Career Focus

Social media marketing opportunities

With online media becoming increasingly important for corporates whose target customers are tweeting and chatting on digital networks, new career options have emerged in social media marketing

The worldwide digital and internet revolution has opened up never-before career options for the growing number of tech-savvy youth countrywide. Suddenly there’s a slew of new career options including digital marketing, logistics management, publishing, and recruitment and placement available to technophiles. And to this lengthening list add social media marketing, which is increasingly becoming a popular choice of B-school graduates looking to explore non-conventional career choices.

Online portals, communities, and related technology or software applications deployed or created to disseminate, manage, organise, share and reuse content — both textual and graphic — fall within the ambit of social media. Online media are becoming increasingly important for corporates whose target customers are blogging, tweeting and chatting on digital forums and networks. They offer huge oppor-tunities for creating brand awareness, brand building, sales leads generation, product launches and positioning communities around brands or driving traffic to clients’ websites. Moreover social media provide a wealth of information about customer preferences and perceptions of brands which can be profitably mined to devise marketing and sales promotion strategies and plan public relations campaigns.

This new age career option is most suitable for individuals with analytical mindsets and excellent communications skills. While a Masters in mass commu-nication or English literature are useful qualifications, latterly corporates are hiring specialised social media marketing professionals. The Loyola Institute of Business Administration (LIBA), Chennai is the only institution of higher education in India and perhaps the third world to offer social media marketing as an elective in its two-year full-time MBA programme. According to a LIBA spokesperson, the institute’s course curriculum has been designed to “create change managers for tomorrow” adept in confronting contemporary marketing challenges using social media.

“Social media marketing is a promising career for B-school graduates because online community networks are multiplying thereby increasing business and marketing opportunities. All B-schools should introduce this subject to serve Indian industry which is suffering an acute shortage of trained professionals in this new marketing science. Roles and designations vary from executive to vice president levels, with the social media strategist, whose domain is brand promotion and monitoring, being highly sought after and well-paid. Salaries range from Rs.6-25 lakh per annum for beginners and reasonably well-trained professionals. However the best rewards are being earned by enterprising MBAs who promoted their own firms to cater to the growing number of companies who demand their services,” says Jayaram K. Iyer, associate professor of marketing and social media at LIBA.

A commerce graduate of Delhi University, Iyer pressed on to acquire an M.Phil and an MBA from the Faculty of Management Studies (FMS) of Delhi University, and researched his doctoral thesis in Harvard Business School, MIT and Boston University. Starting his professional career in the corporate sector, Dr. Iyer was a general manager of Chattel and Wood Management Consulting, USA and worked with Siemens India (1988-1998), prior to signing up with LIBA in 2004 to lecture in consumer behaviour, brand manage-ment and research.

Since 2004, Prof. JK (as he’s popularly known) has introduced several new courses as electives at LIBA. They include consumer psychology, mark-eting analytics and social media marketing. According to Iyer, it’s inadvisable for even B2B firms and corporates to ignore the importance of social media. In particular, Iyer believes that the social media are cost-effective for start-up enterprises enabling them to compete with larger and better funded corporates. “My estimate is there are just about a thousand reasonably qualified professionals engaged in different roles in social media marketing and about 25 consulting firms providing advisory services. Therefore there are ready opportunities for new entrants,” says Iyer who is also visiting faculty at XLRI, Jamshedpur.

Iyer believes marketing analytics and social media marketing require thorough understanding of digital technology, statistics and marketing. “The convergence of these disciplines provides corporate enterprises a fant-astic opportunity to understand human psychology and behaviour. These opportunities are not available in the traditional marketing domain. Moreover the sheer complexity, size, importance and novelty of social media makes it suicidal for business managers to ignore this new development,” he says.

With increasing penetration of markets through personal computers and mobile telephony, social media networks and forums will continue to expand and multiply, predicts Iyer. “With explosive growth of social media on the cards, it’s certain to become the most important marketing opportunity for India Inc. For most firms, coming to terms with this phenomenon is not the issue. But starting right requires the services of trained social media professionals,” says Iyer.

For youth already familiar with digital and internet highways, this newly-emerged profession offers an opportunity to combine pleasure with business.

Indra Gidwani (Mumbai)