From Friendster to HootSuite: Elaiza’s Path to Social Success

Elaiza Datar

Elaiza attending the Social Media Awards

One of the best ways to learn how to further your experience in social media is through others, and while my recent Student Spotlights shed light on how university students are utilizing social media in their education, it’s also great to hear from other social media professionals on how they developed passion and experience in the digital space. With that said, I am please to introduce Elaiza Datar, a Community Coordinator at HootSuite. Hear how she got into social media, and what advice she has for students of social media:

How did you get into social media?

I joined my first social network site, Friendster, when I was 12 years old. Then I joined MySpace, next was hi5, and by the time I was 16 I faked my age to join Facebook because that’s what all the older kids were on. Social networks have come a long way in such a short period of time. In a way, I’ve grown up with social media! And especially having lived and traveled all over the world, social media has become crucial in the distant relationships I’ve built and maintained throughout the years.

As a university student I wasn’t sure of what I wanted to do after graduation. I knew I wanted to pursue something I was passionate about but I was passionate about so many things and unsure of how to make a living off them. One day I stumbled on a TedTalk by Gary Vaynerchuk and felt my eyes open to the possibilities of social media. Since then I knew that social media would be the vehicle through which I build my career and pursue my passions.

How did you come to work for HootSuite?

I was attending one of DaveO’s (VP of Community) HootUps at Capilano University, #HootUpTREC, with a few of my friends. DaveO approached our group at the end of the talk and I told him that I was applying for a position at HootSuite and its been history since. At our recent team BBQ he said it was my swag and ‘low maintenance’ vibe that gave him a hunch that it would be a good fit. And looking at his track record, DaveO’s hunches have gotten him pretty far in life.

I was brought on to help coordinate the HootSuite Campus Ambassador Program which has been such a fruitful experience. We just graduated our first batch of talent and are currently recruiting students from new regions and new Universities around the world!

Working for a company with passionate and hardworking individuals makes coming to a 9-5 job fun and extremely rewarding. Working with a start-up company means there’s a lot of growth happening and a lot of freedom for you to exercise creativity and materialize your ideas. These feelings translate directly into our Campus Ambassador Program.

Some of the HootSuite Team

Some of the HootSuite Team

Why is having an online presence important to you?

I was fortunate enough to have lived and grown up around the world. Doing so made me realize the importance of social networks in maintaining, and in some cases rediscovering, the relationships I had built and communities I interacted with throughout the different chapters of my life. Thanks to the Internet, no matter what corner of the planet I’m on, I will never be homeless or hostless. Whether via posting a status on my facebook page to any of my international friends who may be in the area, or logging onto couchsurfer.com and getting in touch with generous strangers.

But more than that, having an online presence has been a gateway to endless opportunities. Having an online presence means being a part of an online and offline community that one may not have encountered otherwise. The internet has made it possible for anyone to be who they want and feel like a part of something bigger than our day-to-day bubble. Our individual ability to create meaningful impact in distant communities or pursue personal life changes is incredibly empowering.

What advice do you have for students learning to use social media for personal or professional brands?

The best thing you can do is find things you’re passionate about – whether it’s food, snowboarding, not-for-profits, or even socks! Then find local businesses or organizations related to your passion. The next step is the hardest, but the most crucial: approach the business or organization and volunteer your social media services.

You will have a million and one reasons why you shouldn’t. Maybe you think you don’t know enough about social media to represent a brand? My SEO instructor at school knew nothing about SEO when he got hired for his first SEO gig but he turned to Matt Cutts and Google. Flashforward a few years and now he’s running his own successful online advertising company. Lesson: Google is your best friend, use it wisely.

If your passion is social media, the HootSuite Campus Ambassador Program is a great in. You learn how to engage with communities online (international Campus Ambassadors and HootSuite staff) and offline (your campus community), as well as the technical aspects of social media.

As long as you’re giving your social media services to something you’re passionate about you will enjoy what you’re doing and feel inspired to learn as much as you can, and to do the best that you can. Having this hands-on experience will not only teach you about the industry, but it will give you the experience to take your social media career to the next level (aka a paid job).

There are lots of other ways to learn social media. Take on an internship, read as many articles as you can, find a mentor, take a course, attend networking events, etc. But whatever you do: stay curious and stay hungry. Social media is a continuously evolving game and to stay on top of it, you need to adapt with it!

Elaiza DatarElaiza Datar @ElaizaDatar

Elaiza is a Community Coordinator for the HootSuite Campus Ambassador Program. She graduated from the University of British Columbia with a B.A. in Political Science and from SFU with a Digital Communications Certificate. When she’s not cultivating communities online or engaging them offline, she’s climbing up rocks, downhill biking, hiking, and soaking up the great outdoors. More Elaiza at http://about.me/elaiza_datar

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“Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” – Ben Heyman’s Online Persona

Meet Ben Heyman, a student at Boston University who knows the influence social media can have on your online persona, as well as your job search. Hear what he has to say:

Why is having an online presence important to you?

In today’s competitive landscape, you need more than just a resume to stand out. While applying to jobs is still very much a thing, it has changed. Recruiters look for you. They look for your online presence to get a better feel for who you are and what you stand for. I maintain an online presence to help recruiters get a better sense of who I am, to establish my credibility and to network with people who have similar interests as myself.

Ben's Website

Ben’s Website

What types of things have you done to showcase yourself online?

I blog and promote those pieces on various social media channels, maintain an up-to-date portfolio, constantly share articles I find interesting and relevant, and participate in Twitter chats. I am constantly finding stories on LinkedIn and Google+ and adding my comments where I can.

How has your online presence helped you network?

Twitter chats have been amazing. I have had so many people reach out to me who are willing to help me connect and find a job. I landed an interview with a company recently because I participated in their Twitter chat. It is also a good opportunity to share my blog, connect with people on LinkedIn, etc. I cannot say enough about how my online presence has helped me network. Keeping a consistent voice and message through all of my social media channels has definitely helped me create a strong personal brand.

Ben's Vizify

Ben’s Vizify Profile

How is your online presence helping you in your job search?

I have grown my Twitter following tremendously. I have had many people reach out to me after taking notice willing to assist me in the job search however they can. The networking opportunities that have arisen because of my online presence are numerous. I feel as if the time I spend maintaining my online presence will pay off in the long run.

Ben HeymanBen Heyman @heyheyman

Originally from Bethesda, Maryland, Ben Heyman is a senior at Boston University, graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Relations in May 2013. He is passionate about technology, social and new media and public relations. He is fascinated by the idea of using technology and social media to enhance our lives. Ben is actively looking for full time employment to begin his professional career. Connect with Ben on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter!

Have Your Cake & Eat it Too: A Career in Social Media

A big part of learning is looking to others as an example. Today I have a post from Tiffany Harrison, the Outreach Manager at GoAbroad.com, to comment on the importance of social media, and what its like to work in social media:

As a student these days, understanding social media is essential. To say that it’s not is like saying a passport is just a suggestion for international travel. A bit of an understatement, right? Whether you use social media strictly for personal use or are hoping to make it a part of your career, how you brand yourself online will make all the difference in your endeavors.

Tiffany at NAFSAI understand how it feels to navigate the waters of an online presence: how much should you put out there, how much is TOO much, and what is going to set you apart from the crowd? By offering some insight into my own experiences with social media, it’s my hope that you’ll be able to gain some perspective.

I don’t claim to know everything; to say that is to ignore the fact that social media is an evolving technology. Rather, I understand what it takes to stand out on social media while being true to who you are, and cognizant of how the technology changes. After all, it’s what led me to my current role with GoAbroad.com. Instead of referring to the following advice as “best practices,” I think a better phrase is “model practices.” This should help you to keep in mind that every person’s journey is different from the next, and your own technique will adapt and change with your pursuits. Let’s dig in, shall we?

How Did You Get a Job in Social Media?

I came to my position as Outreach Manager for GoAbroad.com after meeting and getting to know my future supervisor via Twitter. At that point in time, I was trying to break into the international education industry – which can be extremely competitive, particularly if you’re like me and don’t have a Master’s Degree or five plus years of experience.

That’s where getting creative with how to stand out took hold: I started a blog that encompassed the things I was most passionate about, joined Twitter, and began getting to know new people. A word to the wise: if you aren’t already on Twitter, I highly recommend it. It’s a great place to meet people (possibly future employers!), as well as get your voice heard on a platform where you’re liable to connect with anyone.

Initially, I wasn’t even considering how it might become my next job when I met my supervisor. I’d found her because I enjoyed reading her blog and wanted to express my appreciation of it. Before I knew it, we were tweeting back and forth, she interviewed me for her blog, and a few months down the road I was being offered the job of a lifetime. Stranger things have happened, right?

The important thing to take away from this, is that YES, being yourself in an online forum can be extremely rewarding. Whether it leads to a job, a writing opportunity, or even a new friendship, maintaining transparency in how you present yourself can take you far. Added to that, getting creative with your use of social media will also open new doors. Examine how people are already doing things, and find a new angle. What speaks to you, and how can you add your voice to the conversation? Speak up and I assure you that people will start to listen.

What Do You Do Everyday?

As the Outreach Manager for GoAbroad.com, one of my major responsibilities is managing our online communities of over 50,000 world travelers. I also oversee the GoAbroad Blog, managing all of the content that we write and share. When I’m not scheduling Facebook posts or responding to Tweets, I’m sending out press releases, working with GoAbroad partners, or prepping for an upcoming university visit. It’s definitely a job that keeps me on my toes!

Tiffany HarrisonThe wide-reaching scope of GoAbroad’s communities used to scare me when I first started with social media brand management. The learning curve was steep, the digital landscape was (and is) apt to change at the drop of a hat, and I was anxious about saying or doing the wrong thing for our audience.

I still have these moments on occasion, but you learn as you go. It also helps to have supportive colleagues who act like guiding lights throughout the learning process. If you’re eager to work in social media management, you have to be ready to take risks. Not every campaign will be successful, and you’ll have audience members who don’t always agree with you. It can be unnerving, but it’s also what makes working with social media so dynamic.

How Important is Maintaining an Online Persona?

It’s essential. And not just “I have a Facebook account, so I understand social media” kind of essential. It takes more energy and work than that. The way that I see it is if you want someone to find you (employers, college recruiters, fellow bloggers, etc.) give them something to find in the first place.

One of my first journalism teachers in college once told me it’s better to have some kind of “digital footprint,” as opposed to none at all. As I’ve grown and delved more into social media, I continue to adhere to this. People are going to search for you online either way. Better to give them something worthwhile to find, and you’ll already be one step ahead of the competition.

It doesn’t have to be complicated either: Find time to update your LinkedIn profile, use a tool like HootSuite to manage your tweets, start your own blog, or guest author for sites you already enjoy reading. The opportunities are endless.

What Advice Do You Have for Others That Want to Work in Social Media?

Read and keep reading. As I mentioned earlier, social media is constantly evolving and it’s important to stay up to date with trends. It’s the only way you’re going to have your finger on the pulse of what’s happening and what opportunities are upcoming.

Combined with this, I suggest taking advantage of internships that allow you to get firsthand experience with social media. One of my internships out of college had me collecting press clips, building editorial lists, and mining for online content that would suit our clients. Sure, it wasn’t my dream job but it taught me how to get creative with my approach to writing for an online audience and understanding what resonates. I also got to work with people who had a broad knowledge base, making for a great learning experience. From there, you can only keep growing.

It’s safe to say that social media isn’t going anywhere, and nor should it! There are more and more opportunities to get involved with it on a professional level and you owe it to yourself to grab hold of them with both hands. You just might surprise yourself at how good it tastes to have your cake and eat it too.

Tiffany HarrisonTiffany Harrison @ttmharrison

Hailing from the Northern California Foothills, Tiffany Harrison holds a BA in Journalism Public Relations from California State University Chico. She first ignited her passion for meaningful travel by living abroad in Scotland, before then working in public relations in San Francisco. Tiffany now cultivates her skills with GoAbroad.com as the Outreach Manager. She is an avid tea-drinker who lives by the words of Jane Austen and considers her passport a map to discovering the world. Connect with Tiffany on her blog, What Would Jane Do?