Meet Beth Howe, who has literally just finished our Social Media Management Course and is already working! In this blog she gives us a warts-and-all account of what it's like doing the Digital Mums training. Sign up now and you could be working flexibly around your family by the Autumn. The perfect scenario if you want to do the school run every day! This is Beth's story....
Are you sitting comfortably?
I started writing this halfway through the Social Media Management course. Reading those diary entries now, some of it is really raw. I have had an amazing experience, I feel like I have grown as a person, regained confidence I didn’t realise I had lost, and learned so many new skills. At the same time I have had virtually no social life (the irony is not lost on me) and, at times, my homelife and relationship has suffered.
I am not going to lie.
I turned to Digital Mums as, like many new parents, I want a better work-life balance. When I returned to work after maternity leave my initial flexible working request was turned down (this will be the subject of a future blog on the advantages of giving your staff flexible working). I was left with little choice but accept four days a week with unsocial hours. I needed a change and social media management can been done at any hour of the day (or night), at home or away so it seemed like a good way to get around childcare issues and my desire to be master of my own schedule.
As I was already working a lot of hours the Digital Mums consultant I spoke to (you can book a phone call with one before you commit to a course) suggested the Social Media Management course. It would be approximately 15–20 hours per week. That would mean working a maximum number of 52 hours a week, including my paid job. I saw it as feasible as I could do a couple of hours each weeknight, some on my commute (it’s 100% online) and a lot more at weekends.
There are two main elements to the course;
- learning - written and video lessons and webinars
- running a campaign across 3 social media platforms
I chose to create a campaign around postnatal maternal health (physical and mental), it is called Healthy Happy Mums and ran across twitter, facebook and instagram. If you want to know why I chose this subject read this… otherwise read on!
From fairly early on the course work was far more than I expected. It took over the whole of every evening and I would find myself scrambling on a weekend to get it finished before the next week started. I often skipped anything that said “this is not essential” and thought I’d come back to it later (DM let you have access to the course material for 3 months after you graduate so I am hoping I’ll get to all the stuff I missed).
The idea of running live campaigns is that you get on-the-job experience of growing a real-life engaged audience so you can hit the ground running as a social media manager at the end of the course. That’s probably the most challenging aspect of the whole thing, I think the learning curve is comparable to the first 6 weeks after having your first child. First you’re excited, then you’re overwhelmed (“there’s so much to learn”, “I’ll never manage to do it all”), then slowly you get into your groove and start to find content creation, curation, scheduling, identifying influencers, chatting to your audience, adding up and hitting your KPIs all become second nature. (That’s where the mum/baby comparison ends — I have a toddler and no idea what to do with her most days!)
The bad bit
It’s a hell of a lot of work, I wrote the following three months into the course. I was chest-deep in the overwhelmed period.
Tuesday 12th December (Week 12, exactly halfway through the course)
I could have cried this morning. I am so tired of thinking about twitter and facebook. Have I tweeted enough? Am I covering all my pie-chart segments on facebook? I think I am probably being too familiar on Instagram (although I don’t care if I am — I’m getting followers and I feel like I’m making real friends).
My husband keeps having a go at me for being on my phone. Before I started the DM course I instigated a mobile phone and laptop ban for meals and I have broken it every day since, it makes me feel really bad. He’s stopped coming to bed at the same time as me as I just sit for 10 minutes on twitter — a thing I have always said he shouldn’t do!
I really want to raise my daughter screen-free for as long as possible but I am constantly on my phone in front of her…
That sounds like it sucked, doesn’t it? I can barely remember feeling like that and yet, I must have as it’s written down.
The good bits
Around 4 months in I really got into my stride. This is when you have fewer lessons but are expected to increase your activity across your platforms. You’re also expected to track your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and amend your content/ behaviour to reflect what you’ve learned, known as Test and Measure.
This was probably where I surprised myself the most. I can write blogs and create content pretty easily, I’ve been a journalist for 15 years, it’s in my veins. But, when it comes to KPIs and other marketing speak I was a complete novice and yet I found myself analysing my stats and bending my content accordingly, and it worked!
I did have some serious help from my DM peer group. On the course you are grouped together with 6 other Digital Mums-to-be. They are as much of a support group as they are classmates, always there to help, day and night, even if it’s just for a whinge, meme or moan about your spouse!
The best bits
There are so many fun things I have discovered about social media in the past 6 months.
- Twitter chats are adrenalin-fuelled and addictive (I’m in at least one a week these days!)
- You can develop real relationships online; business and friends
- The vast majority of social media users are, indeed, social! Trolling is most definitely the minority despite it getting the most coverage in traditional media.
- You don’t have to be fake to get a decent following. Honesty, and lack of retouching, is the best policy.
I don’t have any experience of other Social or Digital Media courses but if you’re a mum looking to move careers or get back into the workforce after a break this is a great option. If you have a busy life and work random hours, like me, this works because I can access lessons on the train home at 11pm and submit coursework on a Sunday afternoon. DM are now running a variety of courses to suit how much time you have.
Some members of my peer group already have paying jobs and we haven’t even graduated. I am already managing the twitter account for a local information service for parents in Streatham. I have no idea what the future holds for me and social media, all I know is that I have started along a path that I really enjoy and I don’t intend to turn back now.
You can follow my journey here on Medium or twitter and instagram.
If you are interested in finding out more about training as a Social Media Manager simply click here to find out more.