On working in cross-media environments

April 12, 2010 — 1 Comment

Craig Thomler has a great analysis of a social media job up at the moment, unpacking the somewhat ridiculous requirements of this particular position:

a strong understanding of how the web and social media operate, the ability to contextualise that within the Government’s needs and find creative solutions; and have the technical skills to transform those solutions into product within tight deadlines!

You will need excellent communication skills, and experience in website design and development and in project and database management. You will be proficient in using a range of web design applications including Adobe Photoshop, have a sound knowledge of HTML, and a strong understanding of web publishing principles and techniques.? Knowledge of relevant web standards and guidelines and community engagement practices are essential! Experience in multimedia authoring and video production would be a strong advantage.

While he does have some valid critiques, it’s not impossible to find people to fill these roles. I’ve had positions like this over the last couple of years, and they’re not always bad, if the person in the position isn’t expected to do everything. Without getting into the everlasting debate around whether social media experts exist, it’s possible to have substantial experience in social media research, analytics and execution, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect that in an online media position.

However there are a couple of major issues that I’ve been finding working on these kinds of roles. The first is that when you have such a broad range of experience / skills, you end up being the go-to person for technical support. I had this problem working at university, where I was known as someone who could edit video, fix a CMS, get a printer working, etc. I ended up coming into my office at 4pm and working till 2am just to get my own research done.

The second is managing expectations. Editing video and multimedia takes a long time, and doing it well takes even longer. When you couple that with the million-and-one things you have to do daily to keep the CMS up to date, maintain running social media conversations, monitor for feedback, run SERPS and so on, you end up pushing the longer, focussed tasks to the back of the queue. Time management becomes a huge pain, because you often can’t block out time for focus – and this impacts both your state of mind (constant split focus) and your professional development. There’s no time to learn how to do anything particularly well, because you don’t have the time to allocate to deliberative practice. You might get better at multitasking and responding quickly, but professional development ends up happening when you do it on your own time.

That feeds into the other major issue with these roles – you end up getting spread sideways instead of moving upwards. There’s no established career trajectory for this kind of role, and you often simply end up getting weighed down with more and more duties. It’s no coincidence that these roles are almost always 6-12 month contracts.

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