A few weeks ago, an infographic came out summarizing how much money can you make working social media jobs in the US. Although the numbers are probably a bit different for Canada, it is interesting to see that the top-paid strategists get over a $100k, while the bottom of the pyramid doesn't even qualify to be in the middle class. And this got me thinking.
Why We Are Paid So Low
There is a clear notion in the business world that social media jobs pay much less than other more “prestigious” marketing positions. But why?
Some would say that tweeting and blogging can't be as complicated of a job as making TV commercials or writing press releases, can it? So why would a company pay people more? Though I would strongly disagree, this view of things has 2 real issues behind it.
First, it's the amount of overhead. Because inbound marketing is much cheaper and is mostly intangible, companies have way smaller budgets for it. The only problem is that many assume that, since the tools are so cheap, the people who use them aren't worth much either, which is a profoundly wrong assumption.
Secondly, I believe that many companies still have no clue what they want their social media people to do. The industry is too young to be able to show a track record of impressive and lasting ROI. Therefore, we end up having companies that are ready to do something with social, but not ready to pay for it.
Economics to the Rescue
The basic theory in economics is the one of supply and demand. Demand generates supply, and the price for a good or service depends on how much demand and how much supply there is. So let's apply this to our industry.
On the demand side, we have a low percentage of companies that are buying into social media, as discussed above. This fact by itself lowers the price.
On the supply side, however, we have an abundance of experts, mavins, divas, and other people who are selling their social media skills (or the lack of such) for money. The main reason for this excess is the fact that the barriers of entry are so low — it doesn't take much to write a Twitter bio with the word “guru” in it and share articles from Mashable on a daily basis.
Now this overflow of supply, again, lowers the price of the service. The result? Social media jobs don't pay shit. In fact, the infographic I was talking about should really consider including all the unpaid internships that have become so popular among employers. Why pay somebody if there is a dozen people who will do it for free?
What We Should Do
Now that we know why the industry is broken, what can we do to actually start making money doing what we love? Here's a recipe made out of 3 ingredients.
1. Show the ROI. You need to educate your employers about how much real value social media is creating for them (assuming that you are creating real value, aren't you?). Once they understand what they are paying for, they won't mind paying more. And on a global scale, this will help tackle the demand problem over time.
2. Compete like a boss. To stand out, you need to know more than others about your craft, as well as be able to communicate this fact to your employers. Focus on learning how to do social media the right way and then do it over and over again until it becomes natural. On top of that, use personal branding to position yourself as the real deal.
3. Let your niche evolve. Wait, grow your resume, build your brand, don't mind getting payed less than your friends in consumer packaged goods. In fact, if you nailed the first 2 ingredients, you'll be payed plenty. Then, when the demand figures itself out, the supply will start dramatically dropping. All the pseudo-experts will have to go back to where they came from, while all the real professionals will have companies competing for their time.
If you apply these principles, then when 2015 comes and the industry finally finishes going through puberty, you will find yourself in a marketplace where you can do what you love and get payed well for doing it. True story.
What's your take on this?