’t talk about what you do for a living: “I can tell you, but I’d have to kill you”. That should do it.
PS If you want some ammunition to make your point ( if you did everything on this list it’s a 65-hour-a-week job!) check this out: how much time should I invest in social media?