Getting a promotion isn’t always easy. It is a long process that can take months and sometimes years. Paul Balcerak of Copacino+Fujikado and Skylar Piro, Senior Manager of Enterprise Success here at Sprout Social, broke down their own unique career trajectories and gave social marketers of all sophistication levels tips on career growth and how to tackle hard problems they’ll encounter along the way.

The content was just too good to keep in the box, so we’re sharing the five skills you need to get promoted here, with you. We’re also offering our social marketing career growth template if you would like to deploy some of the tactics we will discuss in your own life.

Skill #1: Building a strong foundation & mental strength

Going for a promotion is a big undertaking. It’s really a job within your job, and there are going to be a lot of ups and downs along the way. Take some time at the outset to make sure you’re mentally prepared for that.

Paul and Skylar broke down the foundational work you need to do to get a promotion in  into two categories:

  • Connect: Don’t make assumptions. Connect with your leaders, share your intention, and make sure you are prioritizing the right things.
  • Begin your pre-work: Get organized, starting with collecting your numbers. How are you making an impact today? How have you grown your social and digital marketing channels in the past year? How do you want to grow those numbers this year?

One of my favorite quotes in the webinar came from Skylar right here:

Organization is KEY here! A lot of the work that you put in to get a promotion happens over time, so you want to make sure you are organized and have a clear path forward. It’s a lot easier to ask for a promotion if you and your manager set the conditions for that promotion before you enter the process.

One of the key ways to set these conditions is by starting with the data. It’s the only way you can directly align your work and success with business goals and impact. Sprout’s custom reports feature enables you to collect the numbers that matter in one place, which is the first step in telling the story of what you’ve done and where you’re going.

Pro tip: You can even create a few different reports or dashboards, one with your own KPIs, and another with the KPIs that are the most important to your leadership.

Once you have access to the metrics that matter to your business and you’ve made sure you are prioritizing the right things, you’ll want to:

  1. Build your prioritization matrix. What can you knock out now and show? What things will take longer but have a big impact on your career? P.S. We’ve included a prioritization matrix in the social marketing career growth template.
  2. Double check your reporting is setting you up for future success. Confirm you are tracking the profiles, campaigns and conversations you need to based on what your leader has shared about business goals.
  3. Begin your feedback swipe file. As you work towards a promotion, you will set goals. You will meet some—and you will miss some. When balancing all the demands within your organization gets rocky, you will want to turn to your feedback swipe file: a warm, fuzzy place with all the positive feedback you’ve received via email, on social and in-person. This encouragement goes a long way towards keeping your mental health strong and your focus clear.

Next up, let’s set your big goals, commit to them and finalize your plan for social marketing growth and your promotion.

Skill #2: Setting the right goals

Obviously, YOUR goal is getting a promotion…but how do you map that to your organization’s goals?

Our customers have found this social metrics map extremely helpful in tying social goals to business goals.

social metrics map

When you are looking at your work, ask yourself: what is the goal of the pieces of content you’re putting out? How are you performing toward that goal?

Let’s say that one of the KPIs that your boss has introduced is to drive conversion. On organic, you are going to want to be looking at things like link clicks and, on paid, cost per click. This will show that your posts are influencing action and effectively driving toward targeted CTAs. Always keep in mind the metrics that matter…which will vary based on your ultimate goal.

Some of the most common goals Skylar and Paul have seen are:

  • Driving web traffic: Click-throughs and conversions with UTMs (we covered this in-depth here)
  • Amplification: Brand reach and earned brand mentions
  • Engagement: Starting conversations, finding conversations, deep interactions

More than half of marketing leaders say that developing a social strategy that supports the entire organization’s goals is one of their biggest challenges (Sprout Social Index™).

With that big challenge comes the overwhelming decision of where to start. Sometimes you need to start with an “arbitrary” goal.

If you haven’t set goals on social before, the thought process could look something like this: “We’re focused on building brand awareness, so we want to use impressions as our key metric to focus on. We’re at 10,000 impressions per month today, and we want to improve that by 10% by the end of this quarter.”

Then, experiment: If you vastly exceed your goal, you know that you may want to modify your goal to make it more challenging. If you barely reach it or don’t, look at the campaigns you’re running, bring a critical eye to what could be improved and realistically assess your impressions goal with these results in mind.

Competitive benchmarking and self-auditing can give you a good place to start when setting these goals. A great quote from Skylar here:

With self-auditing, I always say to start with a cross channel analysis. Create a high level roll up of all your channels and see what is sticking out. Measure these metrics over a few months/quarters and build KPIs from there. The same can also be applied to competitive benchmarking. Taking the time to understand how you stack up to your competitors can be extremely valuable and help you to push the needle within your organization.

The final steps for skill #2 are:

  1. Put plan to page. Put personal development and brand goals plan together based on your data and conversations.
  2. Circle back with your leader. “Based on what we talked about, are these the right goals? Is this the right plan to get me there?”
  3. Commit. Commit and sign off on your plan. Make a promise to yourself.

Now that we have our goals, let’s track our progress towards promotion.

Skill #3: Tracking yourself like the brand you manage

First, it’s time for a self-audit. Run your personal SWOT analysis.

how to conduct a self-audit

Once you’ve outlined your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, you can begin to track your progress.

  • Conduct a regular work-in-progress meeting with your manager and your mentor.
  • Evaluate progress on your personal goals on a weekly basis: schedule it or it won’t happen when daily urgencies come into play.
  • Check your goals monthly or quarterly to re-adjust as needed.

The final component here is to invest in your own continued education to drive hypergrowth towards your promotion goal. It’s easy to look at continued education as an extraneous cost, but do some math. $200 for an online course that grows your skillset could be worth tens of thousands of dollars in bonuses and raises down the road. Paul had a great quote about this:

I have a rule that if I see a book that I think might be even loosely applicable to my career, I buy it. It’s not a cheap rule, but my rationale is, if I pay $30 for a book and get one good idea from it, that may be just as valuable, dollar for dollar, as a $500 day class down at the local college.

He even recommended two books that have helped him out in the past.

Two recent books I really liked were “I Will Teach You To Be Rich” by Ramit Sethi and “Everything is F*cked” by Mark Manson. They’re ostensibly about personal finance and dealing with feelings of hopelessness, respectively—I’ve apparently got some heavy shit going on—but what they really are, are psychology books on outsmarting yourself and being more productive and proactive. I would recommend both if you’re looking to get a promotion or raise.

Lastly, if you are worried about the cost, see if your employer will pay for it, or if they already have an internal lending library for your department. Many employers will pay for or subsidize continuing education. Take a look at your benefits. Build your case. And then make the ask to see what you can get.

Skill #4: Mastering reporting and social analytics

Sensing a theme here? Data or it didn’t happen. Comfort with data, especially for more creative-minded folks, comes with time and practice. Let’s talk fundamentals.

  1. Be proactive. Any report needs to answer a few fundamental questions: “What did we do?” “What impact did it have on our business?” and “What are we doing as a result?” Don’t wait for someone else to answer those.
  2. Fight the “so what?” When Paul was in journalism, the hardest question he got about social media was, “So what?” Our Facebook page grew by 200 followers—so what? That last article we posted got 300% more likes than usual—so what? His executives didn’t understand social media speak, so he had to learn to communicate on their terms. Once he was able to bring examples of social media conversations that helped enhance reporting and broadcasts, he was able to connect with what mattered to them and his reporting became more meaningful as a result.
  3. Be a good researcher and reporter. You want to be seen as the person in your organization with your finger on the pulse. Learn to use the social listening tools at your disposal to track your brand and be the person who knows all the latest things happening on the social platforms you use, as well as the ones that you haven’t started using yet.
social media analytics banner

Skill #5: Bulking up your network

Our final skill to master! First, you need a mentor.

Mentors are people who help you see outside your bubble. Where you are your harshest critic, they can help put things in perspective, and where you are your own greatest cheerleader, they can help bring you back down to earth.

  • This doesn’t have to be someone you work with every day. But ideally, it is someone you have some kind of existing relationship with. You don’t want to cold call someone with an ask to be their mentee.
  • Before you approach them, do your research. Why this person? What do you admire about them? What do you hope to gain from the relationship? Be specific about these things.
  • Bring value. Mentor/mentee relationships are reciprocal. What can you do for them?

As Paul said in our webinar:

When our company co-founder Jim Copacino mentored me, we both realized that we could benefit from each other’s strengths. I stood to learn a ton from him about the advertising industry and how to be a successful creative thinker. I also knew a lot about the social media space specifically that he didn’t know as intuitively. Those things are what a lot of our conversations centered on during the two or so years he mentored me.

Let’s close with the major takeaways to focus on this year. You’re on the path to promotion if you:

  • Keep track of progress. Keep track of the projects you are working on throughout the year, as well as your numbers. You want to be able to easily reference this, speak to your hard work and communicate the impact you are having on the business.
  • Take care of your mental health. We are all human beings who are affected by our circumstances. The fact is, going for a promotion or raise is difficult and it can produce a lot of mental strain. Just as we’ve suggested to check in on your progress toward your goals on a regular basis, check in on your mental health, too. When you consistently tend to your mental health, everything else falls into place a lot easier.
  • Understand what is important to your leaders. Take the time to identify what is important to the people that will be promoting you and what they are looking for in that next level. Are there specific business goals that you can help them achieve? Internal proposals you can help them write/execute?
  • Make the most of what you have. You may not have all the data you want, or the case studies you think you need. Forget it. What you have in front of you right now, today, is worth a lot more than you think. Don’t trip yourself up with self-doubt.

As the old saying goes, the best time to plant a tree was thirty years ago; the second best time is today.