Lucy Crouch recently joined PDS as a Social Media Officer and she told us what attracted her to the job and how she got here.
Did you set out to work in social media?
Like many English Literature graduates, I had no idea what I wanted to do as a career. I decided to try things, see what I liked and didn’t like and narrow it down from there.
I quickly found out that I liked copywriting but that anything with ‘operational’ in the title was a big no. I did have an interest in social media that sparked off at university. I studied narratology with one of the UK’s leading experts and it taught me how people tell stories through social media. I went out of my way to get social media experience in my jobs, enjoyed it and built this up until it was my full-time role.
What's great and not so great about the job?
Every day is different. You encounter truly weird and ridiculous situations and I can’t remember a time where I’ve ever felt bored. I’ve also got to be honest and say that a big plus of the job is instant gratification. I'm talking numbers! It’s great to have concrete evidence at my fingertips to show what I’m doing well (and not so well) almost immediately.
The flip side is that social media can be a very pressured and stressful job. There is a constant need for content to be made and posted several times a day on many channels and it’s a lot more time consuming than people think. You have to react quickly and change plans a lot and pull things together at very short notice, which can be tiring.
I am generally pro-internet but social media often brings out the worst in people. They can be a lot nastier online than they would ever be in person, especially to organisations that they see as faceless brands. To be the human dealing with a lot of hurtful comments and distressing imagery and anger can be tough. I always remember that it’s not personal. In many situations they have every right to be upset and, if they’re expressing strong feelings online rather than going and doing something destructive, then that’s a good thing.
What are the stereotypes? Any truth in them?
I think the biggest one is that the job just involves uploading a few pictures and scrolling all day. But so much work goes into every post, every picture uploaded, every Instagram story and bit of copy written. It’s checked so many times and emojis are carefully selected. Nothing is ever just ‘thrown out’.
In all my time working in social media, I have never once found time to just sit and scroll. There are always content plans to be made, emails to respond to, pictures to edit, copy to write, schedules to plan, comments to moderate and reply to, as well as finding new content. I don’t think I’ve ever had a calm day!
People often assume that it’s an easy job because almost everyone uses social media and that they can walk into social media jobs. It’s a professional skill that demands a lot of industry know-how. There are many facets to it that wouldn’t appear in personal social media: working with large audiences, reputational risk, fact checking, moderation of comments, technical requirements, scheduling, brand requirements, business needs and channel management.
People are surprised to learn I work in social media because my own profiles are so underwhelming! This is partly because, while I love promoting the places I work for (I only work for places I love), I’ve never had an interest in curating my own ‘brand’, and when you do social media as a job you don’t want to do it in your free time.
What attracted you to working at Parliament?
Before this job I was entrenched in the charity sector but I felt I was getting stuck in the same role, so I looked for something different. Parliament felt big and exciting. I’ve always been interested in politics and democracy and how people from across the political spectrum engage in debate, so to be on an impartial platform is a great place for me.
I was really drawn in as the job had a big focus on accessibility. This is a key driver for me in terms of making social media practically accessible for everyone, but also in making our content as clear and unassuming as it can be.
What challenges and opportunities do you see for Parliament and for yourself?
We have a big challenge with our online community and their reactions to current events. Channelling that negative energy into positive discourse is a mighty task, and one where we might have to appreciate small victories. It’s definitely something we need to work on though and hang on to our supporters.
We have exciting opportunities in our channels. We have a huge following. With a bit more capacity and creative content I think we could do amazing things. There are great opportunities for improving accessibility. We're doing well at this, but I think we can really excel.
For someone looking for a job in social media, what advice can you offer?
- Get first-hand experience, this could be through your job, becoming an admin on a Facebook group or volunteering to moderate an online community
- Don’t use your personal social media as experience for a job (or link to it in your application)
- Have a look at the social media campaigns and pages you like (and those you don’t), think about why you feel that way, and evaluate. It’s great to think and talk about other’s work to hone your skills.