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Hey, job seeker: It pays to be social

Twenty-four years old and two years out of college, photographer Sam Cannon already boasts a client list that includes well-known brands such as Gap and Universal Studios.

"I don't think there's any way that I would be able to work for the brands that I'm working for today if I had started 10 years ago," said the South Carolina native who now calls New York home.

Sam Cannon meets with Tumblr’s Creatrs team
Karina Frayter | CNBC
Sam Cannon meets with Tumblr’s Creatrs team

Cannon's early success has much to do with her unique eye. In much of her work she uses a looping motion that can be hypnotizing to viewers. She also credits her success to social media. Since high school she has been posting her work on Tumblr. The blogging site has enabled her to reach a much wider audience and, as part of an innovative program Tumblr launched last year, she has connected with many of brands that now employ her services.


Of course, 10 years ago, Tumblr did not exist and Facebook was in its infancy. Today these and other social media platforms reach billions of people. Their rise and reach in turn, creating thousands of jobs at the sites and at businesses that need social media teams to track, tap into and connect with clients. Exact numbers on the pace of hiring in social media are difficult to come by as many of the jobs are lumped into general IT and marketing categories, but at Tumblr payrolls are expanding quickly.

"We've averaged around 20 hires per quarter," said Tumblr's President and COO Jeff D'Onofrio. "That was our average last year and we expect that that will be the same hiring pattern this year as well."


Tumblr artist Sam Cannon works on a project.
Karina Frayter | CNBC
Tumblr artist Sam Cannon works on a project.

Hiring 80 people in 2016 will increase headcount at the New York City-based business by 34 percent, and while Tumblr's push into mobile means a lot of those hires will be mobile engineers, it is also looking for people with other skills.

"We also have been busy building out a marketing team, and we're hiring product managers and engineers on our ads team," said D'Onofrio.


(CNBC asked Tumblr, a unit of the search engine Yahoo, how its parent company's move to sell its core business might impact its hiring plans. In a statement, Tumblr said that while it operates independently from Yahoo, "we carefully determine our staffing requirements and quarterly hiring targets in alignment with our parent company.")

By 2020, Forrester Research estimates U.S. spending on social media will rise to over $27 billion, more than double the spend from last year. The increase in funding and attention to the social media space is part of a sea change in how business reaches consumers.


Jeff D'Onofrio, Tumblr president and COO
Karina Frayter | CNBC
Jeff D'Onofrio, Tumblr president and COO

"We used to live in a world where the conversation between organizations and consumers was one way. So organizations or brands would tell us, 'This is what it is,' you know, take it or leave it. And you would do, adapt accordingly," said professor Anindya Ghose, director of New York University's Stern Center for Business Analytics. "Now we have the opportunity to provide feedback in real time, or not in real time, back to brands and say here are the kinds of things we like, here are the kinds of things we don't like."

In creating opportunities for businesses to reach consumers directly, Ghose points out that social media has also created opportunities for a wide range of job seekers. He said there is a need for graphic designers who create a platform's look, a need for security specialists who ensure data is protected, a need for app developers for mobile sites and a need for data scientists who mine the platform's data to parse clients whims and wishes.


"This is not a fleeting phenomenon, this is not a fad, it's not a trend, it's a fundamental, permanent shift in how organizations and consumers depend on each other and how they talk to each other," he said.

Because it is not fleeting but still growing, finding workers with skills needed for social media jobs can be tough. Tumblr's D'Onofrio acknowledged as much, but said Tumblr's brand — it is one of the top 10 social media sites in the world and home to over 280 million blogs — helps it attract needed talent.

Asked what he looks for in future hires, D'Onofrio is quick to respond.

"Creativity, flexibility, collaboration," he said. "A sense of urgency I would wrap into that as well. We move very fast. We ship out a lot of features very quickly, and particularly on mobile, so we look for folks that are really strong in those areas."


D'Onofrio said Tumblr's pay is competitive and declined to be more specific. Given the wide range of social media jobs out there, there is a pretty wide pay range as well. According the Creative Group 2015 Salary Guide, a web content writer with one to five years' experience could earn $46,750. On the upper end, NYU's Ghose said engineers and IT specialists can earn six figures.

Cannon said working with Tumblr has allowed her a great deal of input in how much she charges for the projects Tumblr brings to her. Looking to leverage its most prolific and popular artists or "Creatrs," Tumblr started the Creatrs Network last year. The growing group connects "Creatrs," such as Cannon, with businesses looking to use the artists and bloggers content to reach Tumblr's sizable audience. The network makes sure the artists get paid and helps to maintain their blogs.

Tumblr artist Sam Cannon works on a project.
Karina Frayter | CNBC
Tumblr artist Sam Cannon works on a project.

"When I am working on a project with Creatrs, they come to me with something they think I would be interested in," said Cannon. "They have a good sense of my style and what I like to work on. They come to me with the message, the story that the brand is trying to tell and from then I am able to concept what I want to shoot and what I think the price of the shoot should be."

For Tumblr, the Creatrs network serves the company by generating advertising revenue, while helping clients Cannon by expanding their reach.

"These creatrs are now creating content for brands and powering some of the best advertising that we see on Tumblr," D'Onofrio said.

The Creatrs network is another way social media is adding jobs, by helping small business expand.