Why you shouldn’t pursue a career in digital marketing

“So, what do you do for a living?” “I’m in digital marketing.” “…” “Display advertising, search, social media…” “Ah, Facebook!”

Digital marketers can attest to the countless times that Facebook saved a conversation on their careers from the dreaded tumbleweed. Small talk salvaged, yes, but now the person you’re talking to probably thinks you’re paid to browse Facebook the whole day. If you think loving Facebook, blogging regularly, or being active in several other social networking sites is enough for you to thrive in the digital marketing industry, think again. Being passionate about the online space is essential, but consider this: just because you’re nuts about basketball, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re the next LeBron James or Phil Jackson. Several seasoned digital marketers on LinkedIn often experience recruiters reaching out to them with the message “Job Opportunity: Community Manager.” Being a Facebook page administrator is a solid kick-off point for a career in the online sphere, but offering such a position to someone with at least five years of experience in the industry undermines the career path and breadth of options in the field.

“Digital marketing is about data, strategy, and creativity.”

This is one of the harshest realities of working for the digital industry. Aside from people assuming that the most challenging part of the job is coming up with a new post or tweet every day, some would go as far as throwing around internet buzzwords to either try to relate, or make them look more knowledgeable than you—the latter because to them, hey, it doesn’t take much brains to update a Facebook page anyway. It’s like relegating years’ worth of online brand building, Web content creation, and ultimately one’s livelihood to a couple of fancy words or phrases. Digital marketers also have to compete with “digital marketers.” Not a lot of companies offer digital careers at a managerial level. Should someone from the industry pursue an opening in such a company, they would have to compete with other applicants that have peppered their CVs with experience that sounds more impressive, such as maintaining a popular blog or speaking at a conference. Meanwhile, many employers who have zero digital background are wowed by these even if they have nothing to do with building a brand with an online audience. They can’t be blamed, though, for choosing the person who gives the impression of being an internet guru over a mere marketing peon who works hard quietly by the sidelines. Digital marketing is about data, strategy, and creativity. It involves a lot of numbers, though you don’t have to be a Math whiz to appreciate and analyze reach, engagement rates, and impressions. Strategy is understanding your audience and knowing so much about their habits that they can almost issue a restraining order against you. Lastly, creativity allows you to make the most out of an entire World Wide Web as your canvas for your executions—and this goes way beyond crafting a witty hashtag. There’s something innately geeky about the platform and the job, so it’s pretty much marrying the right amount of geek and artist.

“What will set you apart, though, is the training, knowledge, and experience you will glean from other disciplines: marketing, content development, project management, or research, among others.”

Ask yourself: Do I really want to pursue a digital career? If so, why? If your motivation is merely your passion for social media and surfing the Web, then heck, every millennial should become a digital marketing professional then. What will set you apart, though, is the training, knowledge, and experience you will glean from other disciplines: marketing, content development, project management, or research, among others. These skills will also ensure that you do not lose your job when Facebook becomes the next Friendster, or Snapchat goes the way of ICQ. If after reading all this you still believe you have what it takes—experience and skills-wise—to make it in digital marketing, then you probably will make it. Don’t be intimidated by more eloquent marketers with lots of friends in the industry bound by mutual admiration. Cancel out all the buzzwords and you’ll realize you know as much—maybe even more—as they do. Let your work speak for itself; you don’t need fancy awards to validate your achievements in the field. But above all, believe in what you’re doing. Believe that your profession isn’t just the next in thing, and a secondclass counterpart to traditional media. Though it has its fun side with social media as an integral part of it, it’s a solid platform that can contribute to your company’s business objectives—much more than just likes, shares, and comments from trolls. Chrissy has been working in the digital industry for almost a decade. She wrote a big portion of her column on her mobile phone.

Words Chrissy I. Dalusong First published in Speed October 2015