Liberal arts education prepared Mills for career in social media marketing

The prevalence of social media marketing in today’s society has produced job opportunities in a brand-new industry, one that Hastings College alumnus Casey Mills ‘08 has taken advantage of.

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Casey Mills ’08 is director of social media at Swanson Russell, one of the largest advertising agencies in Nebraska.

Though his college education was focused on print journalism rather than marketing, today he works as the director of social media at Swanson Russell, one of the largest advertising agencies in Nebraska.

Mills is not only working in a job outside of his educational field, but a job that didn’t exist when he started college. Mills said that the broad, liberal arts Hastings College education prepared him for the work he is doing today.

“There’s a lot of value in a liberal arts education, as you get exposed to a lot of different things. The biggest value of college to me is learning how to think critically, and then taking that to every class that you’re in, and then to your job one day,” he said. “In the advertising industry, it’s more about thinking critically, the skills you have and being strategic than just knowing how to write a press release.”

Promoted to the head of the social media department last year, Mills works with social media on behalf of the agency itself as well as all its clients. This includes work on various social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, TikTok and Snapchat among others.

“My job is to ensure we’re offering the best product that we can, that we are on top of the strategy and the technical aspects that make social media successful for our clients,” Mills said. “I have input to some degree on every single account that is doing social media, which means I’m giving advice in varying degrees to about 18-20 clients in our portfolio.”

Mills has gotten to experience the growth and development of social media throughout his career, and the more he learns, the more influential he finds it to be. Because of the power of social media data collection, an interesting aspect of his job is trying to gauge the ethics of social media marketing.

“We have tools that allow us to do all kinds of crazy things with social media data. People have conspiracy theories about what you can do, but I’ve gotten a peek behind the curtain and now understand that if you are clever you can do some really great things with social media data, and some really terrible things,” Mills said. “The line between persuasion and manipulation is really key in social media marketing. Our job as marketers is to persuade people, so we ensure there is a fair value exchange in what we do, whereas manipulation is a one-sided value exchange.”

This is why Mills said he believes data analysis is one of the most important aspects of a career in social media marketing, as well as being a strategic marketer and a technical problem solver.

Mills said he believes success in social media marketing isn’t dependent on understanding the flash and fun of social media, but rather applying critical thinking skills and knowing how to effectively problem solve.

“Social media marketing is a growing field,” he said. “It’s exciting and challenging and a field that’s open to anyone willing to learn.”

By Landry Hinkson, a first-year student from Cottonwood Falls, Kansas, majoring in communication studies.


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