Winnie had been a columnist for a popular daily newspaper for a number of years. She had touched many lives through the power of story telling. She would tell the world stories that would otherwise not have been told; stories of heart break, betrayal, resilience, courage and so much more. Her column told the world about the plight of women in today’s world.
Life changed in an instant. She was aware that the media house she had worked for was in the course of reducing staff. She did not pay much attention to the retrenchment issue; until the list of staff members who were declared redundant came out and her name was on it.
Winnie went through the motions that day, without allowing herself to think about what the retrenchment meant to her. Days turned into weeks and still she would not allow herself to think about it.
One day she was reading something on the noticeboard when she came across an announcement about a company event that was to take place later in the year. This was not the first time the event was taking place; it had happened annually the past two years.
Suddenly it dawned on her that she would not be around by that time. She felt weak, like she was about to pass out. She went and sat at her desk, trying to calm down. She was feeling like a nightmare was unfolding right before her. She went to the bathroom and allowed herself to face the reality of her uncertain future. She was in a state of panic.
A single mother of two young children, she knew that she needed the job. She lived in a rented apartment, had no investments and she was all her young ones had. She had some savings that were meant to pay for a car, but savings could not last her forever. She could not imagine life without a job. How was she going to pay the bills?
She went through the day in a daze. That evening as the warm water from the shower washed over her body, tears flowed freely. She allowed herself to feel the pain, the fear, the uncertainty.
Reminiscing About the Past
Life for Winnie’s family had not been rosy while she was growing up. Her father worked in a hospital in the Rift Valley while her mother was a teacher in their rural village in Nyeri. The family had a farm and engaged in small scale farming, so food was never a problem.
One thing Winnie could not forget is the chronic financial struggles her family went through. She could still remember how she used to wear her school uniform until it would become thread bare before it could be replaced. She could not count how many times she had been sent home in the course of the school term because of school fees arrears.
Winnie was terrified. She did not want her two daughters to go through what she had endured when she was growing up. She had dreamed of giving them the best life possible and now it seemed like her dream was being snatched from her.
A Career is Born
Floodgates of self pity opened, threatening to drown Winnie in sorrow. She dealt with her pain the best way that she knew how; by writing. She started writing in her journal and as it filled up really fast, she bought several exercise books and made sure that she always had an exercise book with her whether she was at the office or at home. She would spend her free time writing even in the office.
It was not until the retrenchment became a reality and she found herself at home that she decided to start a blog. She decided to pour out her thoughts and her pain in the blog. She did not care at the time if anyone read it or not.
Her blog replaced the exercise books. She wrote so much that within a couple of weeks she had more than a dozen articles published on her blog. She did not think of sharing the content with anyone.
One day there was a discussion about retrenchment in a popular ladies group on Facebook. A member of the group had been retrenched and she was lamenting on the group wall. Several other ladies participated in the discussion, sharing about their own experiences or experiences of other people close to them. It looked like retrenchment signified doom for most.
Winnie shared about her experience, explaining that it was her second month at home and she was still looking for a job. She shared the link to her blog, explaining that she already had a lot of her experiences written down on her blog and those who were battling the same monster could check it out.
The Facebook discussions changed her life. That day hundreds of people visited her blog. A few left comments. But it was the discussions in the Facebook group about the blog that woke her up from slumber. She has a fan page on Facebook which was dormant. She had quite a following because of the visibility she got due to her line of work. She had neglected her fans for months.
That day Winnie felt energized. She posted excerpts from her blog followed by the links so that readers could access the entire articles.It was as if her page came alive in a single day. Suddenly there was so much activity on her fan page. There were discussions about her journey and others who had walked the same journey were coming out to share about their own experiences. She was energized to do more and more.
Within a few months, the number of fans on her page had grown by several thousands. She did not disappoint. She posted something every day without fail. She had already written down so much that she did not run out of content.
The new found energy brought change into her writing. She read and researched widely about different ways people picked up the pieces after job loss. Her writing was no longer about her pain. She was sharing practical tips about how to earn a living without a job. Many people were contacting her seeking advice about all manner of financial situations and not just retrenchment.
Social Media Strategist
One day while researching for her blog post, she came across an advertisement for the job of a social media strategist. She went through the advertisement to see if it was something that she could do. She updated her CV and applied for the job. She was excited to be shortlisted for the post and even more excited to be invited for the interview. She went through 2 stages of the interviews but was not selected for the job.
The interview process opened her eyes to a whole new world. She started working with a purpose; she wanted to work as a social media strategist. She researched ways to drive traffic and to monitor user engagement. She would try out different things and monitor the user engagement. She would pay for Facebook advertising for different posts and watch how they performed. She was thankful that she had savings to keep her going as she re-invented herself.
Winnie started researching which brands could be interested in driving up their traffic on social media. She wrote a business plan and started working the plan. She would send personalized emails to a minimum of 5 potential clients every day.
She would take time to research as much as possible about a potential client before writing to them. Did the company have social media presence? What platforms? Were their pages attracting large numbers? How was the engagement with the target market? She would visit their website and find out as much as she could. She would check the local dailies to learn how the brand was performing in the market.
Winnie landed her first client within 2 weeks of starting in the social media consultant business. The client was not paying very well but she decided to go the extra mile. She needed a good portfolio if she was going to succeed.
The work she did with that client opened other doors as it gave her exposure. She increased the number of emails she sent daily. She learned the hard way that some organizations had in-house social media strategists or managers and so they did not need to outsource the service. She had to send out numerous emails before she could land a client.
It is 3 years now since Winnie lost her job. Her business has been growing steadily. She has a few successful brands as her customers and several small businesses. She works full time from home and is able to earn more money than the salary she lost when she got retrenched. She enjoys the flexibility because she can spend time with her children and do her work in her free time including at night.
What does one need in order to become a social media strategist or manager?
1. Most organizations will require a Bachelors’ degree in a field such as marketing, communications, mass communication, public relations, journalism or a similar field.
2. Ability to develop and implement digital communication plans, public relations initiatives and online marketing campaigns. Much of the success depends upon developing good personal rapport and strong online presence with other users of social networking sites, such Facebook, Twitter, Quora and LinkedIn.
Interpersonal, organizational skills, problem-solving, research, writing and search engine optimization skills are critical. Personal success with social media and expertise in the use of social networking sites will need to be proven. Some clients will require knowledge of web page editing and platform development as well as proficiency in graphic and video editing software.The ability to develop a strong media presence for a brand is a requirement.
3. Willingness to work long hours, outside the traditional working hours.
A word of caution
It is important to be careful about how you spend your time on social media. Some employers will assess a potential employee or consultant through conversations they have engaged in on social networking sites. Keep in mind that the Internet never forgets. The content you put out on social media can be retrieved even years later even if you delete it.
If you are in the field of journalism or are passionate about writing and you find yourself out of employment, you are a good candidate for a career as a social media manager or strategist. Establish a strong presence on different social networking sites and present a professional and polished image. Your online engagement with people can make or break your career. Put in the effort to master the skills and there is no limit to how far you can go in the field.
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This article is written by Susan Catherine Keter, personal development and business coach, mentor, motivational speaker, freelancer and blogger.