#SSU2020 Speaker Q&A: Ashley Sasnett on Career Paths in Social Media
By: Nicole Schuman
August 5, 2020
With The Social Shake-Up virtual show on the horizon, we’d like to take this opportunity to give readers and soon-to-be attendees a chance to get to know this year’s speaker roster. This year’s Social Shake-Up cast is made up of marketing and communications professionals who manage social media messaging at top brands and nonprofits, from the American Heart Association to UPPAbaby.
Today, we’re getting inside the head of Ashley Sasnett, digital strategist, digital strategy and web experiences at Equifax, who will be speaking on career paths in social media. For a deep dive into social media content creation, strategy and measurement, register today for The Social Shake-Up, which will take place Sept. 22-23 (workshops) and Sept. 29-Oct. 1 (sessions and keynotes).
What did you earn your degree in, and does it have anything to do with your current position?
Ashley Sasnett: I have a BA in Political Science from the University of Georgia and a Masters in Conflict Resolution from the University of Bradford in the UK. So no, not really (lol); I thought my career would be spent working in international humanitarian aid or at a policy shop. Social media wasn’t even a course of study when I was in school.
I fell into social media and digital content by accident and loved how much white space there was when I first started out. I love the technology and people aspect of my job and I can’t imagine doing anything else.
For those who are looking to pursue a career in social media—what skills or studies should be learned before they apply for a position? There are social media manager positions, but what do they consist of and what other positions are also social media-adjacent?
Sasnett: There are so many routes to this career—customer care, marketing, advertising, writing, creative, PR, events, web, HR—it’s what makes this job so unique. I would say that as long as people keep learning and growing, they will always be relevant. There’s always a new platform, a new tool, or some interesting techniques to test and explore, so you’re never going to be bored. Just keep learning!
Also, a social media career requires a balance of hard and soft skills. The ability to write great copy and create cool graphics or images will only be as useful as the colleagues that want to work with you. Social media people are pulled in a million directions (it’s the nature of the work), but we can’t be difficult or disorganized. Our work depends on others, so we have to be very good with people. Moreover, we have to be able to say “no” to some pretty terrible ideas so our people skills have to be superb.
What is the best way to get your foot in the door for a social media career?
Sasnett: Unlike a lot of other creatives, social media people can’t build portfolios in the abstract because our work needs to be in situ. I would say that if someone is starting out, and entry level agency jobs are not panning out, volunteer. Sign on with a non-profit you care about and help run their social. It’s not glamorous work (or even paid work), but it will give you live content and communities to point to on your resume.
How did you end up in your current position?
Sasnett: My boss. I had the opportunity to work for a mentor, and I jumped at the chance. She is someone who knows me really well and has made sure to support me and my career. More importantly, she knows what I need to work on and has ideas on how to stretch my skills. She makes me work hard. And smart. And that is worth its weight in gold.
What are the pros/cons of working in social media?
Sasnett: I would say upward progression is a real challenge because it is easy to get pigeon-holed. You can manage a brand and do it well. And then move on to a larger brand, and do that well. But what’s next? Another brand? And then what?
Social can make it kind of hard to plan your career because we are so reliant on users (their behaviors) and platforms for our plans, that it’s hard to be proactive. It’s important to separate what you do with what you do for a living. I hate when people ask me, “What are your career goals?” I find it really limiting. I like to think about what my perfect day looks like, and then I seek out opportunities to do those things long term. None of us know what the digital/social/web landscape is going to look like in the future, so we have to keep seeking out interesting roles, opportunities and projects and not always fixate on a pre-planned path.
The pros are obvious… We have the coolest jobs in the building.
Nicole Schuman is a reporter for PRNEWS. Follow her: @buffalogal