It might seem interesting to build a career in the same platform where you spend countless hours every month. But achieving this can be a challenge.

A social media agency is an organisation which handles a brand's social media activities on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. Most of the brands do not have the required potential and expertise to handle communication in the social media. So, they outsource the work to agencies who communicate on behalf of these brands.

As a part of an agency, you will be working with a team handling the profiles of maybe three to four brands. Yes, you won't be working on just one brand. As a social media executive in an agency, you will have to be hands-on with each brand and each platform and you would have to be able to adopt to different tonalities of each brand that you are handling.

Most of the social media freshers usually begin their social media journey with an agency. It gives you the best exposure and you get to learn a lot when working on several brands. In 2008, when I first started out with Superchooha, my first startup, a social media agency, there were only 8-10 social media agencies around. Today, there are more than 450 such agencies all over India. There is no dearth of social media agencies today and if you are talented enough, you can definitely get into one.

In-house

There are many brands that don't outsource their work to social media agencies and prefer to do it 'in house'. They believe that a brand's communication gets diluted when someone from outside the brand (social media agency) tries to emulate it.

So, these brands develop their own team which handles its social media communication.

Working within a brand has both its pluses and minuses. As an in-house social media team member, you will be deeply integrated with other verticals within the brand such as sales, HR, market research, etc. You will be deeply connected with the brand and you will have less distractions as you will be focussed on working on just one task.

You will also have more freedom to take calls on what goes up and what doesn’t, unlike in an agency, where maybe a process of approval and rejection will have to be followed.

But working for only one brand gives you less exposure to the entire social media as compared to working for several brands. Working in an agency allows you to work on brands from different industries and hence has more scope for learning. Most people move from an agency to a brand after gaining some experience.

Freelancer or social media consultant

If you want, you can avoid the corporate route and begin your social media career as a freelancer.

As a freelancer, however, you will not be able to work with big brands. Big brands are more comfortable working with established agencies. So, you will be working with Small and Medium Scale Businesses (SMBs) or startups.

But don't get disheartened. You will get to learn a lot from SMBs and start-ups. They may not offer you a lot of money, but the scope for learning is tremendous here.

Working with tight budget constraints is an experience in itself and you will learn social media the hard way. You will also get to learn on how to acquire a client, how to communicate with clients and how to maintain them. But before you begin with freelancing work, you must acquire some knowledge about the social media as well. You can't pitch social media without any practical knowledge about it. So, I would suggest that you look up some reputed social media courses and join them. Get yourself up to speed with the latest in the world of social media. Or better still, get some experience by working in an organisation and then start on your own.

Agency owner

If you don't want to do all the legwork alone as a freelancer, you can launch an agency and have a team working with you.

But it is easier said than done. It is difficult to start an agency alone, so my advice would be to seek a person who you can set up your venture with. Look for a person who is good at things you lack. But, both of you must have working knowledge of the social media before you begin with your agency. A stint in an agency can be of great help.

Even after you start an agency, you can't expect big brands from day one. You will have to serve SMBs and startups. Build your reputation slowly and then pitch to the biggies. Build a great team around you and success is inevitable.

As you can see above, there are various ways you can go about building your career in the social media. Now it's up to you to choose which way you want to go. I would suggest that you begin with an agency, learn the ropes of social media by working with several brands and then join the in-house team of a brand or set out as a freelancer/agency owner.

Ankita Gaba is a social media strategist and consultant. She has co-founded socialsamosa.com, a social media knowledge portal.