Social media is such a diverse industry, and the pools of people who populate it are equally varied. Have you ever wondered what exactly makes a social media expert? Is it someone who has a marketing degree and has always worked in advertising at a big B2C company? Or is it maybe a tad different?

Well, Jay Baer of Convince & Convert is here to help answer that question. The expert has recently published an eBook called Social Pros All-Stars (sponsored by TapInfluence), and it’s a collection of the career and educational backgrounds of some of social media’s most successful players, all of whom have appeared on Baer’s Social Pros podcast, where they discuss tips, trends, best practices, and other keys for success. In a fun and engaging baseball card-like format, Baer illustrates what a lot of us were already thinking: most social media pros have similar backgrounds. But what exactly those backgrounds are may surprise you. Here are three ways to use the fascinating data Baer has compiled:

By Studying Successful People’s Pasts, You Can Help Mold Your Future

Have you ever wondered why people are so fascinated with studying how geniuses and prodigies spent their days? It’s because they believe that replicating the habits of successful people will make them successful, too.

Now, there are some flaws to that thinking: first of all, every person is different (so what works for one won’t necessarily work for another), and second, taking shortcuts never works in the long run. But there is also some merit to the thought process. By studying what has worked for others in the past, you can make more educated decisions about your future.

For example, in Baer’s eBook, it is mentioned that 58% of social media all-stars have agency or consultancy experience. So if you’re coming straight out of school and want to know what kind of company to work for to propel your career, this data suggests that an agency would be a good place to start. Likewise, the book mentions that only a third (31%) of all-stars have a post-baccalaureate degree. So, if you’re going back to school simply because you think it will ensure your success, think again. There may be better alternatives like experience and networking.

Seeing Others’ Career Transitions Can Help Inspire Your Own

Since social media is such a new phenomenon, it’s impossible that every social media all-star would have studied it in school. In fact, half of the all-stars in Baer’s book have degrees in English, Journalism, PR, or a related field. This means that most of these all-stars likely started in another field, and maybe with a different trajectory. But they all ended up in social media via whatever path, and it’s worthwhile to look at how that may apply to you.

For example, are you possibly stuck in a department with which you don’t really fit? Are you in an industry that doesn’t embrace social media with the same passion as others? By looking at the employment histories and job titles of these pros, you can get a better idea of what it may take to transition into a career that’s more your speed.

Recognize How All-Star Backgrounds Have Formed Social Media Trends and How That May Be Changing

When you look at the prevalence of content-centric education (English, Journalism, etc.) among Baer’s all-stars, it’s not surprising that content has been the focus of digital marketing for the past few years. However, that focus is changing. Customer demands are suggesting a need for more visually based media, and it will be interesting to see if the current social pros are up to the challenge. Or will they need to make room for those with backgrounds in the arts? Here’s what Jay Baer himself has to say about it:

“Big brand social media managers are a varied lot, because the ‘industry’ is still new enough that very few people have been educated in social media per se. But, this new Social Pros All-Stars collection finds that there is actually quite a bit of similarity in the education and employment backgrounds of 27 B2C social media professionals. And more than half of them have worked in an agency. More than half of them have an English/PR/Journalism degree. I find the journalism part particularly interesting given the recent-ish rise in visuals dominating social media. I wonder if the next batch of Social Pros will have art and photography degrees?”

Want more of Baer’s social pros? Click through the eBook below, and subscribe to the Social Pros podcast by clicking here.

About the Author: Samantha Gale is a social media and content marketing specialist working for 60 Second Communications, a full-service marketing agency working with brands around the globe.