Social media sites are fun places to hang out (over 500 million on Facebook as of this writing seem to think so anyway), and most people are using them to stay in touch with friends from school, family and to play games like Farmville. At first glance it might, for some, seem fanciful to make a career out of what, for most, is nothing but a pastime.

The truth is that careers in social media are becoming more and more mainstream. Look around Facebook and you’ll notice that companies like R+L Carriers and Ford (to name a couple) are embracing social media as legitimate marketing channel. Ford experimented by launching their new Ford Explorer exclusively on their Facebook page. R+L Carriers uses its presence to create relationships with followers by posting shipping tips, industry news and articles to help the businesses that use their services thrive.

So we’ve established that careers in social media do exist, and that they are becoming more mainstream. But you’re still probably wondering where Social Media Analysts come from, and what they do all day.

Where does a Social Media Analyst come from?
They typically come from a marketing background with a heavy reliance on web based technologies. Some come from Internet or IT positions, some from traditional marketing positions and some from web design. A communications or journalism background is typical too. Most have a mix of traditional marketing and Internet technology skills with a strong writing or communications skill set.

What is a typical day like?
The first thing most analysts will do each morning is check all channels to see if there are any mentions of their company or brand. Since conversations on social media require an immediate response, an analyst will follow up immediately or reach out to various company departments to develop a response tailored to the specific information needed. There is a real time sensitivity to this activity, so timeliness is priority.

After initial conversations are addressed, analysts may spend time brainstorming or writing blog or web site content, planning and strategizing future campaigns, meeting with department heads to ensure strategies are on-track with marketing and customer service, and tracking campaigns and reporting. A portion of their day will be spent reading trend reports and business articles to stay in touch with the latest technologies and marketing theories.

Reporting is a huge part of any marketing campaign, and social media is no exception. Of course analysts will track basic stats like followers, click-throughs, fans, comments and traffic, but we also monitor conversations happening around the brand both on and off our pages and carefully structure responses that are in line with the company’s strategy. Often, analysts will meet regularly with multiple departments to educate staff about the focus of the social media channel and the ways in which they can contribute and support the efforts.

The take away? Social Media Analysts do more than tweet and post to Facebook. They are responsible for a multitude of company functions and must create relationships within the company to support their efforts.

Is this simply a new fangled marketing position?
This position is part marketing, yes, but it’s also much more. It includes elements of customer service, product knowledge, company culture and employee relations, and a typical day might involve all these elements at once. These various responsibilities require good communication skills and the ability to gather information from multiple areas within the company.

At the end of the day…
In a nutshell, a Social Media analyst position is about promoting a company’s brand and company culture through new technologies and non traditional platforms while interacting with current and potential customers in a real time environment. It’s more than just posting to Facebook and Twitter. It is a fast paced and challenging career that continues to evolve, and since the internet is never turned off, it can often be all consuming. So rest assured Mom, I do have a real job – honest!